The Certified Quality Improvement Associate Handbook: Basic Quality Principles and Practices

Russell T. Westcott and Grace L. Duffy, ASQ Quality Press, 2014, 288 pp., $69 member, $105 list (third edition, book).

This book serves as a valuable source of information pertaining to quality concepts, quality improvement and continuous improvement. The information is presented in five units, each dedicated to an important aspect of quality improvement. The book begins with detailed explanations of the key concepts and definitions pertaining to quality, and then discusses the benefits of quality improvement and employee involvement in quality improvement efforts.

There is a chapter dedicated to the philosophies of the quality gurus. This chapter contains valuable information regarding the way the quality leaders viewed quality and continuous improvement, and it also presents their contributions to the quality movement.

Recognizing that employee involvement is the key to the success of any quality improvement project, the book’s second unit has two chapters dedicated to understanding how employees work in teams, and the key issues involved in team formation and group dynamics. The third unit is devoted to the tools and techniques used in continuous improvement and process improvement projects. There are elaborate explanations with suitable examples for the most commonly used quality tools.

We live in an era of outsourcing and offshoring. Recognizing this, there is a unit dedicated to customer-supplier relationships. There is also a nice discussion about the process of supply chains, which includes key supply chain metrics. The last unit on system integration discusses the view of the organization as a system and distinguishes the process view from the systems view. It emphasizes taking a systems view of quality improvement.

This book is written in simple and easy-to-understand language such that readers with little or no knowledge of quality concepts can understand and apply quality tools with confidence. This book will serve as a valuable reference for everyone involved in the quality engineering and quality management industry.

Rangarajan Parthasarathy
Harvard, IL

Reliability of Large and Complex Systems

Krzysztof Kolowrocki, Elsevier Insights, 2014, 460 pp., $200 (second edition, book).

The book assumes readers are familiar with a number of underlying principles of concepts such as reliability, calculus and how to devise formulas that represent multifaceted mechanical and electrical systems. It is clearly aimed at the more experienced reader and dives into the world of complex systems, higher-level math, and a continuous series of analysis, system breakdowns and variations of system arrangements and performance.

Easy to read but challenging in terms of the analysis and math, the author guides the reader from basic systems up to large, complex and multistate systems and uses a consistent set of examples based on an iterative approach.

Other systems are discussed, such as large hierarchal systems, and there is a chapter on process modeling. In discussing large, complex systems, the author uses the asymptotic approach along with several examples.

The book is a highly detailed assemblage of mathematics and research built around a logical but comprehensive bibliography. Elsevier specializes in technical and leading-edge books, and this is representative of that high standard. Please note that while this is a truly challenging topic it is also logical, highly polished and thoroughly researched.

Frank Pokrop
San Diego

How to Succeed With Continuous Improvement: A Primer for Becoming the Best in the World

Joakim Ahlström, McGraw-Hill Education, 2014, 128 pp., $25 (book).

Big efforts often fail because no one feels responsible for major changes. That’s why the most successful companies focus on improving the small things, which together add up to major paybacks. While this book is comprehensive and easy to read, it does not focus on a specific industry or sector.

Simply solving a problem is continuous improvement. The method of problem solving and achieving improvement is not important. This book discusses the FISHY method for problem solving and provides many examples. The FISHY method entails:

  1. Formulate the question.
  2. Individual work.
  3. Spread out the notes.
  4. Have consensus through voting.
  5. Your to-do list is introduced.

The book includes success factors for improvement work and practical advice on how to start and maintain momentum. It features a questionnaire for determining the current state of a problem, a reference guide for completing fishbone diagrams in 15 minutes and an additional reading list.

When you do not take time to make improvement, you do not get better. Every business will gain from following the author’s well-considered methods and recommendations.

Marc A. Feldman

Models at Work: A Practitioner’s Guide to Risk Management

Jawwad Farid, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 656 pp., $75 (book).

If anything has been learned from history, the importance of understanding how to evaluate and model risk in the financial markets is more important than ever. The author takes a practitioner’s approach to risk management by developing simple models and testing them to understand the limitations and breaking points.

The book is broken into four sections building from an understanding of risk; to simple Monte Carlo simulations in MS Excel; to applications in fixed income and commodities; to a review of the product universe driving risk. The risk section focuses on complexity of analysis versus complexity of models, dealing with volatility, target accounts for managing risk along with risk policy and risk regulation.

The Monte Carlo simulation section develops simplified MS Excel pricing models and takes a layered approach to evaluate the effect of changes in prices on business and performance metrics. The fixed income and commodities section includes application examples that focus on identification of relationships, drivers and data across commodity markets. Finally, the last section provides a broad review of the product universe, pricing and valuation models.

The book is well-written and follows a logical progression. There are many examples from the author’s extensive work and research to demonstrate application. The book also includes exercises and questions making it an excellent resource in an educational environment. A glossary of terms, an index and reference material make this a good starting point for self-education.

The focus of this book is the corporate risk-management professional. However, any person interested in using models to better understand and manage risk—particularly in the financial arena—will find this book interesting.

Bryan Ruggles
Everett, WA

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