In the early 1700’s, English mathematician and Presbyterian minister Thomas Bayes derived the eponymous mathematical theorem that allows us to calculate the probability of an event occurring based on prior knowledge of conditions that might be related to the event.[Read more…]
Unpacking Continuous Improvement Strategies
With U.S. annualized inflation rates exceeding 5.0% each month since May of 20211 – the longest stretch this century – the need for sustainable cost improvements has rarely been greater. And one source of cost reductions available to nearly every manufacturer is the elimination of waste and quality defects within their own facilities. Understanding the major continuous improvement (CI) strategies may help manufacturing leaders find a path toward lowering their costs and creating healthier margins for their organizations.[Read more…]
What is the Difference Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?
One of the most commonly asked questions about quality engineering is “What is the difference between quality assurance and quality control?”
Where Did All These Reliability Life Models Come From?
Among students beginning their examination of reliability engineering, one question pops up repeatedly: Where did all these reliability life models come from? On one hand, reliability engineering is deeply entrenched in statistical models … Weibull, exponential, etc. But these models alone, do not fully explain the product life models. There is still a missing piece: the Physics of Failure (PoF).
PoF and reliability models are closely connected concepts, as they both relate to the ability of products, processes, and systems to perform their intended function consistently over time. [Read more…]
Deriving the Role of the Reliability Manager
Having worked in manufacturing quality for the great majority of my career, with a few tentacles into the field of reliability, I’ve considered many comparisons between the two fields, with of course, my unconscious biases favoring quality. One interesting comparison, for instance, is between job postings for similar positions in these related fields.[Read more…]
How Do the Goals of Reliability and Quality Engineers Align?
Reliability engineers and quality engineers both work to ensure that products and systems are functioning effectively and efficiently. However, they have slightly different focus areas and goals.
The primary focus of reliability engineering is designing systems that are dependable and able to function consistently over time. This may involve identifying and addressing potential sources of failure, implementing preventive maintenance protocols, and conducting testing to ensure that the system is functioning as intended. The ultimate goal of reliability engineering is to minimize downtime and ensure that the system is available for use when needed.[Read more…]
What is Six Sigma and How is it Used in Quality Engineering?
Another of the most commonly asked questions about quality engineering is “What is Six Sigma and how is it used in quality engineering?”
Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to continuous improvement that aims to reduce defects and variability in products, processes, and systems. It is based on the idea that by identifying and addressing the root causes of defects and variability, organizations can significantly improve the quality of their products and processes. Six Sigma is used to identify and eliminate defects and variability by collecting and analyzing data, identifying patterns and trends, and implementing process improvements.[Read more…]
What Reliability Engineers Can Learn from Quality
a.k.a. “the dark side”
Reliability engineering and quality engineering are closely related disciplines that both focus on ensuring that products, processes, and systems are efficient, effective, and meet the required standards. As such, there are several ways in which reliability engineers can improve their skills by learning about quality engineering.[Read more…]
Understanding First Article Inspection
For the seasoned manufacturing quality professional, First Article Inspection (FAI) is a familiar process performed after the first production run of a new or redesigned part. But for those outside of or newer to the quality profession, the requirements of FAI may provoke a lot of questions and uncertainty.
In short, FAI is the process of planning, conducting and reporting the verification of a production process. This verification “closes the loop” between the customer’s expectations — usually described on the part’s engineering drawing — and the actual output of the supplier’s process.[Read more…]
Understanding Job Satisfaction with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
In a season 2 episode of AMC’s acclaimed TV show “Better Call Saul”, its lead character Jimmy McGill asks his assistant Omar to “take a letter” as he dictates a handful of disjointed phrases to tender his resignation from his lucrative position at the Davis & Main law firm1. During a pause between Jimmy’s thoughts, Omar blankly states, “I just didn’t realize how unhappy you were here.” Jimmy’s response, while puzzling and a bit comical, describes a concept key to understanding the nature of job satisfaction. He replies to Omar, “Not unhappy, per se. More like not happy.”[Read more…]
The Window and the Mirror; A Framework for Building Credibility
The vast majority of professionals will never rise to the heights of leading a major corporation. But because of the public nature of executives and the companies they oversee, business leaders and their management methods often form effective case studies for those who manage smaller projects and organizations.
Over time, professionals who make a habit of reading trade journals and analyzing business reports can begin spotting both the useful and the futile patterns among these executives’ leadership styles. One such pattern, coined by the bestselling author of “Good to Great” Jim Collins, is called “The Window and the Mirror”.1[Read more…]
To Change is to Change Twice
As a teenager in the 1980s, I was an avid reader of Omni, a now defunct magazine dedicated to the future—a far-off world filled with super humans, artificial biospheres and frequent encounters with extraterrestrial beings. Omni catered to armchair futurists like me with science and science fiction stories by A-level writers like Bernard Dixon and William Burroughs.
Future-oriented mass media such as Omni and “Star Wars” gives its consumers a plausible vision of everyday life for future generations. What these sources don’t typically deliver, though, is the path of change to get there.[Read more…]
The Cost of Opportunity
Everyone working in a decision-making role has at least an intuitive understanding of the concept of opportunity costs-the value of the thing you didn’t choose. Simply stated, when you say ‘Yes’ to one thing, you simultaneously say ‘No’ to everything else you could have chosen instead. And those things to which you say ‘No’ have a value that you’re relinquishing. When I was a teenager, I heard an older gentleman quip, “When I said ‘I do’ to my wife, I was also saying ‘I don’t’ to all the other girls out there”. That man understood opportunity cost.[Read more…]
Expanding your Opportunities
As the quality manger for a tier two automotive supplier, I recently had the opportunity to hire a quality supervisor following the retirement of a long-time member of our team. Our company’s human resource manager and I worked together through the entire selection process. Given the status of our region’s economy and the recent closure of several large factories, I wasn’t surprised when our mailbox started filling up with resumes in response to ads on the popular Internet job sites. The typical respondent was a mid-career professional with over 15 years of experience in manufacturing that had either been recently laid-off due or who wanted to move up in their career.[Read more…]
Sharpening the Axe – Developing a Process Inspection Plan
Abraham Lincoln taught the value of adequate preparation when he said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” By training, quality professionals are often focused on verifying the correctness of a product. A traditional inspector at the Lincoln Timber Company might have dutifully marked in her audit log the date and time, the type and size of tree, followed by the comment, “Cut down.”
But Honest Abe would have advised her to take a closer look at the tools and process used to complete the job.[Read more…]