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Ask the Expert: Quality Control and Reliability Engineering

Building quality from scratch

A. Regarding quality standards, there are two ways to approach this. One is to simply look at the specifications for the product and the ability to meet those engineering requirements. The other is to take a broader look and build a quality system that is consistent with a standard, such as the ISO 9000 Quality System standards. IIE offers training in this area.

For your second question, building a quality department first would require a firm statement of objectives for the organization. Once you have that, you would need to formulate positions, develop job requirements and job descriptions, develop procedures, and then fill the positions. A book such as Feigenbaum’s Total Quality Control is an excellent starting point to learn all of the required functions for a quality organization.

This is quite a task for a new graduate. Another alternative would be to hire a consultant to guide you through the process. IIE would be glad to assist you in this.

Larry Aft, P.E.

Ensuring quality

A: In lean thinking, you create simple means to perform the operation well. RFID and UV coating of the vials might be feasible, but at what cost? First, attempt to solve the problems using templates, color, pictures, shapes, and the overall ingenuity of the people conducting the process. Another option might be using a digital camera system to recognize defects.

Arrange a session for three to four hours wherein you bring in all the employees who work in the area and ask them to brainstorm and come up with ideas as to how to solve this problem. Many times, getting front line people who do the work day in and day out involved in the process gets the best results.

Merwan Mehta, Ph.D.

The right belt

A: In commonly accepted terminology, the yellow belt is equivalent to a management overview of Six Sigma. The yellow belt is designed to introduce the topic and is typically earned following a four- to eight-hour program that presents Six Sigma highlights.

I’ll use IIE training courses as a reference to illustrate the differences in Six Sigma belt levels. IIE offers a yellow belt certificate. It is not, in our opinion, equivalent to any college-level course since it is mainly informational. The true introductory level for Six Sigma is the green belt. This is a more intensive course that provides a skill set revolving around understanding variation and learning to use basic tools to help manage variation. IIE offers a green belt certificate to individuals who complete the IIE course and pass the subsequent examination.

The practitioner level Six Sigma training is the black belt level. IIE’s course is an intensive 15-day program in advanced analytical methods and includes a final exam as well as a project. Participants who complete the course requirements are awarded the IIE Black Belt Certificate. This spring, the American Council on Education evaluated IIE’s black belt program and judged it to be equivalent to six graduate-level semester hours of credit. (For information, see the ACE Web site.) This means that once an individual earns the IIE black belt, he or she may then have a transcript sent to a college or university, and that institution may elect to grant up to six hours of graduate credit. That decision is entirely up to the individual educational institution.

Larry Aft, P.E.

Some tools don't translate

A: The Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers started the development of a supplementary set of total quality management aids called 7M tools to analyze process interdependencies. These tools mainly process language-based data and are widely used in Japan but are not well known in the rest of the world. They require a lot of time to implement because they are very detailed. Furthermore, the tools follow the Japanese system of team orientation and quality in management, so they are very hard to implement in a typical Western organization that is based on stricter hierarchies.

You can learn more from a variety of publications in the quality area, such as the Pocket Guide to Quality Tools, available through QualityAmerica.com.

Marc Resnick, Ph.D. 


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