Not statistically significant does not mean insignificant

Do you have customer data that you're not actively using to improve your product?


My fully loaded 2012 Audi A6 had an intermittent frustrating problem since the day I bought it.

No diagnostic codes indicated a problem. Escalation to German engineering had me ready to move back to Lexus. Their response was, "It must not really be happening. Our codes would indicate if it were."

That obnoxious response was based on the assumption they had thought of every cause of failure in developing the diagnostic codes. Failure mode effects analysis (FMEA) is not 100% and never will be.

Do you have customer data that you're not actively using to improve your product?

Four years after I first reported the issue, Audi issued an urgent safety recall for the problem that I had been experiencing.

Why the delay? It only happens on fully loaded vehicles with air conditioned seats. They say it took them four years because of the limited number of complaints. But you and I both know that even low-level interest and basic statistical analysis could have identified correlation and subsequently led to root-cause analysis.

Is your company only examining customer complaints when they reach a certain established quantity?

Ten may not be a statistically valid sample size, but it may well be enough to identify potential correlations. Twenty may be enough to narrow in. Don't let the statisticians (I have a PhD-level econometrics background myself) talk you out of recognizing and dealing with problems.

Excellent companies look at problems from the standpoint of their customer and with the assumption that their buyers are not crazy. While a reported problem may affect less than .01% of your sales, it's 100% to the customer who has it.

Saying you care about quality is only believable if you demonstrate that to each customer. Data collection only has value if you use it. Letting data age until a certain "critical mass" is reached is not the mark of a company committed to operational excellence. Neither is technical resources implementing "emissions-cheating software" on a very statistically significant number of vehicles. Oh! Unethical behavior also precludes a commitment to excellence. Mistakes happen. Fraud is not a mistake.

Data can tell a fascinating story, if you look at it.

-Rebecca A. Morgan is an AME author and president at Fulcrum ConsultingWorks Inc. This article originally appeared on Association for Manufacturing Excellence is a CFE Media content partner.

William , FL, United States, 08/30/16 09:46 AM:

When I was on a corporate engineering team charged with process improvement over several plants I learned to hate the phrase 'it's insignificant' based on 6 sigma, a goal. If a customer gets the one failed article they care less about buzz words. They want the problem corrected. Corporate culture generally ignores a single or few complaints in favor of meeting a target whether the target is more profit or more product in the field.
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safer human-robot collaboration; 2017 Maintenance Survey; Digital Training; Converting your lighting system
IIoT grows up; Six ways to lower IIoT costs; Six mobile safety strategies; 2017 Salary Survey
2016 Top Plant; 2016 Best Practices on manufacturing progress, efficiency, safety
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Big Data and bigger solutions; Tablet technologies; SCADA developments
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
What controller fits your application; Permanent magnet motors; Chemical manufacturer tames alarm management; Taking steps in a new direction
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on preventing compressed air leaks and centrifugal air compressor basics and best practices for the "fifth utility" in manufacturing plants.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
click me