Category: Quality Control

Selecting the best quality tool to meet your objectives

We love our quality tools!  In fact, the Quality Toolbox is never too far out of reach.  But, the choices can seem overwhelming at times.  Here are some suggestions for picking the right tool based on what you want to accomplish:

If you want to keep track of your facts…

Use a check sheet or line graph.

If you want to represent data visually…

Use a histogram, line graph, or pareto diagram.

If you want to group your ideas…

Use a lotus flower diagram, fishbone diagram or affinity diagram.

If you want to figure out how ideas are connected…

Use a fishbone or relations diagram.

3 Ways to Use Defect Data to Drive Improvement

Our quality engineers collect data from supplier locations all over the world, and we encourage our clients to get as much value as possible from our reporting to drive overall improvements and support successful supplier partnerships.

Consider the simplified example of conducting weekly pre-shipment inspections of one product at a single supplier site.  The information provided in the product specification determines the defects and whether they are major, minor or critical, which the quality engineer checks for on-site when evaluating the random samples.  An accept, reject or on-hold determination is made for each inspection based on the AQLs and other factors, but defect data can be tracked over time to add value over just the individual shipment result alone.

Here are three ways to get more from defect data:

1) Evaluate a check sheet or other data chart over a period of time such as the basic information below.



2) Visualize the information to observe and compare trends over any determined period of time.


3) Incorporate multiple suppliers to target improvement efforts at each location.  For example, is one supplier exceeding at meeting expectations in one or more areas where others are not?  Why? Use quality tools to further examine root causes and generate corrective actions.

SupplierComparisonThese examples only scratch the surface of what can be captured from quality inspection reports.  Each organization is unique and can determine how to select the data most relevant to goals and objectives.

Quality Tools for Quality of Life

Celebrating Chinese New Year (Gong Xi Fa Cai!) has us thinking about resolutions again.  Pro QC’s Communications Director met with local quality professionals recently through the American Society of Quality’s network in the Tampa Bay area and discussed the application of quality tools to quality of life.

Highlights from this discussion reveal a compelling case for both employers and employees:

  • “75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by our optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.” (Happiness Advantage)
  • “Increasing your optimism can improve your productive energy by 31%.” (Happiness Advantage)
  • “Research has shown that increased activity reduces stress, increases self-efficacy and is proven to help balance work and family.” (Harvard Business Review)
  • “Workers become more productive, have less sick days, and contribute to a lower turnover.  They are more adaptable to change and are shown to contribute to a positive work environment”  (Happiness Advantage)

Suggestions discussed for improving quality of life include:

  • Brainstorm – What are your goals in 1yr, 5 yrs and your lifetime?  Consider: Career, Financial, Education, Family, Attitude, Physical, etc.
  • Audit yourself. Conduct a personal SWOT analysis.
  • Conduct a Quality of Life assessment.  Use tools like GROW or The Energy Project audits.
  • Use an affinity diagram to group brainstormed ideas or SWOT  information… Focus on the 20%. Pareto always fits.
  • Set SMART goals – Create calendar reminders to assess and improve as necessary.
  • Use an app & or set calendar reminders to walk – Work up to 10,000 steps per day. Have walking meetings. 
  • Flowchart your day or specific activity to identify areas of improvement.
  • Use a Grid Analysis for important decision making.  Refer to the example we have posted in the past using supplier selection.
  • Develop a personal mission statement. As Drucker would say, “What business are you in?”
  • Use ISO 26000 as a guideline for personal social responsibility – Audit yourself.  
  • Use To-Do lists to manage time. Each day, identify activities that focus on both short and long-term action items.  
  • Track health data with wearable technology, such as Fitbit.  
  • Use Lifehacker’s Daily Personal Inventory Form to identify root causes.
  • 3-to-1 ratio – Keep a daily list of 3 things your thankful for. “Research shows you’ll be more resilient to adversity and better able to achieve things.” It is noted up to a 15% decrease in stress can be achieved by doing this daily for 10 minutes.

Other resources:

Action for Happiness:

“Everyone’s path to happiness is different. But  review of the latest research has found 10 Keys to Happier Living that consistently tend to make people’s lives happier and more fulfilling.”

The Happy Manifesto (Free Download) – Make your organization a great place to work.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeoplePersonal Workbook – Stephen R. Covey

TEDx – The Happy Secret to Better Work

“Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we’re positive, our brains are more motivated, engaged, creative, energetic, resilient and productive.”  The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor

Successful New Year’s Resolutions – Using Quality Tools

blank list of resolutions on blackboardThroughout the world, personal resolutions (commitments) are made as the year comes to an end. From ancient Babylonians returning borrowed objects and paying debts to medieval knights taking the “peacock vow” and re-affirming their commitment to chivalry, starting fresh with each New Year is a timeless practice.

Surprisingly, it is estimated that as many as 75-88% of resolutions made for the New Year are not successful. We think it’s possible that incorporating quality tools are just what we need to bring those numbers down and make the positive changes successful.

Here are several quality tools we find applicable for both personal and professional development.

S.W.O.T. Analysis 
One of the most effective tools for both organizational and self-assessment is the S.W.O.T. analysis. As a starting process for developing New Year’s resolutions, it is an introspective way of evaluating personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Worksheet Resource

It’s been said that deciding is half the battle. If that were true, it would be helpful to have a comprehensive list of potential resolution candidates – or anything that you could do to see a positive result in the coming year. Use mind-mapping to sort it all out.

Mind-Mapping Resource

Affinity Diagrams
With the list generated through the brainstorming process, group the items into more specific, similar categories.

How-To Resource

Bar Charts 
Use bar charts to provide a visual representation of the situation. Excel is an ideal tool for creating quick and easy charts. They can be used to identify areas of focus and monitor progress throughout in support of continuous improvement actions.

Excel Column Chart Resource

Pareto Analysis 
Using the categories determined from the affinity diagram and possibly the information from the histogram, pick those that represent 20% of the total. With this, we can assume improving on this 20% will reap us 80% of the benefits.

Procedure & Example Resource

S.M.A.R.T Goals
Once you have primary issues or resolutions notes, make each one a S.M.A.R.T. goal that you record and share with others. Studies have shown sharing a resolution with others increases the success. S.M.A.R.T. goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

How-To & Template Resource

Flowcharts are great for continuous improvement. Map out the process of reaching the resolution. It’s beneficial to visually see how a goal is being met.

Complete Tutorial w/ Examples 

Drucker may not have been thinking about New Year’s resolutions when he spoke of Plan-Do-Check-Act, but it certainly applies. The tools listed above have laid out a plan, so it becomes important to follow-up and take corrective actions where necessary.

Plan – Identify what you want to do and how you can achieve the results. (See above)

Do – Put your plan into action. Keep track of efforts and results.

Check – Compare results to expectations at regular intervals.

Act – Keep doing what works and improve on what’s not.

To learn more about these and other quality tools, the Quality Toolbox is a must-have. To get kids involved with using quality tools, look at Thinking Tools for Kids.

For this article, we used the following reference, in addition to the other links:’s_resolution

This article was originally published in Pro QC’s December 2012 quarterly newsletter.

The Value of Quality – It Makes a Difference

Thank you to Quality Magazine for providing additional data to suggest investing in quality makes a difference.

According to the information posted from the 14th Annual Spending Survey:

  • 57% of those surveyed say the importance of quality is somewhat or much more important than the year before. Another 40% put it at about the same.
  • 64% say that spending was right where it was projected, which is consistent with the prior year.
  • 90% of budgets should stay the same or increase.
  • The Aerospace industry saw the most notable increase when asked about primary end product performed at location.

The inspection approach information is interesting as well, including the increase in lot sampling for incoming and pre-shipment evaluations: