Common Cause and Special Cause Variation


Though sometimes we may refuse to recognize it, the world is a full of variation, even in the things we think or believe are constant. For example, my wife has been known to say, “you always do…” or “you never do…”, to which I retort, I am human and I am not that repeatable.  I say that, but it is not just humans that are not so repeatable.  Everything has variation, and understanding this variation, is important for product development, project management, manufacturing, product testing and so much more.  To master this work, we need to understand this variation as completely as possible.

Common and Special Cause Variation

Shewart is credited for developing the concepts of special and common cause [1].  Special cause variation, are variations that are outside of the expected (intermittent) range of possibilities. Common cause variation, are the variation expected, we know about these, these are predictable, provided we have put some effort into learning about … Continue reading

Risk Management Through the Project Class

Risk Management Through the Project

In modern life, risk management is a fundamental discipline for success. This does not just apply to work life, or project management but also personal life. Today we are going to discuss the approaches and impacts on the project when there is insufficient attention to the risks to which the project will be subjected.  The risks to which our work will be subjected depends upon the what we are doing and how we go about doing it, that is, the strategies and tactics we employ to reach the objective.

Consider an automotive project to develop a new product. This will require understanding the need, creating the design, develop the manufacturing line and verify and validate the product and the manufacturing line, and ultimately launch the product at the production rate. We demonstrate in our SAE book, an example of how these phases work and how these phases share information.


Risk Management Class

We … Continue reading

Poke Yoke

Poke Yoke

Jon M Quigley

There are a set of tools and techniques that come with developing products for the automotive industry and are part of the Advanced Product Quality Planning for the product.  We have written about APQP or some years and have decades of experience in this approach to product development.  In general, the phases of the project are described as:

Voice of Customer Product Development Process Development Product Validation Process Validation Launch Feedback



We have a discussion board that supports questions you may have regarding APQP.  Today, we will ruminate on the technique known as Poke Yoke, which I heard an Supplier Quality Assurance professional refer to as “goof proofing”.  While largely benefiting manufacturing, these considerations and implementation is achieved in the development work, otherwise we end up doing considerable rework of the developed product to optimize manufacturing or field service work. Rather, we will use design for manufacturing (DFM) or design for manufacturing … Continue reading

Project Gates Reviews are NOT just Administrative

Gates in Project Management

In conventional project management, also referred to as staged gate methodology, we will find gates. Each gate provides a way point or check point upon which subsequent work will build. Each gate has a targeted expected set of objectives to reach and to answer before moving on to subsequent work.  Each subsequent phase of the work is dependent upon the previous gate outcomes. For example, before we select a concept to develop, we should know the customer requirements.  If our organization is for profit, we would want to know if the endeavor furthers the organization’s goals.  The project and product will grow from the idea and concepts to a selected solution capable of being produced, delivered and will add to the company’s bottom line.  Gates are review points for the just completed project phase, did we do what was desired, as well as a forward look is there still a reason for this project, will it … Continue reading

Manufacturing Project Trial Production Run

Manufacturing Project

The project whose scope includes delivery through manufacturing will include some quality assurance steps from the previous blog post to ensure we are able to produce the designed product to the quality expected by the sponsor.

Trial Production Run and Problem Discovery

The manufacturing team reviews the development of the manufacturing line with the TPR or Trial Production Run.  The TPRs happen before the run at rate or PPAP reviews, and is a mechanism for preparing the line for these two events. The team uses these trial runs to identify problems in the production line undiscovered during design.  The team gathers data from the exercising of the line to adjust the line.

Trial Production Run

During the TPR, there are reviews of the tools and equipment created for the line and those that are still in progress. The review will also include the work instructions for the line. The quality assurance engineer leads these reviews, but inclusion … Continue reading

Manufacturing Quality Assurance Activities

Manufacturing plays a BIG Role in Product Quality

We have spent some energy on the development of the product design, discussing the sorts of activities we will undertake to assure the product quality.  A quality design without the ability to produce the desired quality product is one-half of the solution.  Therefore, just like our design specific activities we have actions we take to mature the manufacturing line, assess the capability, and continue to grow the line capability.

Manufacturing Quality Activities

A few examples of the types of activities that happen during the manufacturing are[1]:

Packaging Process Failure Mode Effects Analysis Floor Plan Layout Process Flow Chart Work Station Instructions Poke Yoke Gage Repeatability and Reproducibility Run at Rate Trial Production Runs Measurement System Analysis Process (Production) Verification Control Charts Manufacturing Activity and Quality and Risk

Each of these activities has a particular objective or risk mitigating benefit.  Packaging ensures we can deliver the product from the point of … Continue reading

APQP and International Material Data System

By Wally Stegall and Jon M Quigley

Collecting and Reporting Material

One approach to collecting and reporting material content is the International Material Data System (IMDS).  IMDS is a computer-based material data system used and funded primarily by automotive OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturer of cars, trucks, heavy vehicles, agricultural equipment, construction equipment, industrial equipment, military vehicles, and other apparatus) although other manufacturers use IMDS to manage environmental care aspects of products.

“The IMDS (International Material Data System) is the automobile industry’s material data system. Initially, it was a joint development of Audi, BMW, Daimler, HP, Ford, Opel, Porsche, VW and Volvo. Further manufacturers have meanwhile joined the community and IMDS has become a global standard used by almost all of the global OEMs. Talks are being held with further manufacturers regarding their participation in IMDS. In IMDS, all materials used for automobile manufacturing are collected, maintained, analyzed and archived. Using the IMDS, it is possible to meet the … Continue reading

“Scaffolding” Training

“Scaffolding” is a term often used in education, but in our experience, rarely followed to a significant extent. Scaffolding allows us to grow a student in capability by starting easily and providing progressively more intricate and involved exercises. This approach actualizes Lev Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development.

When training clients, we must first assess the capabilities of our audience and then set the levels of scaffolding in our lesson plans. We also need to be able to have some level of customization per individual (“differentiation” in education lingo) because people learn at different rates.

One of the best examples of scaffolding occurs in sports, where players will focus on drills that exercise important and fundamental skills. We also see even the most advanced players warming up with drills before a game—do we see project managers doing this?

To scaffold a project management trainee we might do the following:

Work breakdown structure for a wooden pencil increasing to … Continue reading

Let My People Go!

We have seen the word “layoff” used during a reduction in force. A reduction in force is a mass firing, often engendered by management ineptitude but sometimes driven by market forces. A layoff occurs when we temporarily dismiss an employee, but we provide preferential treatment for them when the market bounces back. Even with the preferential treatment, a layoff can be brutal. Unfortunately, it is not the correct synonym for a reduction in force, which is clearly a permanent or quasi-permanent discharge of individuals who “don’t make the cut.” In some cases, we have seen individuals who were disliked but otherwise competent fired for their attitude.

We have also heard other euphemistic terms such as “let them go” or “release them,” as if we providing some element of liberation. Sometimes, moving on will work for an employee, although the disaffiliation is not immediately perceived to be positive.

We recommend dropping the softer words and calling firing what is is:

Canning … Continue reading

Creative Risk Response Planning

Knowing a risk exists and not taking action is similar to standing on the tracks watching as the train nears.   You must spend time creating alternative plans in the event the train does, in fact, come.   It has been our observation that most project teams, under the pressure to deliver to the current plan, do not spend the time developing risk response plans.   For some, this approach is intentional.   Some project teams believe they are most creative when their backs are to the wall.  They hold a romantic view of pressure induced creativity, with visions of scenes from a dramatic re-enactment of the Apollo 13 mission.   So they choose to wait to create solutions to problems after they occur, rather than before.  The truth is that pressure, particularly time pressure, is counter-productive to creativity (  Research completed by Teresa Amabile at Harvard during the last decade showed that creativity was suppressed under stress.

Just making time doesn’t ensure success, … Continue reading

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Email *
Single Sign On provided by vBSSO