Data Measurement: For Better, For Worse!

Posted by on Mar 3, 2019 in Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, Organizational Goals, Process Improvement, Product Quality, Six Sigma | 0 comments

All decisions in life, whether personal or professional, are based on available information or data-or at least should be.  Accurate information contributes to good decision-making.  On the other hand, insufficient or inaccurate data contributes to faulty decisions.

Measurement is how your company collects data.   But having someone go through the motions of measurement is not enough.  Your business depends on the accurate measurement and evaluation of a number of factors: employee productivity, effectiveness of processes, and the cost of producing your products and services, to name a few.  Incomplete or inaccurate information will result in less-than-optimum outcomes.  You have no way to ensure the accuracy of measurement unless you have a defined process of measurement and adequately trained employees.

Let me give you an example of a measurement problem I observed first hand while working with a client.  Have you ever told someone to do something and assumed it was done correctly?  A client of mine was having issues with contamination in the assembly of their automotive relays.  In order to reduce the contamination they instructed their employees to wipe down their work areas after each break using clean rags and alcohol.  After seeing an employee wipe down their area, I asked the quality manager to do a simple test, i.e., take a clean cloth and wipe the surface that was just cleaned.  To his amazement, the cloth showed extensive soot and residue.  Without a way to measure the effectiveness of the cleaning process, supervision was relying on the employees to do a thorough job and remove the residue.  The process of cleaning the work surfaces and expecting the job to be done adequately turned out to be a bad assumption!

When evaluating your measurement processes, here are some things you may want to consider:

  • In your workplace activities, do you have adequate process controls and checkpoints in place?
  • Are employees relying on their own judgement instead of adequate visual reminders and operational definitions to define what’s acceptable and what isn’t?
  • Have employees been trained in measurement processes and techniques?
  • Have measurement system analysis (MSA) studies been conducted on critical measurements to determine if the measurement system is adequate?
  • Does a process exist that allows employees to alert supervisors when measurements vary or when they have questions that need addressed?
  • What happens to the data that’s collected?  How is it analyzed and used to make improvements?

When measuring, taking data and using it to make decisions always remember the old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out!”

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