Excellence Ireland Quality Association

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What are Quality Tools?

Quality Tools are like any tool, designed to help the user with the task that they are undertaking. There are specific tools designed for specific problems, so that when the user can select the tool that is most appropriate for that job. So for example, where you would use a screwdriver to tighten a screw, specific quality tools are used for specific quality problems or tasks.

What types of Quality Tools are available and what can problems can they assist with?

There are 7 basic quality tools which are used to tackle particular quality problems.fied and controlled before they threaten the safety of food and your customers or staff.

Quality Tool – Problem to address
Flowcharts – Understanding how a process flows / works Identifying where to establish control procedures
Check Sheets – Finding the facts
Histograms – Identifying problems
Cause and Effect Diagrams – Ideas generation
Pareto Diagrams – Identifying problems An aid to understanding how the process works
Scatter Diagrams – A tool to assist in the development of solutions
Control Charts – Identifying problems Establishing control

Flowcharts

Flowcharts (or process maps) are used to allow the user to show how a process works. It is a visual representation of the key steps that form the process and how each step relates to the previous step.

Each step in the process represents an activity and this can include decisions, links to other processes and where the process starts and ends. It also should show what that inputs and outputs come from the process ( people, information or products).

By recording each key step in a process, the user can quickly identify where there are bottlenecks or where a process is disorganised.

Check Sheets

Check sheets are used to gather data, as it occurs, in order to give immediate results. Check sheets are particularly useful in problem solving and allow the user to quantify the data as it is being collated.

As can be seen from the diagram, checks or marks are associated with each occurrence of a problem. This allows the user to quickly and easily identify where the biggest issue or problem occurs.

Check sheets can be simple of detailed and are ultimately used to collect and analyse data in real time.

Histograms

Histograms show how data collated by the user is actually distributed. It allows the used to collate how frequently data observations occur within discrete intervals.

The height of the rectangles within the histogram is representative of the frequency of occurrence, within that particular interval.

Histograms are used to plot data density and give the user and understanding of where the data is accumulated. All data rectangles are adjacent to each other, to show that the data variable being represented is continuous.

Cause and Effect Diagrams

These diagrams, also known as fishbone (because of their shape) or Ishikawaka (after their originator), are designed to address all areas that may be contributing or have the solution to a known problem.

As you can see from the diagram, the problem is stated and each area possibly relating to the problem is identified. All possible causes within each area are then outlined and brainstormed with people associated with the problem.

Each area is then investigated or eliminated, depending on the contribution from the group.

Pareto Diagrams

A Pareto diagram is designed to show individual and cumulative totals in relation to the collated data. Two axis are shown, one addressing the individual totals and the second representing the cumulative total.

The main purpose of the pareto diagram is to show the main causes from a large number of possible causes.

Scatter Diagrams

Scatter diagrams are designed to show how the relationship between two variables is represented and how the two variables affect each other. An example could be where the user is plotting how diet has an effect on weight or how bad weather can effect city traffic.

Generally the x axis represents the control or independent variable and the y axis represents the effect or dependent variable.

Looking at the data, the user can determine whether there is an obvious relationship between the variables.

Control Charts

Control charts are used to show how processes behave and identify where a process has gone out of statistical control.

Limits are set, as can be seen from the diagram, which represent the upper and lower controls for the process. The process should run so that the process data being plotted, stays within these controls. Any point going outside of the control should be immediately investigated.

Summary

The main purpose of the seven basic or classic quality tools is to allow the user to collate data and structure it in order to solve a quality problem. They are designed to be simple and helpful to those people who are starting out on their quality management system and need these tools to understand and quantify quality problems.

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