If you look at bottles of a soft drink in a grocery store, you will notice that no two bottles are filled to exactly the same level. Some are filled slightly higher and some slightly lower. Similarly, if you look at blueberry muffins in a bakery, you will notice that some are slightly larger than others and some have more blueberries than others. These types of differences are completely normal. No two products are exactly alike because of slight differences in materials, workers, machines, tools, and other factors. These are called common, or random, causes of variation. Common causes of variation are based on random causes that we cannot identify. These types of variation are unavoidable and are due to slight differences in processing.

images Common causes of variation

Random causes that cannot be identified.

An important task in quality control is to find out the range of natural random variation in a process. For example, if the average bottle of a soft drink called Cocoa Fizz contains 16 ounces of liquid, we may determine that the amount of natural variation is between 15.8 and 16.2 ounces. If this were the case, we would monitor the production process to make sure that the amount stays within this range. If production goes out of this range—bottles are found to contain on average 15.6 ounces—this would lead us to believe that there ...

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