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Visual Six Sigma: Making Data Analysis Lean by Leo Wright, Mia L. Stephens, Philip J. Ramsey, Marie A. Gaudard, Ian Cox

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6.1. Setting the Scene

Components Inc. is a manufacturer of aluminum components for high-end audio equipment. Components are anodized to protect against corrosion and wear, and the anodized parts are dyed to produce a smooth, rich, black surface that helps to make the final product visually pleasing. Components Inc. has one major customer, and, given the premium price of the equipment it assembles and sells, buyers are very sensitive to its workmanship and aesthetics, not just its audio performance.

In the spring of 2008, Components Inc. begins to experience what becomes a significant problem with chronic discoloration of the components it is making. Lot yields, determined by an outgoing visual inspection, range from 0 to 40 percent, so there is substantial rework and scrap. The low yields mean that on-time delivery of components in sufficient quantity is very poor. In addition, the quality of even the shipped components is often considered marginal when assessed by Components Inc.'s customers, so some lots that are shipped are returned. Unless Components Inc. can successfully improve yield and optimize the quality of its components, it stands to lose millions of dollars, as well as the business of its major customer.

Anodizing is an electrolytic process, used to increase the thickness and density of the natural oxide layer on the surface of metal parts. The anodized surfaces are porous, and the pores may be filled with a dye or a corrosion sealer to improve corrosion resistance. ...

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