The Seven "New" Tools For Quality Management

Last month I discussed the seven traditional tools used in quality management. As problems have increased in complexity, more tools have been developed to encourage employees to participate in the problem-solving process.

Last month I discussed the seven traditional tools used in quality management. As problems have increased in complexity, more tools have been developed to encourage employees to participate in the problem-solving process. Let's review the seven "new" quality management tools being used today.

The affinity diagram is used to generate ideas, then organize these ideas in a logical manner. The first step in developing an affinity diagram is to post the problem (or issue) where everyone can see it. Next, team members write their ideas for solving the problem on cards and post them below the problem. Seeing the ideas of other members of the team helps everyone generate new ideas. As the idea generation phase slows, the team sorts the ideas into groups, based on patterns or common themes. Finally, descriptive title cards are created to describe each group of ideas.

The interrelationship digraph allows teams to look for cause and effect relationships between pairs of elements. The team starts with ideas that seem to be related and determines if one causes the other. If idea 1 causes idea 5, then an arrow is drawn from 1 to 5. If idea 5 causes idea 1, then the arrow is drawn from 5 to 1. If no cause is ascertained, no arrow is drawn. When the exercise is finished, it is obvious that ideas with many outgoing arrows cause things to happen, while ideas with many incoming arrows result from other things.

A tree diagram assists teams in exploring all the options available to solve a problem, or accomplish a task. The tree diagram actually resembles a tree when complete. The trunk of the tree is the problem or task. Branches are major options for solving the problem, or completing the task. Twigs are elements of the options. Leaves are the means of accomplishing the options.

The prioritization matrix helps teams select from a series of options based on weighted criteria. It can be used after options have been generated, such as in a tree diagram exercise. A prioritization matrix is helpful in selecting which option to pursue. The prioritization matrix adds weights (values) to each of the selection criteria to be used in deciding between options. For example, if you need to install a new software system to better track quality data, your selection criteria could be cost, leadtime, reliability, and upgrades. A simple scale, say 1 through 5, could be used to prioritize the selection criteria being used. Next, you would rate the software options for each of these selection criteria and multiply that rating by the criteria weighting.

The matrix diagram allows teams to describe relationships between lists of items. A matrix diagram can be used to compare the results of implementing a new manufacturing process to the needs of a customer. For example, if the customer's main needs are low cost products, short leadtimes, and products that are durable; and a change in the manufacturing process can provide faster throughput, larger quantities, and more part options; then the only real positive relationship is the shorter leadtime to the faster throughput.

The other process outcomes—larger quantities and more options—are of little value to the customer. This matrix diagram, relating customer needs to the manufacturing process changes, would be helpful in deciding which manufacturing process to implement.

The process decision program chart can help a team identify things that could go wrong, so corrective action can be planned in advance. The process decision program chart starts with the problem. Below this, major issues related to the problem are listed. Below the issues, associated tasks are listed. For each task, the team considers what could go wrong and records these possibilities on the chart. Next, the team considers actions to prevent things from going wrong. Finally, the team selects which preventive actions to take from all the ones listed.

The activity network diagram graphically shows total completion time, the required sequence of events, tasks that can be done simultaneously, and critical tasks that need monitoring. In this respect, an activity network diagram is similar to the traditional PERT chart used for activity measurement and planning.

Try these tools in your company to generate solutions to some of your ongoing problems.