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Reducing Variability with Experimental Design

Reducing Variability with Experimental Design

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Reducing manufacturing process variability usingexperimental design technique: a case study
Jiju Antony
University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK
Michael Hughes
University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK
Mike Kaye
University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK
Experimental design is a powerful approachto product and process development, and forimproving the yield and stability of anongoing manufacturing process (Montgom-ery, 1992). It is a discipline that appliesstatistics to the experimental process. It wasfirst introduced and developed by Sir RonaldFisher in the early 1920s to study the effect of several variables simultaneously on the out-come. In his early applications, Fisherwanted to determine the effect of factors suchas rain, water, fertilizer, sunshine, etc., onthe final condition of the crop (Sirvanci andDurmaz, 1993). His methods for effectiveexperimentation were a fundamental breakfrom the old scientific tradition of varyingonly one-factor-at-a-time approach to experi-mentation. Since that time, much develop-ment of the technique has taken place in theacademic environment, but not many appli-cations in the manufacturing environment.Dr Taguchi carried out significant researchwith experimental design techniques in theearly 1950s. His effort has been to make thispowerful experimental design techniquemore user-friendly and apply to improve thequality of both products and manufacturingprocesses (Goh, 1993). Taguchi developedboth a philosophy and a methodology forcontinuous quality improvement based onstatistical concepts, especially experimentaldesign techniques. A number of successfulapplications of the Taguchi method for pro-cess optimisation have been reported by bothUS and European manufacturers over adecade (Antony and Kaye, 1996; Quinlan,1985). Experimental design methodologybased on Taguchi has accentuated the im-portance of reducing process variabilityaround a specified target value and thenbringing the process mean on target. Thiscan be accomplished only by making pro-cesses insensitive to various sources of noiseand the method is called robust parameterdesign (Phadke, 1989).
Benefits of using experimentaldesign methods
Experimental design methods have intensiveapplication in the engineering design anddevelopment environment. Potential appli-cations include product design optimisation,analysis of basic design configurations,material selection, selection of componenttolerances and process optimisation. Thefollowing are the typical benefits gained bymany experimenters and researchers fromthe application of experimental design meth-ods:
reduced product development time;
assistance to achieve better processdesign to assure final product quality;
improved customer satisfaction with theproduct;
reduced excessive variability in both theproduct and process performance;
assistance in discovering a set of processvariables which are most influential onthe process output;
reduced product and process developmentcosts;
reduced product and process sensitivity toenvironmental and manufacturing varia-tions;
helped to determine the optimal factorsettings for better process performance;
assistance with the development of newprocesses and manufacturing technology;
improved process yield, product reliabil-ity and process capability.
Case study
The following case study was performed in acertain manufacturing organisation with theaim of reducing variability around the targetfor a core process. Owing to the non-disclo-sure agreement between the company andthe authors, certain information relating tothe company cannot be revealed in detail.Nevertheless, the data which has been col-lected from the experiment is real and has
Integrated ManufacturingSystems10/3 [
] 162±169
MCB University Press[
ISSN 0957-6061
Design of experiments,Optimization, Process efficiency,Taguchi methods
Experimental design is a powerfultechnique for understanding aprocess, studying the impact of potential variables affecting aprocess and providing sponta-neous insight for continuous qual-ity improvement possibilities. Ithas proved to be very effective forimproving the process yield, pro-cess performance and reducingprocess variability. A number of successful applications of the ex-perimental design technique forprocess optimisation have beenreported by both US and Europeanmanufacturers over the last tenyears. This paper illustrates anapplication of Taguchi methods(TM) in an industrial setting foridentifying the critical factorsaffecting a certain process andsubsequently reducing processvariability. Both the analysis of variance (ANOVA) on mean re-sponse and the signal-to-noiseratio (SNR) have been carried outfor determining the optimal condi-tion of the process. A significantimprovement in the process per-formance was observed in terms of variation reduction.
The authors would like tothank the two anonymousreferees for their valuableand useful comments onearlier draft of this paper.
not been modified as a consequence of thisagreement. The case study was carried out byfollowing the steps described in the Taguchimethodology (Antony and Kaye, 1995).
Step 1: objective/goal of the experiment
The objective of the experiment was todetermine the most important factors affect-ing a critical quality characteristic (or re-sponse) and subsequently reducingvariability in response around the targetvalue.
Step 2: selection of the qualitycharacteristic (or response)
Having identified the objective of the experi-ment, the next step was to identify anappropriate response for the experiment. Theresponse of interest to the experimenter wasexpulsion force. Here expulsion force is theforce required to expel the component ordevice under study from a certain tube.
Step 3: identification of control, noise andsignal factors
The classification of factors (Taguchi, 1987)for the experiment was achieved by athorough brainstorming session with peoplefrom production, quality control and shop-floor. Seven control factors were thought tohave some impact on expulsion force. Controlfactors are those which can be controlledunder normal production conditions. Nonoise factors or signal factors were identifiedfor the experiment. Noise factors are thosewhich causes variation in the functionalperformance of products/processes. Signalfactors are those which affect only the meanperformance of the process. As this is thefirst Taguchi experiment performed on theforementioned quality characteristic, inter-actions were of no interest to the experi-menter. In other words, the objective of theexperiment was to reduce the number of factors to a manageable subset of importantfactors. This is called a ``screening experi-ment'' in the context of experimental design.Dingus (1989) and Quinlan (1985) provideexcellent references for screening experi-ments.As part of the initial investigation of theprocess under study, it was decided to studyall factors at two levels. Here, the ``level''refers to a specified setting of a factor. Forexample, in the present case study, the typeof material is a factor and ``material X'' and``material Y'' are the two levels. The list of control factors and their levels are shown inTable I. All the factors which were thought toinfluence the expulsion force are basicallymachine related.
Step 4: choice of an orthogonal array (OA)design
For this study, seven independent factorswere thought to have some impact on theresponse (i.e. expulsion force). As part of theinitial investigation of the process, eachfactor was kept at two levels. A full factorialexperiment would require a total of 128 (i.e.2
) experimental runs. This was not reason-able and feasible design, as the cost of theexperiment and time needed to complete theexperiment would be extraordinarily high.Owing to the limited budget and because thetop management needed a quick response tothe experimental investigation, it wasdecided to use Taguchi's orthogonal array(OA) design. The choice of an OA (Ross, 1988)depends on the number of degrees of freedomrequired for studying the main and interac-tion effects. Moreover, the experimenter wasinterested in reducing the number of vari-ables to a manageable number so that furthersmaller experiments can be carried out tostudy the interactions among the factors.As seven main effects (each at two levels)are to be studied, the number of degrees of freedom required for the experiment must begreater than seven. The closest number of experimental trials (from the standard OAs)which will satisfy this objective is an L
OA(Taguchi and Konishi, 1987).
Step 5: experimental preparation
In this step, the main task was to constructthe uncoded and coded design matrices forthe experiment and analysis of resultsrespectively. The coded and uncoded designmatrices are shown in Tables II and III,respectively.Havingconstructedthedesignmatrices,thenextstepwastoruntheexperimentaccordingto the prepared matrix. It was decided toconduct the experiment in the standard order(see Table II). Moreover, the sample size foreach experimental design point was ten. Inotherwords,tenpartsweremadeaccordingtothe factor settings in each trial.
Step 6: experimental run
The experiment was conducted based on thedesign matrix and the response values wererecorded on a data sheet for analysis. Theresulting response table is shown in Table IV.
Step 7: statistical analysis andinterpretation of results
As the objective is to reduce the variability inexpulsion force and to bring the meanexpulsion force as close as possible to thetarget (target being equal to 275gm), both theANOVA on the meanresponse and the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) have been carried out.
Jiju Antony, Michael Hughesand Mike Kaye
Reducing manufacturing process variability using experimental design technique: a case study 
Integrated ManufacturingSystems10/3 [1999] 162±169
SNR is a measure of the performance varia-bility of products/processes in the presenceof noise factors. The idea is to maximise theSNR and thereby minimise the effect of noisefactors. ANOVA is a powerful statisticaltechnique used for sub-dividing the totalvariation into useful and meaningful compo-nents of variation (Antony and Antony, 1998).In Taguchi experiments, ANOVA is used topin point the key sources of variation. Sinceexpulsion force is a nominal-the-best type of quality characteristic, it was decided toemploy the two-step optimisation procedurerecommended by Taguchi (Taguchi andYokohama, 1993):
Stage 1.
Identify those factor effects whichhave a significant effect on the SNR. Selectthe factor levels that maximise the SNR.The idea is to identify those effects whichaffect the variation. It is important toreduce variation in the performancecharacteristic of products/processes priorto shifting the mean onto the desiredtarget.
Stage 2.
Identify an adjustment factorwhich has a significant effect on the meanresponse, but no effect on the SNR. Usethis adjustment factor to bring the meanresponse as close as possible to the target.Based on the above two steps, it was decidedto calculate the SNR for each experimentaldesign point. The SNR for nominal-the-bestquality characteristic (Logothetis, 1992) iscalculated by the equation:
Sample calculation for Trial 1
Mean response
= 983.10Sample standard deviation (s) = 258.38Substitute the values into the above equa-tion, we get, SNR = 11.60 The SNR valuesfor eight experimental trials are shown inTable V.Having obtained the SNR values, the nextstep was to obtain the average responsevalues of SNR at low and high levels of eachfactor and hence the effect of each factor onthe SNR. The results are shown in Table VI.Table VI shows that factors B and D havedominant effect on the SNR, followed byfactors E, G, F, A and C. The main effects plotfor the SNR is shown in Figure 1.
Table I
List of control factors for the experiment
Factors Factor labels Level 1 Level 2Type of material
(A) Material X Material Y
Drum temperature
(B) 84 104
Machine alignment
(C) 134 130
Position of the cam
(D) Forward Backward
(E) 0.006 0.012
(F) 68 72
Header temperature
(G) 190 210
Table II
Uncoded design matrix for the experiment
Trialnumber A B C D E F G1
Material X 84 134 Forward 0.006 68 190
Material X 84 134 Backward 0.012 72 210
Material X 104 130 Forward 0.006 72 210
Material X 104 130 Backward 0.012 68 190
Material Y 84 130 Forward 0.012 68 210
Material Y 84 130 Backward 0.006 72 190
Material Y 104 134 Forward 0.012 72 190
Material Y 104 134 Backward 0.006 68 210
Table III
Coded design matrix for the experiment
Trial number A B C D E F G1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 2 2 2 2
1 2 2 1 1 2 2
1 2 2 2 2 1 1
2 1 2 1 2 1 2
2 1 2 2 1 2 1
2 2 1 1 2 2 1
2 2 1 2 1 1 2
Jiju Antony, Michael Hughesand Mike Kaye
Reducing manufacturing process variability using experimental design technique: a case study 
Integrated ManufacturingSystems10/3 [1999] 162±169

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