able to exert control. The user does not get to "set the limits." We should talk about "predictable processes" and "unpredictable processes." The control chart shows a time series that remains within the computed limits, with no obvioustrend nor any long sequences of points above or below the central line. Thus, this processappears to be predictable. Unless the process is changed in some fundamental way, the plantwill continue to produce anywhere from 7-percent defectives to 30-percent defectives, with adaily average of about 19-percent defective.Predictable performance is not necessarily the same as desirable performance. Notice how thecontrol chart has helped interpret the data. First, the chart is used to characterize the behaviorof the data- are they predictable or not? Second, the control chart allows the manager topredict what to expect in the future- the voice of the process!Finally, notice the difference between the shoe company president's interpretation of thesedata and the interpretation based on the control chart. Some days only appeared to be betterthan others! In truth, both the "good" days and the "bad" days came from the same process.Looking for differences between the "good" days and the "bad" days will simply be a waste of time.
Myths About Shewhart's Charts
The control charts described in many current technical articles bear little, if any, resemblanceto the control chart technique described in Walter Shewhart's writings. Part of this problem canbe attributed to novices teaching neophytes, while part is due to the failure to read Shewhart'swritings carefully. Therefore, to help the reader differentiate control chart myths fromfoundations, this column will focus on both. This month, I will discuss four myths aboutShewhart's charts. Next month, I will discuss four foundations of Shewhart's charts.Myth One: Data must be normally distributed before they can be placed on a control chart.While the control chart constants were created under the assumption of normally distributeddata, the control chart technique is essentially insensitive to this assumption. This insensitivityis what makes the control chart robust enough to work in the real world as a procedure forinductive inference. In August, this column showed the robustness of three-sigma limits with agraphic showing some very nonnormal curves. The data don't have to be normally distributed before you can place them on a control chart. The computations are essentially unaffected by the degree of normality of the data. Justbecause the data display a reasonable degree of statistical control, doesn't mean that they willfollow a normal distribution. The normality of the data is neither a prerequisite nor aconsequence of statistical control.Myth Two: Control charts work because of the central limit theorem. The central limit theorem applies to subgroup averages (e.g., as the subgroup size increases,the histogram of the subgroup averages will, in the limit, become more "normal," regardless of how the individual measurements are distributed). Because many statistical techniques utilizethe central limit theorem, it's only natural to assume that it's the basis of the control chart.However, this isn't the case. The central limit theorem describes the behavior of subgroupaverages, but it doesn't describe the behavior of the measures of dispersion. Moreover, thereisn't a need for the finesse of the central limit theorem when working with Shewhart's charts,where three-sigma limits filter out 99 percent to 100 percent of the probable noise, leaving onlythe potential signals outside the limits. Because of the conservative nature of the three-sigmalimits, the central limit theorem is irrelevant to Shewhart's charts.Undoubtedly, this myth has been one of the greatest barriers to the effective use of controlcharts with management and process-industry data. When data are obtained one-value-per-
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