7 Quality Control Tools – Graphs

They are known since heyday of Total Quality Management in the 1970s and they are still used and useful today: the seven quality control tools.

These tools have been selected to give shopfloor workers means to control, analyse and improve quality based on facts and objective data. The tools are simple enough to be used with minimum algebra.

The seven quality control tools are:

  1. Graphs
  2. Check Sheets
  3. Pareto Chart
  4. Cause & Effect diagram
  5. Scatter Diagram
  6. Histogram
  7. Control Chart

Their order may vary from one author to another but order is not that important.


In this post : Graphs

Graphs are a convenient tool to represent data in an easier understandable way. Graphs allow to communicate efficiently and easily without having to look at data tables and mentally depict the data meaning. As the saying tells, a picture is worth thousand words, so is any good graph.

Here is an example of a data table. Even not very big or complex, it’s difficult to see immediately where to focus.


Here is a graph built with some of the above data. The picture shows something and draws attention, even from some distance.

Graphs come in many types, a type is usually better fitting a specific purpose. According to the situation to analyze or information to share, the choice of the most suitable type of graph, and beyond the type, scale and other parameters of the graph will highlight or hide certain aspects.

The first type of graph, maybe the most common are line charts, lines joining plots and each plot is the graphical depiction of a pair of coordinates and those coordinates are the translation of specific parameters to check, e.g. km or miles per hour (speed), temperature over time, units per hour a day as above, etc.

Type Name Used for (examples)
Histograms Histograms are used to picture the data distribution. The bars represent the frequency of occurrence by classes of data. Histograms are upright bar charts.
Stacked histograms Stacked graphs are used to compare the parts to the whole, useful for looking at changes over time.
Combination Chart Bar and Line Graph Combination charts combine the features of the bar chart and the line chart. Useful when comparing values in different categories, e.g. expenses vs. budget
Bar chart, horizontal bar chart Display and compare the number, frequency or other measure for different discrete categories of data
Stacked Bar chart, horizontal bar chart Basically same as bar chart, but practical with long titles or with large number of different categories vs available space
Line chart Usually for tracking something over time, time series data
Area chart Comparisons, relative contribution over time
Pie chart Relative contribution of different categories to an overall total
Doughnut chart Variation of pie chart
Radar chart Displaying multivariate data on different axes starting from the same point
Scatter plot
Show the relationship between two or more sets of data
Bubble chart  Display three dimensions of data: x,y,size (four with color)

 

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Five truths about (ordered) lists

After extensive research, I am ready to publish my Five truths about (ordered) lists.

1. A list of “n something about something else” is a powerful attractor, a kind of visitor-magnet that pulls visitors to web pages, blog posts or whatever.
Don’t say no, you’re reading this post because of it.

2. An ordered list starts with a number or a letter to prove it is ordered. Yet this is not always the case and as I introduce this possible deviation, this point is true and I have my second truth about (ordered) lists.

3. The biggest merit of the list author is to put numbers or letters in front of the items. The list content is generally already known but nobody had the idea to put a number in the front. Numbering the items is a great leap forward to enforce point number 1 above. If you read this more than twice, you’re stuck in a loop, skip to point number 4 to escape.

4. The disappointment reading such a list is positively correlated to the effort required to access the list. If you have to do anything more than one click like subscribe, sign-in and so on, be prepared.

5. A list shorter than five items doesn’t look serious. A list holding more than ten items is discouraging, thus the biblical benchmark about commandments.

I will monitor the visits on this page to confirm point number 1 and monitor retweets, likes, mentions and of course read your comments to assess the sense of humor of (ordered) lists readers. Results of this study to be published soon.

Bandeau-penseur2


Seven questions fostering efficiency – assigning tasks

Managers, how many times after assigning tasks have you been disappointed by the results / the lack of results? Before scolding people, reflect about what you asked them to do and the way you assigned the task.

It could be the way you pass the task over is the cause of your disappointment. Having to redo or rework something is not efficient. Having it done right first time is.

This post is the second of the series about the seven questions. The first one is >here<

Here are seven questions for efficient delegation:

1. What?

What is the task you want to pass to your subordinate, a less senior or less experienced person?

Take time to state it in a full sentence that makes sense and be as precise as possible in your description.

Remember:

  • Ambiguity may be useful in some case like telling grandMa “The cat is gone”, which either means the cat escaped or was flattened by a passing truck, but for the sake of efficiency in business you better mind any possible ambiguity. Most often ambiguity leads to misunderstandings and bad decisions.
  • Very few people, if any, can read your mind. Do not expect people to catch what you don’t say. Explain in a concise but complete way and assume what remains unspoken remains unknown.

If relevant, a sketch, a picture or a diagram is worth a thousand words as you know. Consider taking time for a little drawing to make sure your description is understood.

2. Who?

To whom do you assign the task? Is this person able? Does he/she have the necessary skills and experience, the authority to carry it out?
If the person you first thought of or the one available is not the best fit, can you postpone until a better fitting staff can do?

If you hesitate, hesitate twice.

  • If you think the subordinate will take too long or may not be able to carry it out, hesitate to do it yourself. Ask yourself if you do yourself if the task is what is awaited from you/from your position.
  • May be you can do it better and faster, but next time you’ll face the same dilemma, you’ll still do yourself and your subordinates will never improve their skills.

Who is also about who will benefit from the task you delegate. Tell it your subordinate. Every adult needs to understand the purpose and for whom the efforts are made.

3. When?

When is the task to be done, when is the outcome due? Give a precise indication and remember it, or better write it. Your staff will hate if you come to early for results or if you forgot the whole thing.
If you plan to check in between, tell it. People don’t like unexpected controls but can understand the manager or the boss wants to check the progress in between.

4. Where?

Where is the task to be accomplished? Is the location important? Are some confidential matters be kept in secluded location? Is the outcome to be shipped, sent somewhere? If yes, any special action like custom clearance or any other regulation point to care about?

If a product is to be prepared and sent to some special / unusual spot, maybe it needs to be protected against sand, dust, heat, cold, drought, moisture, shock, salty mist…

5. How?

How comes in two different forms:

  1. if the subordinate is a professional, you won’t prescribe how to do what you assign him. It will be a waste of time for you manager and be vexing for him/her. Chances are he/she knows far better than you. You are welcome to ask how he/she intends to proceed, except for something simple and basic. People usually like to talk about their expertise, skills or job. If you ask then listen truly or don’t ask.
  2. if the subordinate needs direction and more how-to indication, give it in a way the subordinate will improve his/her skill and will be able to do it him/herself next time. If you don’t develop your staff, keep in mind you surely remain indispensable but at the possible expense of your own promotion!

6. How many?

What ever can or should be expressed in numbers should be expressed in numbers.

Time, units, resources, costs, distance, weight, temperature…

It is harder to misunderstand numbers and easier to assess results based on numbers.

7. Why?

When assigning a task be “generous”, don’t give minimum explanation but explain the purpose of what you ask for, if it isn’t obvious by itself.

Telling why or what for adds a bit of motivation compared to plainly order execution. Furthermore, understanding what for and why may help people to do more than required, for instance preventing some risks, some undesirable effects, do it differently according to the purpose, etc. If they are left without knowing why and what for, they cannot anticipate what may happen or what can be done better, differently and so on.

Wrapping-up

At this point you realize they are many more questions than seven, but the seven are key to structure what you want have done and are easy to remember.

The seven question foster efficiency because they increase significantly the chances to have the things done right first time. It can save a lot of disappointment from both sides, manager and subordinate, save a lot of time and precious resources, increase satisfaction.

You may also say these are the famous 5W2H, famous since the heyday of Total Quality Management in the 1970-1980 and you’re right.

I didn’t promise anything new, just wondered when you used them last time.
Feel free to answer in a comment.

 

Chris HOHMANN


Seven questions fostering efficiency

Managers, how many times a day are you interrupted by a colleague or a subordinate who comes to you with a problem, a suggestion, a complaint or a great idea?
How many times, when this happens, is the person able to explain in a logical and concise way what makes him/her disturb you?

Not very often I guess, I had my own share of this kind of disruptions!

Now be honest, how many times when YOU have a problem, a suggestion, a complaint or a great idea do YOU refrain from rushing to your colleagues, subordinates or boss and prepare a logical and concise little piece of valuable information before your dash?


Seven questions fostering efficiency – Part one, reporting.

When reporting, suggesting or sharing a great idea, you probably want to have it done right first time. If you are the receiver and are disturbed in a task by someone reporting, you expect the disturbance being worth it. “Worth” meaning receiving meaningful and complete information at once and not in a string of “oh, I must check”.

Here are seven questions for efficient reporting:

1. What?

What is the problem, the suggestion, complaint or great idea?
Take time to state it in a full sentence that makes sense and be as precise as possible in your description.

Ambiguity may be useful in some case like telling grandMa “The cat is gone”, which either means the cat escaped or was flattened by a passing truck, but for the sake of efficiency in business you better mind any possible ambiguity.

Most often ambiguity leads to misunderstandings and bad decisions.

Remember that very few people, if any, can read your mind. Do not expect people to catch what you don’t say, even if you move your hands a lot italian style.

Explain in a concise but complete way and assume what remains unspoken remains unknown.

A sketch, a picture or a diagram is worth a thousand words as you know. If there is no urgency, taking time for a little drawing can be a good idea.

2. Who?

Who does it concern? Who is the victim? Who is the witness? Who was first to discover or to report?

In case of a business / quality issue, it is mandatory to protect the customer, especially in B2B where customer is identified, thus knowing soon who the issue will harm is important. While mitigating/limiting the risk, it is advised to inform customer beforehand and insure every action will be taken to protect him/her from trouble.

In case of accident, knowing “who” is also capital, for instance medical care will not be exactly the same if it is a kid, an adult, an elderly person or a group of people.

Who was first / who reported first is also important to assess the credibility of the source of information. It makes a big difference if a quality issue is reported by Albert Kamus, quality control expert or if the source of information is “I heard say…”

If the client him/herself is the informator, whether there is an official claim or not, the harm is done.

Who means also who is in charge, who is already or will soon taking care?

3. When?

It is important to understand at what moment the event took place, the problem was discovered. Is it something new or something around for some while? Is it a one shot or frequent? What is the frequency?

A new problem may need more investigations then something already known. The effort and resources have to be adapted.

A problem that reappears is a problem that wasn’t solved. Therefore the frequency information is an important clue: the countermeasure is not satisfactory so far and needs to be reconsidered.

Old problems still are problems and need attention too. Elder problems regarded as secondary may be a constant pain to someone. If the constant pain never receives attention, the person may find ways to overcome it and can make things worse, endanger herself or breaks some rule.

4. Where?

Knowing the location(s) of the problem is another important basic information. Can you imagine calling the firemen for a raging fire but unable to tell them where to come for rescue?

Sounds silly but how often do people report problems about a shipment but don’t know where the shipment physically is. It makes a huge difference if the shipment is still in the facility and can be recovered / reworked or if it has left and the problem now is on a bigger scale.

Assume you’re the boss of company with several facilities around the world, you need to know where the problem occurred and if it is limited to one spot or a global issue affecting every facility.

Within one facility knowing the location is also important. In a pharma or electronic factory with cleanrooms you cannot just enter certain zones at will.

5. How?

How could this happen? One a the first question anyone surprised by a problem would like to ask and the kind of question that come a bit too soon. It is probable that when reporting early, the circumstances and facts about a problem are not completely known, if at all.

It is better to refrain assuming and admit there is no reliable information at the moments, assumptions are often taken as facts in such moments.

How are we/you going to fix it? How to prevent spreading? How to get it done? are “better” questions as they focus on short term acting, the way to proceed and the required resources.

6. How many?

This question calls for metrics. What is the extent of problem in terms of units? Units may be items, monetary units, packaging units… Do you have statistics? Data?

This question is all about objectivity and “talking with facts and figures”. You may know this famous saying: “in God we trust, all others bring data”.

If you can’t provide figures and facts, you are asking the other person to rely on his/her gut feeling to assess the situation, idea or suggestion or ask for an act of faith.

This is not always welcome by someone taken unprepared, especially if this person trusts more figures than his/her guts.

7. Why?

Why this happened is not often an answer you may get or give immediately. A new problem must be analyzed about its causes first. For known issues some explanations may already be known.

Why me? Why are you going to see this person / Why is this person coming to you?

Is this person contributing to the problem or the solution? Is it only for information?

Do you have structured the case and have some data so that the information is as complete and relevant as possible?

Why? is also a question you may ask after all previous six questions: what, who, when, where, how and how many. It helps checking the robustness of the information, facts and data you provide …or not.

Wrapping-up

At this point you realize they are many more questions than seven, but the seven are key to structure the case and are easy to remember.

You may also say these are the famous 5W2H, famous since the heyday of Total Quality Management in the 1970-1980 and you’re right.

I didn’t promise anything new, just wondered when you used them last time. Feel free to answer in a comment.

As a manager you may advise your subordinates to use the 5W2H before they come to you with some issue to report, complaint, suggestion or great idea.

As a subordinate or colleague, YOU may use 5W2H before YOU go see them with some issue to report, complaint, suggestion or great idea.

Chris HOHMANN


How lean can help shaping the future – compact factories

The factory of the future has to comply with several constraints, among which the energy efficiency and respect of environment, the latter meaning nature as well as neighborhood.

Factories of the future will probably be close to housing areas, not only because in some areas space is scarce but because commuting is a major source of waste and annoyance.

Factory leanness is directly and positively correlated to its compactness. The more compact the factory the less travel distance within. Distance induces transportation and motion wastes. The shorter the distance, the less these types of waste.

The shorter the distance, the shorter the lead time hopefully.

Compact factories do not allow large inventories. I remember Japanese factories and the mini trucks; if you cannot store, deliver more often! (not sure about energy efficiency and environment friendliness of the trucks milk runs though).

Factories of the future will be built in flow-logic, unlike their centuries-old ancestors in which flows are just nightmares. Actual greenfields easily supercede brownfields and elder facilities on this point.

Best would be scalable units that can be plugged one to another, like plug-and-play shelters having some commodities ducts and cables pre-installed/pre-wired. Among them, Smart Industry or Industrie 4.0 (Europe) standard industrial buses for connecting anything out of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Such shelters could be specialized, like holding 3D printers, laser cutters or 3D scanners ready to use. They could be rented on-demand, installed, connected and used for some period and reused somewhere else after that. A kind of Rent-a-factory..!

Compact factories (in volume) need less heating and air conditioning and less artificial light. Industrial compressed air – if still in use – or other gases need less piping and volume in pipes in compact factory, less compressor units and power.
Air leaks in bigger facilities often require an additional compressor for compensation.
All good points for the sake of energy efficiency.

Most of the principles listed above are lessons learnt from lean experiences with existing factories. In such old-style factories, the improvements are often limited by physical, building construction constraints. Taking these lessons learnt into account is a way lean can help shaping the future.

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What is supplier development?

Since major companies subcontracted and outsourced significant part of the added-value in order to concentrate on their own core competencies, they increasingly depend on their suppliers.

In automotive and aerospace industry the rate of value creation is about 20% for the OEMs and 80% for suppliers. OEM here stands for a company that acquires systems, parts or components and incorporates them into a new product, with its own brand name.

The whole performance of the extended supply chain can be impaired by a single supplier not achieving the assigned targets.

I remember in my early consulting year the case of a railway rolling stock manufacturer whose carriages could not be delivered because windows and doors were late. The seemingly not strategic parts provider wasn’t monitored closely enough and his late deliveries came as a bad surprise.

Supplier development is a kind of help provided to some suppliers in order to settle issues and/or improve quality, delivery or costs. This assistance can be imposed upon the supplier by contract by the buyer if supplier doesn’t meet the objectives, or in a more friendly manner proposed to a supplier as a way to improve the partnership and overall supply chain performance.

>Lisez-moi en français

Supplier development programs are often part of a Lean or Excellence program that extends beyond the initiator’s (buyer) walls. It is also often a non-negotiable part of the contract.

Supplier development is most often a technical or methodological assistance provided by a special team from the OEM or consultants send by him. In some cases the supplier is required to act but the choice remains his, as long as the OEM agrees it.

Supplier development as a reaction to issues carries cost for both parties; costs of the issues and cost of the mitigation and solution. Therefore supplier development, as nice as it sounds is seldom a friendly option. Buyers use the case to press prices further down or impose some conditions the supplier can hardly refuse under the circumstances.

Yet these considerations set apart, supplier development looks very much like consulting on operations. It is made of problem analyzing and solving, process improvement, quality issues mitigation and so on.

In order to avoid surprises, send specialists for supplier development and secure the supply chain, most buyers will thoroughly check the candidate supplier’s capabilities before awarding him any contract. This is usually done via suppliers audits.

I published a book on the topic in 2004, combining quality and supply chain assessment in a single audit, in order to make the process less costly for both parties and more efficient.

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Bending the Current Reality Tree

The Current Reality Tree (CRT) is one of the Theory of Constraints (ToC) Thinking Processes (TP) tools. A CRT is built on Undesirable Effects (UDEs) linked by logical cause-effect-cause relationship called “sufficiency”. Sufficiency logic relationship is in the form of “if A is true then B is true”, or “if A exists, then B exists”.

>Lisez-moi en français

A CRT describes the reality, lists the issues that hinders the system / organization to have better throughput.

Building a CRT in the orthodoxical way follows strict rules and good practices. Among the good practices is the one that recommends the CRT has to be built with all stakeholders and then checked for “legitimate reservation”.

I used the CRT in an unorthodox way once during an assignment, thus this post title “bending the Current Reality Tree”.

It was during a quite strange and difficult assignment in which we couldn’t get the organisation chart nor key figures but had to find out the causes of all troubles and recommend solutions nevertheless. The CEO was against the consultants, but the COO could made him agree to let us make a pre-diagnosis.

Puzzled about how to go on, I had an intuition during the managers’ interviews: write down all UDEs they would mention and try to build a CRT afterwards.

The interviews were one manager a time and we had no opportunity to have a CRT building workshop with all of them.

I collected 347 UDEs of all kind and started to sort them out in relevant categories. This sorting led to 23 categories holding all the UDEs.

Then, instead of trying to combine all the UDEs in a single tree, I built trees according to how UDEs formed links between themselves and ended up with 6 trees on following topics:

  1. Management
  2. Information Technologies
  3. Marketing
  4. R&D
  5. Overall performance
  6. Misc.

These trees helped me and my team to structure the results of the interviews and analysis. CRTs are great tools to describe the current situation as they “tell the story”.

We used the posters with the trees to debrief top management. These posters were no artwork, not very nice made: the paper sheet was the paperboard’s or brown paper and each UDE was a strip of paper printed out from my Excel file I used to order the UDEs. Nevertheless, their value was in the content, not the design.

The posters were pinned on the wall and the audience could freely walk around to read the content. People were glad to see their verbatim captured and taken into account, in an anonymous way, ordered and displayed in a logical arrangement they could understand and agree.

Summing-up

The deviations vs. CRT building:

  • no preparatory boundaries check e.g. what is in the scope, what influence a manager have on the UDEs..
  • building the tree alone after UDEs’ collecting, not in group with stakeholders, thus the trees reflected only the consultant’s point of view and understanding
  • no validity check via Categories of Legitimate Reservation
  • no cross reading except with my colleagues
  • did not use round corner boxes

What was complying to the CRT building methodology:

  • UDE clarity check. I sometimes rephrased the original stance to disambiguate or for the sake of clarity. Clarity was also checked with my colleagues
  • Sufficiency logic check, UDEs were only linked if the sufficiency condition was met

This somewhat unorthodox use of the CRT helped us to better understand the causes of the overall situation and to feed it back to the company’s management. Our audience had no problem with the deviation as they did not know about CRTs anyway.

The assignment did not get further than this pre-diagnosis. Our trees were left at client’s, up to managers to reuse them. If the assignment would have continued and led to an improvement project, it is probable that the trees would have been used as CRTs to work out Future Reality Trees, this time in a more conventional way; in workgroups.

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What are Undesirable Effects?

Undesirable Effects (UDEs) in the Thinking Processes lingo are effects undesirable in/for a system, a process or its stakeholders and clients. UDEs are hindrances to better throughput or performance, limiting the system’s throughput or performance at large. UDEs can be obvious problems or malfunctions.

UDEs are generally well-known by people they concern, thus these people can express and list them easily. What is not so easy is to identify the root cause of all evil.

Theory of Constraints assumes that most Undesirable Effects are the visible effects of a unique or a small number of root causes, the constraints; If the constraint can be identified and eliminated, all related UDEs will disappear. Therefore it is meaningful to focus all energy and limited resources to identify and eliminate* the constraint.

*When the constraint is a physical bottleneck, eliminating may not be possible. We speak about “elevating” the constraint in this case, meaning better using the available limited capacity and/or recovering wasted capacity and/or gaining additional capacity.

UDEs are described in a manner such as: “what causes us the more trouble is..”

UDEs are stated in full sentences in present tense and written in rounded square boxes. UDEs are the “leafs” of a Current Reality Tree, which describes all UDEs and their relationships, down to a common critical root cause or more likely a small number of critical root causes.


More about so-called “problems” and UDEs: Redefining “problem” (with Goal in mind)


Chris HOHMANNView Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

What is a Current Reality Tree?

The Current Reality Tree (CRT) is one of the Theory of Constraints (ToC) Thinking Processes (TP) tools. A CRT is built on Undesirable Effects (UDEs) linked by logical cause-effect-cause relationship called “sufficiency”. Sufficiency logic relationship is in the form of “if A is true then B is true”, or “if A exists, then B exists”.

A newer, more complete post about CRT is available >here<

UDEs are written in round squared boxes and arrows depict the relationship. The linkage between UDEs makes a shape of a tree, the root cause being, as the name tells, the bottom-most cause.

Click here to read What are Undesirable Effects

ToC assumed (still does?) that most Undesirable Effects are the visible effects of a unique or a small number of critical root causes*, the constraints. If the constraint can be identified and eliminated, all related UDEs will disappear. Therefore it is meaningful to focus all energy and limited resources to identify and elevate the constraint.

*Read “What is a critical root cause?”

A constraint is a limiting factor that hinders the system to deliver more value.

Read more about >root causes<


Chris HOHMANNView Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

Goal Tree: how to assess Necessary Conditions status?

Once a Goal Tree is completed, I recommend to assess each box, mainly Necessary Conditions (NCs) for its status and make that status immediately visible with the three Green / Amber / Red colors, according to the completion and mastery of the box content.

This color code is familiar to most people and easy to intuitively grasp the meaning behind the colors. Generally speaking I would state it like this:

  • Green is the status when condition is OK, steadily and in a managed way.
  • Red is the status when condition is not fulfilled. It may be something missing, something not yet addressed, something which is not mastered or which fails quite often.
  • Amber is somewhat in between, it is a warning that the condition is not perfectly or completely fulfilled, the condition may be unstable, not always granted.

My advice is that every organization defines how to assess the NCs in broad lines and for each NC defines one or two metrics that can backup objectively the status.

In the following example three KPIs have been selected as significant for the status assessment:

  • On Time In Full Error Free (OTIFEF)
  • Customer complaints
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

The table shows the range for each status Green / Amber / Red

The Goal is a green Tree

The Goal Tree is built on the logical necessity logic relationship, therefore all Necessary Conditions must be fulfilled (Green) in order to achieve the Goal.
We can say that the goal is to have a green tree, or in other words, the staff’s contributions must strive to turn all NCs into Green status and ultimately the Goal will “mechanically” be achieved.

Conversely a Tree in autumnal colors holds a lot of improvement work to get it green.

This is important as the Goal statement may not be very meaningful to every contributor, while the breakdown into NCs will give all contributors a lot of concrete improvement targets.

Example (imaginary)

The Goal of an airline company is to “provide the best travel experience to their passengers”.

What contribution to this goal could a sales counter clerk propose ? He/she may have numerous good ideas about what makes a flight enjoyable, but this is not about brainstorming and creativity, this is about daily achieving something that insures the Goal is achieved.

Behind the sales counter, the link between the daily work and the company’s Goal may not be that obvious.

The Goal’s breakdown into a limited number of Critical Success Factors and far greater number of specific NCs makes things concrete. Some NCs will be linked directly to clerk’s job, like asking if passengers has a special diet, a preference for a window, middle or aisle seat, kindly explaining the luggage limitations, and so on. Maybe one of the NCs states that the ticket purchase should not last more than 7 minutes on average, a benchmark taken from a passengers’ inquiry (Voice of the customer).

The statuses of such kind of NC is relatively easy to assess: the questions are regularly and kindly asked to customers, the average purchasing lead time is in its timely limits, etc.

You may also like to read how to get from Goal Tree to Action Plan

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