Quality Mailbag: Proud Of Statistics

View statistics as one of the most applied, practical and useful disciplines on the planet.

Dear Editor,

I read with interest your comments in Quality concerning Six Sigma (March 2003). I found your comment, “My experience with it had always been as a system that was created to keep statisticians employed and little else,” to be curious. Those who are vocal in promoting Six Sigma view statisticians with contempt. Many of them dismiss statistics by claiming that 2 weeks worth of training and statistical software are enough to address any statistical issue they might face. Your comment suggests to me that neither you, nor they, have ever actually worked with a degreed, practicing, industrial statistician. It also suggests that you have no idea of how to take advantage of statistics and use it to your advantage.

An industrial statistician is the ultimate team player. I have to understand your problem. I have to ask a lot of questions and note the processes and problems.

An industrial statistician has many powerful tools and methods, and the ability to correctly apply them. Most people, including Six Sigma professionals, have a picture and an understanding of statistics and statisticians that is at least 50 years behind the times. I don’t do regression, I use a computer. I do regression analysis, but that is very different.

An industrial statistician is focused on results and takes great delight in contributing to the bottom line. I have made a significant contribution to corporate profits. These contributions were quantified by the engineers and managers for whom I worked.

Rather than viewing statistics as either an ivory tower occupation or a nuisance, I would encourage you to think of it as one of the most applied, practical and useful disciplines on the planet. I would encourage you to ignore the stereotyping and get out there and get to know a real industrial statistician. If you make that effort, I think you will find that we statisticians try very hard to help others solve problems.

Robert S. Butler


Argo-Tech Corp.


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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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