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Ford, Bobcat, Dupont, Corning, Stryker, and more than a dozen other companies from many different industries entered the contest, which focused on how a statistical technique called Design of Experiments (DOE) can be used to solve complex business problems.
Quality improvement professionals use DOE to create experiments that quickly provide insight into how multiple variables affect an outcome. "With DOE, investigators can change more than one factor at a time, then use statistics to determine which ones are important and even identify the optimum levels for these factors," explains Lou Johnson, a technical training specialist at Minitab and the contest's organizer. "Because DOE reduces the number of experimental runs you need, it's an efficient and economical way to improve any process.
"Companies use Minitab's DOE toolbox to solve their process engineering problems and improve quality every day," Johnson notes. "This contest was a great way to see how quality professionals are using those tools, give them some recognition, and share their successes with other quality improvement professionals. But selecting the winner was very difficult, because all of the entries were excellent." The contest entries were judged by a panel of DOE experts based on overall process improvement achieved from implementing experiment results; the effectiveness of the experimental design in addressing the process problem; and efficiency, creativity and ingenuity, among other factors.
The winning entry was submitted by Scott Sterbenz of Ford Motor Co., who used DOE to find the cause of-and eliminate-a cosmetic defect in automotive carpets that threatened to affect the launch of the 2011 Ford Fiesta. Ford's entry demonstrated the power of DOE, as Sterbenz and his team identified and implemented a solution to the problem in just 12 days.