From the Editor: Analyze This

April 5, 2012
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Breaking it down to build it back up…better.



Analysis. The word traces back to the ancient Greek, analusis, meaning “a breaking up.” As a concept, it is the breaking down of a complex thing, system or idea into smaller parts in order to better understand it.

With analysis, or taking something apart, comes synthesis or resynthesis. The word synthesis also is of Greek origin and means “to put back together.” It is natural that the two go hand-in-hand. Once we understand something by taking it apart, we can build it back up. Sometimes in our analysis we discover that something is not worth resynthesizing, rather it is better to create something entirely new, from scratch. It is part of another concept called creative destruction.

Determinations aside, as a methodology, analysis and synthesis have been attributed to great philosophers such as Descartes, scientists and thinkers the caliber of Galileo and Isaac Newton and has been applied to the study of mathematics and logic since before the time of Aristotle.

Today, analysis is applied to a wide range of materials, machines and systems-even to human beings-to better understand our finances, businesses, economies and ourselves.

The healthcare industry is a great example. There are a host of professionals and institutions (as well as high-tech medical device manufacturers) devoted to analyzing the human condition-physical, mental and emotional-to discover what is wrong and how to make us well again.

In breaking things down, we can determine not only what is failing, but also how it can be improved and how it can be remade to provide a whole new benefit it did not or could not provide before.

In the realm of manufacturing, the methodologies of engineering analysis-which includes many elements of systems analysis-are used.

The broad definition of engineering analysis involves “the application of scientific analytical principles and processes to reveal the properties and state of a system, device or mechanism.” It also is described as “decompositional.” In essence, all of the components or parts of a design are separated to isolate the component to be analyzed (usually to determine the one that is failing) and then the components are reassembled according to some standard, whether it is the original or some new design.

Engineers not only look at the designs, but also the standards that govern a given component or system, and other requirements of the design, such as the mechanisms dimensions-the heart of metrology and quality control-to ensure the products we produce are of the highest quality, reliability and consistency, from the products we take for granite, like a simple bottle opener, to those medical devices that help us maintain our health.

And this month’s Quality provides some analysis of its own. Get a better understanding of absolute position encoders in Arthur Holzknecht’s article, “Encoders, Decoded” and meet this year’s Quality Professional of the Year, Harry Moser, and his analysis of the state of manufacturing and his case for synthesis, “How to Make It in America.”

As always, enjoy, and thanks for reading!

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