Black-Belt Project in a Calibration Laboratory?



Greetings, all --

I have been approached with an unusual request, and I am fresh out of ideas. I would appreciate any useful and timely suggestions that i could use before June 24.

Refresher: I am with an ISO 9001:2000 electronic calibration lab that is a very small department of a monstrously huge company. We are the only part of the company registered to anything. We calibrate all of the company's electronic test equipment, from all locations worldwide. Our defines QMS stops at the lab walls -- the "rest of the company" is either a customer or a supplier as appropriate.

Some other parts of the company have discovered Six Sigma and are spawning "belts" of all colors. Last week, I was approached by a Black Belt candidate who is looking for a project. He wants to do a DOE (design of experiments) project in the electronic cal lab (Why? -- I don't know). Presumably this should be something that can be done in a short time frame, study interaction of variables, and result in an economic savings.

While I can think of LOTS of things I want to do or would like to have someone else do, they don't really seem to be suitable for a Black Belt project. They are more in the line of begging for money for new standards, or doing things that take months to years to collect the required data. And I haven't had much time to think - my time is packed full of writing cal procedures and so on.

Like I said, I am out of ideas. do you have any? I have to meet with this guy on the 24th.

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I think I can feel some of your pain on this one. I have been approached and probably will be getting my Green Belt this year (possibly Black Belt). As a Metrology Engineer, I may be one of the first with that job title in my company to have a Black or Green Belt. It's usually process or Quality Engineers who are related to the manufacturing processes that go after those.

I can share some things that I have done that may be my proposed project for my Black or Green Belt training.. By the way, one of my managers (my likely sponsor) is one of the Super Black Belts, and a statistical expert. Once I've gotten the process started with her, I may have a little better feedback.

For the moment though, I did a set of experiments with type R thermocouples. There were as I recall 12 of them. We baked them in a melted copper freeze point cell (nearly 1100 deg C). Once a day, for the first month, then a couple of times a week for about four months, we took a full set of freeze point readings on all 12 thermocouples. The purpose of the experiment was to better understand accuracy, stability, and hight temp behavior of those thermocouples. From that data, develop a hypohtetical model-fit for how they behave over time, then use that to devise algorithms for long term behavior in high temp processes. I can't go into any of those details.

So my generic idea for you would be to suggest you take a look at what some of your more critical calibration or measurement processes are, and find some appropriate data to study to connect calibration results and uncertainties with processes or products.

The other experiment was to develop a relationship between DC voltage calibration accuracy and uncertainty, and potential product risk. For example, if you test a product to a given product specification (DC Volts) using a given meter, develop a relationship between the calibration uncertainty, and how much error in calibration would cause how much potential product risk.

We test certain products to operate within certain DC voltage threshholds using a high accuracy multimeter. If the multimeter is miscalibrated, how much error during an erroneous calibration would cause us to falsely pass or falsely fail product specs. Unfortunately, I can't post any product details here. But hopefully, the generic explanation has given you some ideas.b



Thank you for your input. The lab supervisor and I finally came up with something, and the BlackBelt candidate has decided to go with it.

We have been suspicious of the thermocouple simulation outputs of our universal calibrators (two units of the same model) ever since we did poorly on a digital thermometer proficiency test. The BB is going to look at those outputs as measured with a DC millivolt meter and look at several possible variation scenarios. He will initially look for variation due to handling of the leads, variation between operators, and some other things that I don't recall right now. I am also ging to look at the data to verify conformance to the ITS-90 tables, short-term and long-term stability, and to see if anything else comes crawling out of the numbers. We will also design a plan for ongoing measurement quality surveillance.

This will also be new experience for the BB candidate. While he does have an electronics technician background, he has never worked in a cal lab and he has never worked with any kind of temperature measurement or simulation. so he will gain experiences with that and with doing a measurement system analysis, as well as the DOE and other stuff.

Thanks again,

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