The Brink of Chaos

Of the four states a process can be in (see “What State Is Your Process In?“) the most sinister state is the one where it is producing 100 percent conforming product but is operating in an unpredictable way. That is, the process is not under statistical control. Such a process is, in fact, on the brink of chaos. But, hold on. There is no nonconforming product, therefore there is no problem, right? It is easy to get lulled into complacency by this happy circumstance.


But because the process is not under statistical control it is impossible to predict what it will do in the next instance. Various assignable causes are affecting the process in an unpredictable fashion. The effect of these causes could very well be the production of nonconforming product without any warning. When that happens the process has moved into a state of chaos.

The only way to address a process on the brink of chaos is to use process control charts to identify assignable causes and eliminate their effects one-by-one and bring the process under statistical control. You can then start other improvement efforts like moving the process mean to the process aim and reducing the process variation by minimizing the influence of common causes affecting the process.

Note: I learned this material from reading Dr. Wheeler’s writings. My post is intended to reflect my current understanding. None of the ideas herein are original to me. Any errors are my failures alone.



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