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Student Competition: Can You Improve a Process?

1 October 2010 1,738 views No Comment
Mark Bailey of SAS Institute, Q&P Chair



Watfactory process map

The Section on Quality and Productivity (Q&P) is pleased to announce a student team competition. The goal of the contest is to enhance the statistical expertise of students who are interested in a challenge and want to apply their training in statistical thinking and process improvement to a realistic situation. Students who compete will have the opportunity to develop their statistical talents and increase their marketability in the work force.

With full support from the Q&P committee, Stefan Steiner from the University of Waterloo is coordinating this competition. There is a simulated manufacturing process called Watfactory that allows users to plan and execute empirical investigations of many types. The process map captures some of the available knowledge, including the 60 varying inputs (x1, …, x60) that drive the output variation and the 30 normally fixed inputs (z1, …, z30) that can be changed to improve the process. You also can implement various control schemes and inspection points. There are costs associated with each study and each change to the process. Each team will start with an initial virtual budget of $10,000. Currently, there is too much variation in the critical final output y300. The object is to reduce the output variation with minimal expense.

We are looking for teams (two to five students with a faculty mentor) who are learning or are knowledgeable about Six Sigma or other process improvement algorithms, who enjoy a challenge and competition, and who want to apply statistical thinking and methods to a realistic problem.

More background information about the process and a guest login (helpful for exploring how Watfactory works, but not the same version of the process as used in the competition) have been provided.

The winning team will present its results and methods during a special topic-contributed session at the Joint Statistical Meetings, July 30 to August 4, 2011, in Miami Beach, Florida. There is a $500 prize for the winning entry, plus up to $1,000 per student (three students maximum) for travel expenses to attend JSM.

Faculty mentors should email Steiner at shsteiner@uwaterloo.ca to register teams, acquire access to the contest version of the process, and get more information about the contest rules and time lines.

To be considered for the prize, each team must register no later than December 31 and submit a final report by March 15, 2011. The report must describe the proposed solution to the problem, how well it works, how much it costs, and, most importantly, the steps taken and the logic behind the steps in reaching the solution.

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