Vol. 8, No. 6

June 2006

PQ Systems

In-depth on dashboards

Quality Quiz: With a video!

Six Sigma

Data in everyday life

Bytes and pieces

FYI: Current releases


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In-depth on dashboards:
Keep your eyes on the dials to monitor processes with dashboard feature

An airline pilot can determine a plane's altitude and speed, the direction and velocity of the wind, fuel consumption, terrain information, equipment condition--all by glancing at indicators that are part of the cockpit apparatus. This phenomenon is something we all take for granted; a passenger would be shocked if the flight captain could not instantly report wind speed and estimated arrival time, or if the information was not up-to-the-minute.

What is routine in both small airplanes and large--the expectation of data that is presented in a format that is easily understood--is becoming increasingly familiar in manufacturing and service industries to those who improve quality using statistical metrics from process data. Looking at charts provides a wealth of information about your processes, but easily knowing what a variety of key process metrics are doing can more effectively facilitate process monitoring and reduce waste. Like the airline pilot, quality professionals are finding that a 'dashboard' format helps them do this.

The newest release of CHARTrunner, available in August, will feature a dashboard approach that can be tailored to individual needs. A user can take those key process metrics that are most useful and display each metric as an indicator in a dashboard. The dashboard functionality allows one to create an indicator image displaying a process statistic value that can be calculated from a chart or entered manually. Indicator styles include speedometer, vertical bar, and horizontal bar. Many visual properties of the indicator can be user-specified such as title, fonts, colors, borders, size, and more. The dashboard indicator image can be used in PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, web pages, etc.

Since the dashboard feature is totally customizable, a user may choose to utilize it to peruse process metrics relating to a specific process, a particular time period, or an individual part. The collection of indicators that are placed into the dashboard can be updated at any time.

In a healthcare environment, the dashboard can give immediate access to data relating to length of stay, rates of infection, frequency of specific procedures, bed count, ER wait time, and a host of other key metrics that are important to hospital management. In a given department, a dashboard may be created to reflect data that relates only to that department. A clinical laboratory, for example, may want to track distribution of types of tests given, error reports, peak lab demand times, etc., while the billing office would prefer to examine data relating to length of stay, third party pay, billing errors, cost factors, accounts payable, etc.

In the airline cockpit, a warning light or buzzer indicates when a process requires attention: a change in wind speed may demand adjustment of altitude or other decision. In the same way, the CHARTrunner dashboard indicators can signal a situation that demands attention.

As data becomes increasingly complex, the demand for data at one's fingertips mounts. The old days of tacking a day's worth of charts on the wall--primarily to prove that they had been done--have been replaced by the need to know. Knowledge of processes is the basis for improvement, a fact that renders consistent monitoring essential.

After all, you wouldn't want your pilot to announce the estimated time of arrival for yesterday's flight.

Copyright 2006 PQ Systems.
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