Root-cause identification for quality-related problems is a key issue in quality and productivity improvement for a manufacturing process. Unfortunately, root-cause identification is also a very challenging engineering problem, particularly for a multistage manufacturing process. In this paper, root-cause identification is formulated as a problem of estimation and hypothesis testing of a general linear mixed model. First, a linear mixed fault-quality model is built to describe the cause-effect relationship between the process faults and product quality. Then, the estimation algorithms developed for a general linear mixed model are adapted to estimate the process mean and variance. Finally, a hypothesis testing method is developed to determine if process faults exist in terms of statistical significance. A detailed experimental study illustrated the effectiveness of the proposed methodology.
Note to Practitioners-Economic globalization brings intense competition among manufacturing enterprises. The key to succeed in this competitive climate is to rapidly respond to fast-changing market demands with high-quality and competitively priced products. To achieve this, we need to quickly identify root causes of quality-related problems in a complicated manufacturing system. However, the current widely adopted quality-control techniques focus more on monitoring than on root-cause identification. These techniques can efficiently detect the changes in the process but the root cause identification is often left to the plant engineers or operators. In this paper, a systematic estimation and testing method is proposed to identify the variational root causes in multistage manufacturing processes. First, a linear model is built based on the design information to describe the cause-effect relationship between the process faults and product quality. Then, an algorithm is developed to estimate the mean and variance of the process faults from the quality measurements of products. Finally, a statistical testing method is developed to determine if process faults (i.e. root causes) exist in terms of statistical significance. A detailed experimental study illustrates the effectiveness of this method. The method presented in this paper is a new quality-control technique and ca- n be used for quality improvement of multistage manufacturing processes.