For many years, our friends and alumni in industry have suggested that we offer a statistics elective to better prepare our students going into the corporate world. Initially, we hoped that our students would be able to take an existing course offered by the Department of Industrial Operations. However, when IOE decided they needed to restrict the course to only their own students, we knew we would have to develop a course of our own. In Winter 2014, with the encouragement and support of our alumni board, lecturer Andy Tadd, introduced a very popular elective, ChE 496, Engineering Statistics and Problem Solving.
Board member Sharon Pfeuffer was one of the leading advocates for this new offering. As DTE’s Chief Engineer for Fossil Generation, she reports that in her role “we work with lots of data. Stats helps us look at that data and draw appropriate conclusions, problem solve when our processes aren’t meeting the target, and even celebrate when a process improvement results in a statistically significant shift.”
In the class, Tadd focuses on the tools to describe and measure the variation inherent to real-world processes, and make decisions between alternatives. “In this class,” he adds, ” we build up skills with the mathematical descriptions and tools of statistics, while trying to keep applications of those at the forefront, both in terms of industrial examples and how they fit into industrial quality programs such as Six Sigma.” The class proved immensely popular with our students, and this year Tadd is incorporating graduate level challenges for those who want to take it to the next level and earn graduate credit.
The class is already having a strong impact on our students. Alex Klemens comments, “When I started my summer internship as an Operations, Maintenance and Reliability Intern at Axalta Coating Systems, I found that having taken ChE 496 gave me a great head start because I had already seen statistical analysis and quality tools such as Failure Modes and Effects Analysis in class.”
David Rett also found the class content useful in his summer internship. “My knowledge of how to perform process capability analysis, ANOVA and a full DoE using Minitab surprised my coworkers, and gave me the tools to better quantify and represent process improvement data. Anyone who has worked as a process improvement engineer can tell you that managers want numbers associated with every improvement, and ChE 496 gave me the ability to statistically quantify every quality, safety, and production improvement associated with my intern project.”
Thanks to our Alumni Board for their support and guidance as we established this course.