Monday, 30 August 2010

Some more on Statistical Engineering

My previous comments on problem solving lead me to think about how I might illustrate the use of statistical methods in directly solving engineering problems. I have been involved in many interesting and challenging problems in my 30 years in the automotive industry. The recent media coverage of both the Toyota problem with sticking accelerator pedals and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused me to think back to my involvement in a similarly high profile case - the Firestone tire crisis of 2000/1, which resulted in around 300 fatalities and a $3Bn recall of 20 million tyres. There are many similarities in all three of these cases (not least the role of the media, and government agencies), but in the case of Firestone, I will show how a range of statistical methods was used (from simple EDA methods like box plots, to more sophisticated methods such as competing risk proportional hazard regression) to get to the root cause of the problem, and to quickly get ahead of the game, and decide on what actions to take, before the regulatory authorities told us what to do.

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