Quality Control by Statistical Methods
An ideal quality control program might test all materials and work on a particular facility. For example, non-destructive techniques such as x-ray inspection of welds can be used throughout a facility. An on- site inspector can witness the appropriateness and adequacy of construction methods at all times. Even better, individual craftsmen can perform continuing inspection of materials and their own work. Exhaustive or 100% testing of all materials and work by inspectors can be exceedingly expensive, however. In many instances, testing requires the destruction of a material sample, so exhaustive testing is not even possible. As a result, small samples are used to establish the basis of accepting or rejecting a particular work item or shipment of materials. Statistical methods are used to interpret the results of test on a small sample to reach a conclusion concerning the acceptability of an entire lot or batch of materials or work products.
The use of statistics is essential in interpreting the results of testing on a small sample. Without adequate interpretation, small sample testing results can be quite misleading. As an example, suppose that there are ten defective pieces of material in a lot of one hundred. In taking a sample of five pieces, the inspector might not find any defective pieces or might have all sample pieces defective. Drawing a direct inference that none or all pieces in the population are defective on the basis of these samples would be incorrect. Due to this random nature of the sample selection process, testing results can vary substantially. It is only with statistical methods that issues such as the chance of different levels of defective items in the full lot can be fully analyzed from a small sample test.
There are two types of statistical sampling which are commonly used for the purpose of quality control in batches of work or materials:
1. The acceptance or rejection of a lot is based on the number of defective (bad) or nondefective (good) items in the sample. This is referred to as sampling by attributes.
2. Instead of using defective and nondefective classifications for an item, a quantitative quality measure or the value of a measured variable is used as a quality indicator. This testing procedure
is referred to as sampling by variables.
Whatever sampling plan is used in testing, it is always assumed that the samples are representative of the entire population under consideration. Samples are expected to be chosen randomly so that each member of the population is equally likely to be chosen. Convenient sampling plans such as sampling every twentieth piece, choosing a sample every two hours, or picking the top piece on a delivery truck may be adequate to insure a random sample if pieces are randomly mixed in a stack or in use. However, some convenient sampling plans can be inappropriate. For example, checking only easily accessible joints in a building component is inappropriate since joints that are hard to reach may be more likely to have erection or fabrication problems.
Another assumption implicit in statistical quality control procedures is that the quality of materials or work is expected to vary from one piece to another. This is certainly true in the field of construction. While a designer may assume that all concrete is exactly the same in a building, the variations in material properties, manufacturing, handling, pouring, and temperature during setting insure that concrete is actually heterogeneous in quality. Reducing such variations to a minimum is one aspect of quality construction. Insuring that the materials actually placed achieve some minimum quality level with respect to average properties or fraction of defectives is the task of quality control.