Ellis Ott in his book on Process Quality Control pointed out that every manufacturing operation has problems. Some are painfully obvious; others require ingenuity and hard work to identify. Every research and development person, production engineer and supervisor has to be a troubleshooter. Anyone hoping to become a research and development person, production engineer or supervisor must learn about process improvement and troubleshooting that uses systematic data obtained from the process. There are two approaches to reducing trouble: learn to prevent it and learn to curate when it develops.

Methods in this section are presented for identifying opportunities for process improvements and for identifying important differences. The knowledge that such differences do exist and that pinpointing of them are vital information to the successful commercialization of new technology. Experience has shown to those familiar with carefully observing a process can find ways to make improvements and corrections, if they can first be convinced that the differences actually do exist.

Specifically in his book on World-Class Quality, Keki Bhote points out that the role of the design engineer in effecting change, both for the product and for the process, is to be the principal hands-on instrument for change. It is a design engineer who will:
1. Hear and be the voice of the customer, i. e., determine the customer’s needs and expectations.
2. Determine a target value associated with each product specification and design to such target values rather than broad specification windows.
3. Use design of experiment techniques to greatly reduce variation at the prototype stage and during engineering and production pilot runs. The design engineer should not use full production or the field is an extension of the laboratory to solve problems.
4. Establish product and process capability by not designing processes as mere afterthoughts to fit frozen product designs. Instead the design engineer should use a product process inter-disciplinary team approach.
5. Translate important product parameters into component specification using design of experiment techniques. That is he or she should specify high CPK’s for the truly important component specifications while opening up the tolerances on all other component specifications to reduce costs.

Thus the business of providing product to the consumer requires many major functions. Production itself has major subdivisions: design and specify, purchase and acquire, manufacturer, package, inspect and ensure quality. Each of these critical functions observes Murphy’s first law: if anything go can go wrong, it will. Although troubleshooting and process improvement projects are as old as civilization itself, today there are procedures that are rather universally applicable to production troubleshooting. These procedures usually employ data collection and logic in addition to process science and know-how.