Rimini with ENBIS and Pro-ENBIS

More information on the conference in Rimini.

A personal view by Tony Greenfield

More than 160 of us gathered in Rimini in September for the second annual meeting of ENBIS. We came from 40 European countries and nine non-European. The 105 submitted abstracts, compared with 43 for the Oslo meeting last year, demonstrated our enthusiasm to share work across the world. Almost all reflected the primary vision of ENBIS: To promote the widespread use of sound science-driven, applied statistical methods in European business and industry.

We had to have parallel sessions so as to pack so many presentations into a two day meeting but the Continental hotel in Rimini served us excellently, even when a heavy rainstorm flooded three of the meeting rooms. Sessions included: design of experiments; process modelling and control; data mining; web mining and analysis; reliability and safety; six-sigma and quality improvement; software. These serve to show that my personal concern, that ENBIS might become just another forum for academics to talk to each other, was mistaken. Yes, the universities are well represented but mainly by people who work at the interface with business and industry as consultants, researchers and trainers. Other than these, many of the statistical practitioners came directly from business and industry or from consultancies and research laboratories.

An outstanding example came from a member from a major pharmaceutical company. He's a chemist and he confessed that until recently he had been unaware of the statistical approach to experimental design. He heard about it at a meeting outside his company here, later, he asked "Do you know about this?" To several replies of "Yes" he responded "Well, why aren't you doing it?" He asked for resources and was given a pocket calculator. Battling on, he soon established experimental design as an essential procedure in his department. Not only that, but he persuaded his company to invest hugely in a machine that performed well-designed experiments automatically. He appealed for more effort to be invested in spreading awareness of a subject that had so influenced his own work.

There was much debate towards the end of the meeting about development of awareness and teaching in schools, higher education and business and industry. This is at the heart of our primary vision and we shall certainly hear more ideas and experiences and suggestions for action in our continuing activities: through the website and at our next meeting.

That meeting will be in Barcelona, next August, jointly with the ISI.

Most of the presentations are available on a CD and many of the best will be published in various journals.

ProENBIS

The day before the ENBIS meeting began, there was a smaller meeting of contractors and members of ProENBIS: a thematic network contracted for three years by the European Commission with the same mission as that of ENBIS. Our aim is to provide a forum for the dissemination of statistical methodology within European business and industry. Nearly a year has elapsed since we started and much of that time has been devoted to developing materials for company visits, workshops and publications. Some of these activities have already begun, with workshops for representatives from groups of companies, and many are planned for the following two years. The essential theme is one of cooperation between contractors and members in the development of resources and the sharing of those resources.

It is easiest to give an example from my own experience as leader of WP3 (ProENBIS work package 3). Together with the co-leader, Xavier Tort-Martorell of Barcelona, and several other members, we are developing a presentation that can be used briefly, for half an hour or so, or expanded into a workshop of several days. It will contain a library of examples for different industries and aspects of business management with branches into other presentations, simulations, data demos (harvesting, analysis, mining, reporting), games and competitions to illustrate and teach about DoE, SPC, reliability, and statistical methods to aid production planning and control, company strategy and finance, advertising and marketing. We have already presented an early version to representatives from 14 companies in Darlington. That meeting was arranged by ISRU (Newcastle University) whose director, Dave Stewardson, immediate past president of ENBIS, outlined six-sigma. Another ENBIS member, Irena Ograjenšek, travelled from Ljubljana to talk about statistical methods in management.

So much is happening that it is hard to report more than a flavour of ENBIS and ProENBIS. The flavour is perhaps best expressed most briefly by a comment made to me at the end of the Rimini meeting: "This is the most vibrant organisation in Europe".

Tony Greenfield.