StatTools : CUSUM Introduction and explanation

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CUSUM is a set of statistical procedures used in quality control. CUSUM stands for Cumulative Sum of Deviations.

In any ongoing process, be it manufacture or delivery of services and products, once the process is established and running, the outcome should be stable and within defined limits near a benchmark. The situation is said to be In Control

When things go wrong, the outcomes depart from the defined benchmark. The situation is then said to be Out of Control

In some cases, things go catastrophically wrong, and the outcomes departure from the benchmark in a dramatic and obvious manner, so that investigation and remedy follows. For example, the gear in an engine may fracture, causing the machine to seize. An example in health care is the employment of an unqualified fraud as a surgeon, followed by sudden and massive increase in mortality and morbidity.

The detection of catastrophic departure from the benchmark is usually by the Shewhart Chart, not covered on this site. Usually, some statistically improbable outcome, such as two consecutive measurements outside 3 Standard Deviation, or 3 consecutive measurements outside 2 Standard Deviation, is used to trigger an alarm that all is not well.

In many instances however, the departures from outcome benchmark are gradual and small in scale, and these are difficult to detect. Examples of this are changes in size and shape of products caused by progressive wearing out of machinery parts, reduced success rates over time when experienced staff are gradually replaced by novices in a work team, increases in client complaints to a service department following a loss of adequate supervision.

CUSUM is a statistical process of sampling outcome, and summing departures from benchmarks. When the situation is in control, the departures caused by random variations cancel each other numerically. In the out of control situation, departures from benchmark tend to be unidirectional, so that the sum of departures accumulates until it becomes statistically identifiable.