Case Detail

Case Summary

Samsung Electronics: Using Affinity Diagrams and Pareto Charts

Case Number: 5-412-754, Year Published: 2013

HBS Number: KEL738

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Key Concepts

Business Process Improvement, Crisis Management, Customer Relationship Management, Customer Service, Manufacturing, Operations Management, Organizational Effectiveness, Six Sigma, Total Quality, Customer Satisfaction


Samsung Electronics had experienced a series of quality-related problems, including the recall of one of its LCD TV models. Unfortunately for quality director Kevin Sarni, there was no single root cause behind these problems: Samsung’s supply chain management, product design, and testing/quality assurance functions all played a role.

Sarni regularly worked with quantitative data from Samsung’s customer complaint database, but recently he had been shown comments about Samsung products posted on the website The number and emotional tone of the website postings concerned him; he worried these kinds of complaints might touch off a social media–fueled public relations firestorm that would make his job more difficult.

He wanted to analyze this feedback, but had no experience with qualitative data. An internal Six Sigma Black Belt consultant suggested he start by creating an affinity diagram and use that to create a Pareto chart to determine which issues to address first. Once Sarni completed the unfamiliar diagrams he had still another task ahead of him: examining the results to see if they justified taking short-term action to address the quality problems raised in the complaints.

Learning Objectives

After analyzing the case, students should be able to:
• Organize and analyze qualitative data using affinity diagrams
• Identify priorities using Pareto charts

The case reinforces the importance of approaching problem solving in a methodical and data-driven manner and demonstrates the power of visual (vs. table-driven) tools.

Number of Pages: 13

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Operations

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: North America

Industry: Electronics

Organization Name: Samsung Electronics

Organization Department: Quality

Organization Size: Large

Decision Maker Position: Quality Director

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2012