Tips and Techniques for Statistics and Quality Improvement

Blog posts and articles about using Minitab software in quality improvement projects, research, and more.

by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger At the end of the first part of this story, a group of evil trouble-making chickens had convinced all of their fellow chickens to march on the walled city of Wetzlar, where, said the evil chickens, they all would be much happier than they were on the farm. The chickens marched through the night and arrived at Wetzlar on the Lahn as the sun came up. “Let us in!”... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Wetzlar, there was a farm with over a thousand chickens, two pigs, and a cow. The chickens were well treated, but a few rabble-rousers among them got the rest of the chickens worked up. These trouble-making chickens looked almost like the other chickens, but in fact they were evil chickens.  By HerbertT - Eigenproduktion, CC... Continue Reading


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The Six Sigma quality improvement methodology has lasted for decades because it gets results. Companies in every country around the world, and in every industry, have used this logical, step-by-step method to improve the quality of their processes, products, and services. And they've saved billions of dollars along the way. However, Six Sigma involves a good deal of statistics and data analysis,... Continue Reading
Six Sigma is a quality improvement method that businesses have used for decades—because it gets results. A Six Sigma project follows a clearly defined series of steps, and companies in every industry in every country around the world have used this method to resolve problems. Along the way, they've saved billions of dollars. But Six Sigma relies heavily on statistics and data analysis, and many... Continue Reading
In April 2017, overbooking of flight seats hit the headlines when a United Airlines customer was dragged off a flight. A TED talk by Nina Klietsch gives a good, but simplistic explanation of why overbooking is so attractive to airlines. Overbooking is not new to the airlines; these strategies were officially sanctioned by The American Civil Aeronautics Board in 1965, and since that time complex... Continue Reading
Can you trust your data?  That's the very first question we need to ask when we perform a statistical analysis. If the data's no good, it doesn't matter what statistical methods we employ, nor how much expertise we have in analyzing data. If we start with bad data, we'll end up with unreliable results. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. So, can you trust your data? Are you positive?... Continue Reading
We had solar panels fitted on our property in 2011. Last year, we had a few problems with the equipment. It was shutting down at various times throughout the day, typically when it was very sunny, resulting in no electricity being generated. In summer 2016, I completed a statistical analysis in Minitab to confirm my suspicions that my solar panels were not working as well as they did when they were... Continue Reading
All processes have variation, some of which is inherent in the process, and isn't a reason for concern. But when processes show unusual variation, it may indicate a change or a "special cause" that requires your attention.  Control charts are the primary tool quality practitioners use to detect special cause variation and distinguish it from natural, inherent process variation. These charts graph... Continue Reading
In my time at Minitab, I’ve gotten a good understanding of what types of graphs users create. Everyone knows about histograms, bar charts, and time series plots. Even relatively less familiar plots like the interval plot and individual value plot are still used quite often. However, one of the most underutilized graphs we have available is the area graph. If you’re not familiar with an Area... Continue Reading
There may not be a situation more perilous than being a character on Game of Thrones. Warden of the North, Hand of the King, and apparent protagonist of the entire series? Off with your head before the end of the first season! Last male heir of a royal bloodline? Here, have a pot of molten gold poured on your head! Invited to a wedding? Well, you probably know what happens at weddings in the show. ... Continue Reading
If you have a process that isn’t meeting specifications, using the Monte Carlo simulation and optimization tools in Companion by Minitab can help. Here’s how you, as an engineer in the medical device industry, could use Companion to improve a packaging process and help ensure patient safety. Your product line at AlphaGamma Medical Devices is shipped in heat-sealed packages with a minimum seal... Continue Reading
How many samples do you need to be “95% confident that at least 95%—or even 99%—of your product is good? The answer depends on the type of response variable you are using, categorical or continuous. The type of response will dictate whether you 'll use: Attribute Sampling: Determine the sample size for a categorical response that classifies each unit as Good or Bad (or, perhaps, In-spec or... Continue Reading
The two previous posts in this series focused on manipulating data using Minitab’s calculator and the Data menu. In this third and final post, we continue to explore helpful features for working with text data and will focus on some features in Minitab’s Editor menu. Using the Editor Menu  The Editor menu is unique in that the options displayed depend on what is currently active (worksheet, graph,... Continue Reading
Have you ever had a probability plot that looks like this? The probability plot above is based on patient weight (in pounds) after surgery minus patient weight (again, in pounds) before surgery. The red line appears to go through the data, indicating a good fit to the Normal, but there are clusters of plotting points at the same measured value. This occurs on a probability plot when there are many... Continue Reading
Previously, I’ve written about when to choose nonlinear regression and how to model curvature with both linear and nonlinear regression. Since then, I’ve received several comments expressing confusion about what differentiates nonlinear equations from linear equations. This confusion is understandable because both types can model curves. So, if it’s not the ability to model a curve, what isthe... Continue Reading
My previous post focused on manipulating text data using Minitab’s calculator. In this post we continue to explore some of the useful tools for working with text data, and here we’ll focus on Minitab’s Data menu. This is the second in a 3-part series, and in the final post we’ll look at the new features in Minitab’s Editor menu. Using the Data Menu When I think of the Data menu, I think... Continue Reading
It’s usually not a good idea to rely solely on a single statistic to draw conclusions about your process. Do that, and you could fall into the clutches of the “duck-rabbit” illusion shown here: If you fix your eyes solely on the duck, you’ll miss the rabbit—and vice-versa. If you're using Minitab Statistical Software for capability analysis, the capability indices Cp and Cpk are good examples of... Continue Reading
With Minitab, it’s easy to create graphs and manage numeric, date/time and text data. But Minitab’s enhanced data manipulation features make it easier to work with text data, too. This is the first of three posts in which I'm going to focus on various tools in Minitab that are useful when working with text data, including the Calculator, the Data menu, and the Editor menu. Using the Calculator You... Continue Reading
One of the biggest pieces of international news last year was the so-called "Brexit" referendum, in which a majority of voters in the United Kingdom cast their ballots to leave the European Union (EU). That outcome shocked the world. Follow-up media coverage has asserted that the younger generation prefers to remain in the EU since that means more opportunities on the continent. The older... Continue Reading
Suppose that you plan to source a substantial amount of parts or subcomponents from a new supplier. To ensure that their quality level is acceptable to you, you might want to assess the capability levels (Ppk and Cpk indices) of their manufacturing processes and check whether their critical process parameters are fully under control (using control charts). If you are not sure about the efficiency... Continue Reading