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ITEA Sneak-Peek: The Great Escape from Foam Defects

The 2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement is coming up in early May in Dallas, and this year’s International Team Excellence Award Process (ITEA) will also come to a close at the conference, as winners from the finalist teams will be chosen for ASQ gold, silver, or bronze-level statuses.

What’s ITEA?

The annual ASQ ITEA process celebrates the accomplishments of quality improvement teams from a broad spectrum of industries from around the world. The ITEA is the only international team recognition process of its kind in the United States, and since 1985, more than 1,000 teams from...

Lessons in Quality During a Long and Strange Journey Home

I didn’t expect that our family trip to Florida would end with me driving a plane load of passengers nearly 200 miles to their homes, but it did.

Yes, it was a long and strange journey home. A journey that started in the tropical warmth of southern Florida and ended the next morning in central Pennsylvania, which felt like the arctic wastelands thanks to the dreaded polar vortex.

During this journey, I didn’t just experience temperature extremes, but also extremely different levels in the quality of customer care. Working at Minitab, I'm very aware of the quality of service because quality...

Applying Six Sigma to a Small Operation

Using data analysis and statistics to improve business quality has a long history. But it often seems like most of that history involves huge operations. After all, Six Sigma originated with Motorola, and became adopted by thousands of other businesses after it was adopted by a little-known outfit called General Electric.

There are many case studies and examples of how big companies used Six Sigma methods to save millions of dollars, slash expenses, and improve quality...but when they read about the big dogs getting those kind of results, a lot of folks hear a little voice in their heads...

Using Minitab Statistical Software to Analyze the Woeful Bengals

by Jeff Parks, guest blogger

Being a Cincinnati Bengals fan is tough. It's true that Bengals fans don't have it as bad as, say, long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans...nevertheless, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since January 1991. That's currently the longest streak in the NFL. In the 1990s they were voted the worst sports franchise by ESPN. Not the worst football team, mind you, but the worst franchise in all of sports.

Not the L.A. Clippers. Not the Cleveland Browns. Not the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Cincinnati Bengals.

Why? Why must it be so? What separates the Bengals from the good teams in...

How Many Licks to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop? Part 2

by Cory Heid, guest blogger

A few months ago I posted a blog about Tootsie Pops and how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center. If you haven’t read the post, here's a quick summary.

Recap of Initial Study

I broke down my experiment into four parts where I would test:

  • the force of a lick
  • temperature of a person's mouth
  • pH level of a person's saliva
  • the solubility of a person's saliva

After some tests and analysis of the data I collected, I was able to conclude that none of the factors I tested were statistically different or important enough to affect the number of licks required to...

Minitab's LinkedIn Group: A Great Place to Talk Stats

If you've got questions about quality improvement and statistics, I've got a resource for you: the Minitab Network on LinkedIn. I'm privileged to serve as the moderator of this group, which lets people who use Minitab products communicate and network with like-minded people from around the world.

LinkedIn is the leading social networking site for professionals, and the Minitab Network on LinkedIn has become an excellent way for Minitab users to share ideas and learn from each other. Since we launched the group in August 2008, it's become a very active community of people who share an interest...

Coach Bill Belichick: A Statistical "Hoodie" Analysis, Part 2

by Bob Yoon, guest blogger

Yesterday's post shared how an analysis of Bill Belichick's hoodie-wearing patterns found no statistically significant difference in New England Patriots wins if he wore sleeved or sleeveless hoodies, nor if the hoodie were from Reebok or Nike.

Since these hypothesis tests failed to reject the null hypothesis, I combined these factors under “grey hoodie” and started a new Minitab worksheet.

But when I took a look at all the different outfits Belichick wore, there were still too many variables for a good analysis. I then decided to split this category into two: Type and...

6 Simple Everyday Efficiency Tips You Can Learn From Six Sigma

by Alex Orlov, guest blogger

While it has been called the "million-dollar methodology" for the significant investment sometimes required to deliver results, Six Sigma has a wealth of practices that can be adapted to small and medium industries, home businesses and even personal finances. 

Organizations have used Six Sigma as a reliable part of the quality improvement process since 1986. And while a large Six Sigma project could cost anything from $1,000 to $1 million in work-hours and other resources, the results of such projects often far outweigh the investment. In addition to the direct...

Get Your Way, Every Time: 7 Default Settings in Minitab You Didn’t Know You Could Change

Unless you’re 3 years old, you probably can’t have things just the way you want them all the time.  

You can’t always have peanut butter and ranch dressing on your toast. Or ketchup on your pineapple. Or sugar sprinkles on your peas.

But there is one small arena in life over which you can still exert your control. 

Tools > Options in Minitab's statistical software allows you to change selected default settings in the software, without having to throw a temper tantrum first.

This powerful, underutilized feature in Minitab may save you from the inconvenience of having to change a default setting...

Control Charts: Rational Subgrouping and Marshmallow Peeps!

Control charts are used to monitor the stability of processes, and can turn time-ordered data for a particular characteristic—such as product weight or hold time at a call center—into a picture that is easy to understand. These charts indicate when there are points out of control or unusual shifts in a process.

Statistically speaking, control charts help you detect nonrandom sources of variation in the data. In other words, they separate variation due to common causes from variation due to special causes, where:

  • Common cause variation is variation that is naturally inherent in a process, and...

Leveraging Designed Experiments (DOE) for Success

You know the drill…you’re in Six Sigma training and you’re learning how to conduct a design of experiment (DOE). Everything is making sense, and you’ve started thinking about how you’ll apply what you are learning to find the optimal settings of a machine on the factory floor. You’ve even got the DOE setup chosen and you know the factors you want to test …

Then … BAM! … You’re on your own and you immediately have issues analyzing the data. The design you’ve chosen might actually not be the best for the results you need.  It's a classic case of learning something in theory that becomes much more...

Lightsaber Capability Analysis: The Results

Here at the lightsaber factory, we've completed several steps in doing a capability analysis:

We’re getting close to our deadline, and it’s finally time to carry out our Capability Analysis and see if we are manufacturing our lightsabers to the correct specifications as set forth by the Jedi Temple.

First, let’s go to Stat > Quality Tools > Capability Analysis > Normal.  (If you want to play along and you don't already have it, get the...

Streamlining Surveillance Processes with Lean Six Sigma

I had the privilege of talking with Sue Schlegel, Lean Six Sigma black belt and quality improvement mentor at White Sands Missile Range, which is located just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Schlegel and an improvement team at White Sands recently conducted a Lean Six Sigma project to streamline surveillance processes and they used Minitab to analyze the data. We found Sue’s story an interesting case study for a LSS project, so I thought I would share it with you here on the blog, too.

Reducing Work Hours

When clients request classified video surveillance missions, the White Sands Missile...

Should You Draft a Tight End Before a Wide Receiver in Your Fantasy Draft?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how fantasy football scores of quarterbacks have been rising the last six years. This led to the conclusion that you should draft an elite QB early in your draft. But, much like how you need to carefully consider all aspects of a process during a Six Sigma project, we now have to consider everything else that the quarterbacks can affect. Specifically, wide receivers and tight ends. After all, if QBs are throwing for more yards and touchdowns, somebody has to be catching those passes and getting more fantasy points.

Let’s use data and statistical softwareto see...

Hemoglobin, Diabetes, and Statistics!

In previous blog posts, I wrote about quality professional Bill Howell’s diabetes diagnosis and how he managed his disease with Lean Six Sigma. In Bill’s book, I Took Control: Effective Actions for a Diabetes Diagnosis, and later when I spoke with him personally, he mentioned the importance of Hemoglobin HbA1c in diagnosing diabetes and how informative this single blood component can be.

What is Hemoglobin HbA1c?

Hemoglobin HbA1c is a lab test that shows the average amount of sugar in blood cells over a 2-3 month period. The test can also be used to diagnose diabetes and can help diabetics...

The Odds of Throwing a Perfect Game: Part II

A few weeks ago, I used Minitab to calculate the odds of throwing a perfect game. The results were surprising. I found that the number of perfect games that have occurred since 1900 is vastly greater than the number we would have expected. And whether you're doing a six sigma project or a simple baseball data analysis, it's always good to go back and make sure you did everything correctly whenever you find surprising results.

To determine the number of perfect games we would have expected to occur since 1900, I calculated the probability of getting 27 outs in a row. To do this, I used the...

The Odds of Throwing a Perfect Game

If you like baseball pitching statistics, then you've loved the month of June. On the first of the month, Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history. Then a week later, the Seattle Mariners used 6 different pitchers to do the same thing. That tied the MLB record for most pitchers used in a no-hitter. And finally, 5 days after that, Matt Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in major league history. And we're only halfway through June! It doesn't take a Six Sigma Black Belt to realize it's been a crazy month.

But as a stat nerd, the question I have is how crazyhas June really been?...

A Lean Shopping Experience

I think it’s neat to find examples of Lean Six Sigma techniques in restaurants and stores when I’m out to eat or shopping. What started as a philosophy in the manufacturing world seems to be transcending into our everyday shopping experiences, and even into the products we choose to add to our carts.

Here’s a recap from my latest “Lean” shopping escapade:

I was recently in a grocery store snack aisle when I came across a bag of dark potato chips.

I thought this was a great use of a snack manufacturer taking what is usually considered a defect and turning it into a source of revenue. Of course...

How to Talk with Your Kids about...Quality Improvement and Six Sigma

My 6-year-old came home from school one day very excited to let me know that Maggie’s mommy was a doctor and she helped sick people get better. Seems Maggie's mommy was a “community hero.”

My unspoken response: “Not Maggie’s mommy again.” 

You see, in preschool, Maggie’s mommy remembered to send not one, but two rocks on “paint a rock” day.  I, sadly, forgot to send even a single rock. My daughter, without a rock, had to paint her clenched fist.

But I digress. Maggie’s mommy was, in fact, a wonderful doctor and very dear friend.  My spoken response was, “You are so right — we are so lucky to have...

Five Ways to Get Help with Statistics from Minitab

Like a lot of people who need to analyze data for their work, I am not an expert statistician. Over the years I've acquired a fair amount of knowledge and experience, but mainly enough to make me appreciate more than ever the value of statistical software in making data analysis an accessible tool.   And I've discovered over and over again how quickly specific statistics skills can get rusty if you haven't used them for a while.    Statistical details in any type of analysis, whether it's scientific research or a Lean Six Sigma project, can be a real challenge. Where do you turn when you’ve...