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Tips and Techniques for Statistics and Quality Improvement

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

Isn't it great when you get a set of data and it's perfectly organized and ready for you to analyze? I love it when the people who collect the data take special care to make sure to format it consistently, arrange it correctly, and eliminate the junk, clutter, and useless information I don't need.   You've never received a data set in such perfect condition, you say? Yeah, me neither. But I can... Continue Reading
Predictions can be a tricky thing. Consider trying to predict the number rolled by 2 six-sided dice. We know that 7 is the most likely outcome. We know the exact probability each number has of being rolled. If we rolled the dice 100 times, we could calculate the expected value for the number of times each value would be rolled. However, even with all that information, we can't definitively predict... Continue Reading

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In its industry guidance to companies that manufacture drugs and biological products for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends three stages for process validation: Process Design, Process Qualification, and Continued Process Verification. In this post, we we will focus on that third stage. Stage 3: Continued Process Verification Per the FDA guidelines, the goal of... Continue Reading
People can make mistakes when they test a hypothesis with statistical analysis. Specifically, they can make either Type I or Type II errors. As you analyze your own data and test hypotheses, understanding the difference between Type I and Type II errors is extremely important, because there's a risk of making each type of error in every analysis, and the amount of risk is in your control.    So if... Continue Reading
Welcome to the Hypothesis Test Casino! The featured game of the house is roulette. But this is no ordinary game of roulette. This is p-value roulette! Here’s how it works: We have two roulette wheels, the Null wheel and the Alternative wheel. Each wheel has 20 slots (instead of the usual 37 or 38). You get to bet on one slot. What happens if the ball lands in the slot you bet on? Well, that depends... Continue Reading
Like many, my introduction to 17th-century French philosophy came at the tender age of 3+. For that is when I discovered the Etch-a-Sketch®, an entertaining ode to Descartes' coordinate plane. Little did I know that the seemingly idle hours I spent doodling on my Etch-a-Sketch would prove to be excellent training for the feat that I attempt today: plotting an Empirical Cumulative Distribution... Continue Reading
My colleague Cody Steele wrote a post that illustrated how the same set of data can appear to support two contradictory positions. He showed how changing the scale of a graph that displays mean and median household income over time drastically alters the way it can be interpreted, even though there's no change in the data being presented. When we analyze data, we need to present the results in... Continue Reading
A recent discussion on the Minitab Network on LinkedIn pertained to the I-MR chart. In the course of the conversation, a couple of people referred to it as "The Swiss Army Knife of control charts," and that's a pretty great description. You might be able to find more specific tools for specific applications, but in many cases, the I-MR chart gets the job done quite adequately. When you're... Continue Reading
Right now I’m enjoying my daily dose of morning joe. As the steam rises off the cup, the dark rich liquid triggers a powerful enzyme cascade that jump-starts my brain and central nervous system, delivering potent glints of perspicacity into the dark crevices of my still-dormant consciousness. Feels good, yeah! But is it good for me? Let’s see what the studies say… Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee... Continue Reading
Statistics can be challenging, especially if you're not analyzing data and interpreting the results every day. Statistical software makes things easier by handling the arduous mathematical work involved in statistics. But ultimately, we're responsible for correctly interpreting and communicating what the results of our analyses show. The p-value is probably the most frequently cited statistic. We... Continue Reading
As a person who loves baking (and eating) cakes, I find it bothersome to go through all the effort of baking a cake when the end result is too dry for my taste. For that reason, I decided to use a designed experiment in Minitab to help me reduce the moisture loss in baked chocolate cakes, and find the optimal settings of my input factors to produce a moist baked chocolate cake. I’ll share the... Continue Reading
To make objective decisions about the processes that are critical to your organization, you often need to examine categorical data. You may know how to use a t-test or ANOVA when you’re comparing measurement data (like weight, length, revenue, and so on), but do you know how to compare attribute or counts data? It easy to do with statistical software like Minitab.  One person may look at this bar... Continue Reading
by Rehman Khan, guest blogger There are many articles giving Minitab tips already, so to be different I have done mine in the style of my books, which use example-based learning. All ten tips are shown using a single example. If you don’t already know these 10 tips you will get much more benefit if you work along with the example. You don’t need to download any files to work along—although, if you... Continue Reading
Histograms are one of the most common graphs used to display numeric data. Anyone who takes a statistics course is likely to learn about the histogram, and for good reason: histograms are easy to understand and can instantly tell you a lot about your data. Here are three of the most important things you can learn by looking at a histogram.  Shape—Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall… If the left side of a... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger.  The old saying “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it must be a duck” may be appropriate in bird watching; however, the same idea can’t be applied when observing a statistical distribution. The dedicated ornithologist is often armed with binoculars and a field guide to the local birds and this should be sufficient. A... Continue Reading
Have you ever wanted to know the odds of something happening, or not happening?  It's the kind of question that students are frequently asked to calculate by hand in introductory statistics classes, and going through that exercise is a good way to become familiar with the mathematical formulas the underlie probability (and hence, all of statistics).  But let's be honest: when class is over, most... Continue Reading
Genichi Taguchi is famous for his pioneering methods of robust quality engineering. One of the major contributions that he made to quality improvement methods is Taguchi designs. Designed experiments were first used by agronomists during the last century. This method seemed highly theoretical at first, and was initially restricted to agronomy. Taguchi made the designed experiment approach more... Continue Reading
In its industry guidance to companies that manufacture drugs and biological products for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends three stages for process validation. While my last post covered statistical tools for the Process Design stage, here we will focus on the statistical techniques typically utilized for the second stage, Process Qualification. Stage 2: Process... Continue Reading
Have you ever wished your control charts were better?  More effective and user-friendly?  Easier to understand and act on?  In this post, I'll share some simple ways to make SPC monitoring more effective in Minitab. Common Problems with SPC Control Charts I worked for several years in a large manufacturing plant in which control charts played a very important role. Virtually thousands of SPC... Continue Reading
In the first part of this series, we saw how conflicting opinions about a subjective factor can create business problems. In part 2, we used Minitab's Assistant feature to set up an attribute agreement analysis study that will provide a better understanding of where and when such disagreements occur.  We asked four loan application reviewers to reject or approve 30  selected applications, two... Continue Reading