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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.

In my recent meetings with people from various companies in the service industries, I realized that one of the problems they face is that they were collecting large amounts of "qualitative" data: types of product, customer profiles, different subsidiaries, several customer requirements, etc. As I discussed in my previous post, one way to look at qualitative data is to use different types of... Continue Reading
In several previous blogs, I have discussed the use of statistics for quality improvement in the service sector. Understandably, services account for a very large part of the economy. Lately, when meeting with several people from financial companies, I realized that one of the problems they faced was that they were collecting large amounts of "qualitative" data: types of product, customer... Continue Reading
If you’re not a statistician, looking through statistical output can sometimes make you feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. Suddenly, you step into a fantastical world where strange and mysterious phantasms appear out of nowhere.   For example, consider the T and P in your t-test results. “Curiouser and curiouser!” you might exclaim, like Alice, as you gaze at your output. What are these values,... Continue Reading
Choosing the correct linear regression model can be difficult. After all, the world and how it works is complex. Trying to model it with only a sample doesn’t make it any easier. In this post, I'll review some common statistical methods for selecting models, complications you may face, and provide some practical advice for choosing the best regression model. It starts when a researcher wants to... Continue Reading
In the State of the Union Address, President Obama said: “No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.” This follows the joint announcement by NASA and NOAA on... Continue Reading
You may have been in a situation where you had created a general full factorial design and noticed that your design’s run size was higher than you imagined. (Quick refresher: a general full factorial design is an experimental design where any factor can have more than 2 levels). Determined to minimize the monstrous size of your worksheet, you go back to Stat > DOE > Factorial > Create Factorial... Continue Reading
I really can’t make this stuff up. I wrote a post a couple of years ago entitled: “How to Talk to Your Kids about Six Sigma and Quality Improvement,” in which I lamented about “Community Hero” day in my daughter’s 1st grade class and the need to explain to her why I wasn’t at the "community-hero-level" of Maggie’s Mommy, the pediatrician. Well, now it's two years later and my son, Thomas, is in... Continue Reading
Last Friday I had an interesting tweet come across my Twitter feed. And that was before the Patriots failed to cover their first playoff game of 2015 against the Ravens. When you include that, the record becomes 3-11, good for a winning percentage of only 21%! With the Patriots set to play another playoff game against the Colts, it seems like the smart thing to do is to bet the Colts to cover. But... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger Recently Minitab’s Joel Smith posted a blog about an incident in which he was pooped on by a bird. Twice. I suspect many people would assume the odds of it happening twice are very low, so they would incorrectly assume they are safer after such a rare event happens. I don’t have data on how often birds poop on one person, and I assume Joel is unwilling to stand... Continue Reading
As a member of Minitab's Technical Support team, I get the opportunity to work with many people creating control charts. They know the importance of monitoring their processes with control charts, but many don’t realize that they themselves could play a vital role in improving the effectiveness of the control charts.   In this post I will show you how to take control of your charts by using Minitab... Continue Reading
Last fall I had a birthday. It wasn’t one of those tougher birthdays where the number ends in a zero. Still, the birthday got me thinking. In response, I told myself, age is just a number. Then I did a mental double-take. Can a statistician say that? After all, numbers are how I understand the world and the way it works. Can age just be a number? After some musing, I concluded that age is just a... Continue Reading
I like learning about new things. This fondness makes it less depressing when I have to admit total ignorance on any subject. Thus, when I heard that there were “New Year honours” given out, I expected something like a Dave Letterman top ten list about events from 2014. Instead, it turns out that New Year honours are awards given out to people for their actions, achievements, or service to the... Continue Reading
On a recent vacation, I was unsuccessfully trying to reunite with my family outside a busy shopping mall and starting to get a little stressed. I was on a crowded sidewalk, in a busy city known for crime, and it was raining.  I thought there was no way things could get more aggravating when something warm and solid hit my arm and shirt. A bird had pooped on me. Not having the kids with me, and being... 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 Aaron and Billy are two very competitive—and not always well-behaved—eight-year-old twin brothers. They constantly strive to outdo each other, no matter what the subject. If the boys are given a piece of pie for dessert, they each automatically want to make sure that their own piece of pie is bigger than the other’s piece of pie. This causes much exasperation,... Continue Reading
"Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay."  — Sherlock Holmes, in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Copper Beeches Whether you're the world's greatest detective trying to crack a case or a person trying to solve a problem at work, you're going to need information. Facts. Data, as Sherlock Holmes says.  But not all data is created equal, especially if you plan to analyze as part of... Continue Reading
At the end of my previous post, aspiring statisticians Woodrow "Woody" Stem and August "Russell" Leaf, creators of the famed Stem-and-Leaf plot, were in bad shape. They had beaten each other statsless after an argument about the challenge given to them by their mentor, Dr. Histeaux Graham. That challenge: to devise a simple, yet elegant way to examine the distribution of values in a sample. After... Continue Reading
Over the last year or so I’ve heard a lot of people asking, “How can I calculate B10 life in Minitab?” Despite being a statistician and industrial engineer (mind you, one who has never been in the field like the customers asking this question) and having taken a reliability engineering course, I’d never heard of B10 life. So I did some research. The B10 life metric originated in the ball and roller... Continue Reading
Throughout the college football season, I’ve been looking at the influence of the preseason AP Poll on rankings later in the season. Each analysis found a positive association between preseason rankings and the current rankings. That is, between top-ranked teams with a similar number of losses, teams ranked higher in the preseason are also ranked higher in current polls. The biggest exception is... Continue Reading
Stepwise regression and best subsets regression are both automatic tools that help you identify useful predictors during the exploratory stages of model building for linear regression. These two procedures use different methods and present you with different output. An obvious question arises. Does one procedure pick the true model more often than the other? I’ll tackle that question in this post. Fi... Continue Reading