Five Ways to Make Your Control Charts More Effective

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 (Statistical Process Control) charts were used to monitor processes, contamination in clean rooms, monitor product thicknesses and shapes as well as critical equipment process parameters. Process engineers...

Winning a Super Bowl Grid Pool: Frequency of Score Combinations in the NFL

It has come to my attention recently that amidst the fun of attending Super Bowl parties and watching the 2nd-most viewed sporting event on earth there are some people—seedy characters with questionable pasts, I'm sure—who are betting on the game! 

Now, as gambling on sporting events is highly regulated and illegal in almost every state, I'm confident that reports of this are overblown and that the fine, upstanding readers of this blog are not among those taking part in such an activity.

But if you happen to live in an area where such things are legal and you choose to participate, then you...

How Data Analysis Can Help Us Predict This Year's Champions League

by Laerte de Araujo Lima, guest blogger

A few weeks ago, my football friends and I were talking about the football in the UEFA Champions league (UEFA CL), and what we could expect for the 2013-14 season.

Some of us believe that the quality of the football played in the UEFA CL has improved in the last few years, as evidenced by more goals per match, more teams with strategies based in the attack and, finally, more show games. Others disagree, arguing that the teams were pursued defensive strategies with consequently fewer goals per match, more faults per game, and less effective use of game time...

Warning: Failing to Display a Pareto Chart May be Hazardous to Your Health

Defects can cause a lot of pain to your customer.

They can also cause a lot of pain inside your body. The picture at right shows my broken right clavicle. Ouch!

You might think of it as the defective output from my bicycling process, which needs improvement.

Sitting around all summer cinched up in a foam orthopedic brace hasn’t exactly been wild and wacky 50s-style fun at the beach.

But the injury has had its perks (a box of mouth-watering dark chocolate ganaches from kind Minitab coworkers, for example!)

It’s also provided me with a rare commodity in the year 2013: Plenty of time to think.


Statistical Fun … at the Grocery Store?

Grocery shopping. For some, it's the most dreaded household activity. For others, it's fun, or perhaps just a “necessary evil.”

Personally, I enjoy it! My co-worker, Ginger, a content manager here at Minitab, opened my eyes to something that made me love grocery shopping even more: she shared the data behind her family’s shopping trips. Being something of a data nerd, I really geeked out over the ability to analyze spending habits at the grocery store!

So how did she collect her data? What I find especially interesting is that Ginger didn’t have to save her receipts or manually transfer any...

Using Design of Experiments to Minimize Noise Effects

All processes are affected by various sources of variations over time. Products which are designed based on optimal settings, will, in reality, tend to drift away from their ideal settings during the manufacturing process.

Environmental fluctuations and process variability often cause major quality problems. Focusing only on costs and performances is not enough. Sensitivity to deterioration and process imperfections is an important issue. It is often not possible to completely eliminate variations due to uncontrollable factors (such as temperature changes, contamination, humidity, dust etc…).


Quality Improvement in Financial Services

Process improvement through methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean has found its way into nearly every industry. While Six Sigma had its beginnings in manufacturing, we’ve seen it and other process improvement techniques work very well in the service industry—from healthcare to more service-oriented business functions, such as human resources.

However, Six Sigma seems to have had a slower rate of adoption in financial services. I recently came across a great article about the challenges faced in the financial industry when it comes to successfully implementing a process improvement...

Seven Basic Quality Tools to Keep in Your Back Pocket

Here are seven quality improvement tools I see in action again and again. Most of these quality tools have been around for a while, but that certainly doesn’t take away any of their worth!

The best part about these tools is that they are very simple to use and work with quickly in Minitab Statistical Software or Quality Companion, but of course you can use other methods, or even pen and paper.

1. Fishbone Diagram

Fishbones, or cause-and-effect diagrams, help you brainstorm potential causes of a problem and see relationships among potential causes. The fishbone below identifies the...

Quality Improvement in Healthcare: Completing Projects with DMAIC

The DMAIC methodology for completing quality improvement projects divides project work into five phases: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. It’s also probably the most well-known and most used project methodology for projects that focus on improving an existing process. (Many other methodologies exist, such as DMADV, which focuses on using quality improvement techniques to create a new product of process design.)

Franciscan Hospital for Children, a hospital in Brighton, Mass., that specializes in the care of children with special health care needs, recently completed a project...

Family Democracy, Summer Fun, and the Ballot

Previously I wrote about using a decision matrix to help make a decision. Matrices are nice tools for collecting your thoughts and visualizing a decision. But complex decisions could involve collecting and synthesizing input from a number of different people.

Quality Companion (Minitab's process improvement software) uses ballots to let team members record their input to a decision matrix. If you’ve already made the matrix, setting up the ballot is easy. The ballot simplifies data collection and organization, even among team members who are dispersed in space and time. You can follow along in...

A Mommy’s Look at Lyme Disease Statistics…

I spend a majority of my time entrenched in statistics. Using statistics. Studying statistics. Developing and testing statistical software. Statistics guide many of my decisions at work and in life. That’s the world of an engineer.

For this reason, you can imagine my surprise when my husband called me at work on a bright, sunny June day in 2009 to tell me that our 4-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. That, to me, seemed completely improbable. We live in a development in suburbia.  Our children don’t play deep in the woods. We don’t hike in the woods. In accordance with the...

Planning Summer Fun with Decision Matrix Tools

Normally, I tell you about ways to practice with Minitab Statistical Software so that you can boost your confidence with statistical analysis. But over the last few days in my house, we’ve been planning some activities for the family. That planning has given me a chance to have some fun with Quality Companion.

Quality Companion is a substantial piece of software: everything that you need to manage a quality improvement project in one application. Quality Companion provides project management tools so that you can make and communicate decisions.

My favorite tools in Quality Companion, with...

The Diversity (and Consistency) of Quality Improvement: the 2013 ASQ ITEA Presentations

I'm in the airport at Indianapolis, waiting to go home after three exciting days at the 2013 American Society for Quality World Conference.  As I write this, it's Wednesday evening after the conference has closed, and it turns out my flight has been delayed.

This could give me ample opportunity to muse about the quality issues that might keep me from reaching central Pennsylvania tonight. But I'm kind of pumped up, so I'm more interested in thinking about what I've experienced and seen over the past few days. This is the kind of event that makes you want to keep focusing on the positive, not...

Explaining Quality Statistics So Your Boss Will Understand: Weighted Pareto Charts

Failure to properly calibrate this machine will result in defective rock and roll. 

In my last post, I imagined using the example of a rock and roll band -- the Zero Sigmas -- to explain Pareto charts to my music-loving but statistically-challenged boss. I showed him how easy it was to use a Pareto chart to visualize defects or problems that occur most often, using the example of various incidents that occurred on the Zero Sigmas last tour.  

The Pareto chart revealed that starting performances late was far and away the Zero Sigmas' most frequent "defect," one that occurred every single night of...

Explaining Quality Statistics So Your Boss Will Understand: Pareto Charts

I once had a boss who had difficulty understanding many, many things. When I need to discuss statistical concepts with people who don't have a statistical background, I like to think about how I could explain things so even my old boss would get it. 

My boss and I shared a common interest in rock and roll, so that's the device I'll use to explain one of the workhorses of quality statistics, the Pareto chart. I'd tell my boss to imagine that instead of managing a surly gang of teenaged restaurant employees, he's managing a surly rock and roll band, the Zero Sigmas. The band did a 100-date tour...

Status Reports: Reduce Your Cycle Time using Minitab Macros!

Across all industries, there are many different ways professionals utilize Minitab Statistical Software to improve the quality of their products and services.

You may be a professional in the health care industry who is interested in monitoring the days between hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) using rare event charts.  You may be a professional in manufacturing who is using a Pareto chart to evaluate the types of defects you are discovering during the inspection process.  Or you may be a product manager like me who uses Minitab analytics to evaluate customer survey data.

But no matter the...

Where to find meteorites, the Pareto chart way

It’s an amazing thing when a mass of rock and iron streaks through space and enters Earth’s atmosphere. So naturally, the Chelyabinsk meteor has attracted a great deal of attention. We’re fascinated by the images and captivated by the stories. And, if you’re interested in statistical analysis, you start to wonder a little bit about meteorites.

The nice thing is that the Meteoritical Society has a large database with information about meteorites recovered on Earth. The database has over 50,000 records.

It’s particularly neat to see where people find meteorites with recoverable masses. A Pareto...

Using Statistics for Process Improvement Outside of Manufacturing

It’s common to think that process improvement initiatives are meant to cater only to manufacturing processes, simply because manufacturing is where Lean and Six Sigma began. However, many other industry segments, such as healthcare and banking, also rely on data analysis and Lean Six Sigma tools to improve processes (even if those processes are more service-based).

For example, it’s increasingly common for healthcare professionals to conduct projects to help them investigate and understand certain clinical outcomes for patients, such as the incidence of a certain disease developing after...

Chi Square Analysis for Halloween: Is There a Slasher Movie Gender Gap?

Chi-square analysis compares the counts of two categorical variables to tell you if a relationship exists between the variables or not. It's a tool with many applications in the world of business and quality improvement. For example, let's say you manage three call centers and you want to know if solving a customer's problem depends on which center gets the call. To find out, you tally the successful and unsuccessful resolutions for each center in a table, and perform a chi-square test of independence on the data. 

Practical applications like this are all well and good, but you can also apply...

Pareto Power!

One of our Facebook followers recently wrote to us about his frustration with Pareto charts. He was confused about creating them in Minitab—especially navigating the dialogue boxes. I wanted to craft this blog post for him, but I was also thinking of an interesting way to make Pareto charts a little more fun for everyone.

Enter the Power Rangers! I grew up in the ‘90s when Power Rangers were all the rage, and—you guessed it—I was all about the Pink Ranger. I even remember dressing like the Pink Ranger for Halloween:

Anyway, the premise of the show is that young teens are recruited and trained to...