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Process Improvement

Blog posts and articles about the use of data analysis and statistics to improve processes in business and industry.

Rare events inherently occur in all kinds of processes. In hospitals, there are medication errors, infections, patient falls, ventilator-associated pneumonias, and other rare, adverse events that cause prolonged hospital stays and increase healthcare costs.  But rare events happen in many other contexts, too. Software developers may need to track errors in lines of programming code, or a quality... Continue Reading
By some estimates, up to 70 percent of quality initiatives fail. Why do so many improvement programs, which are championed and staffed by smart, dedicated people, ultimately end up on the chopping block? According to the Juran Institute, which specializes in training, certification, and consulting on quality management, the No. 1 reason quality improvement initiatives fail is a lack of management... Continue Reading

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For the majority of my career, I've had the opportunity to speak at conferences and other events somewhat regularly. I thought some of my talks were pretty good, and some were not so good (based on ratings, my audiences didn't always agree with either—but that's a topic for another post). But I would guess that well over 90% of the time, my proposals were accepted to be presented at the... Continue Reading
In Part 1 of my A New Spin on the "Stand in a Circle" Exercise blog, I described how Taiichi Ohno, the creator of the Toyota Production System, used the “Stand in a Circle” exercise to help managers identify waste in their operations.  During this exercise Ohno would take a manager or student to the shop floor, draw a chalk circle on the floor, then have them stand inside the circle and observe an... 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
In the mid 1940s, Taiichi Ohno established the Toyota Production System, which is primarily based on eliminating non-value-added waste. He discovered that by reducing waste and inventory levels, problems get exposed and that forces employees to address these problems. To engage the workers and therefore improve processes, Ohno developed many exercises. One of his most popular exercises, “Stand in a... Continue Reading
One of the most memorable presentations at the inaugural Minitab Insights conference reminded me that data analysis and quality improvement methods aren't only useful in our work and businesses: they can make our home life better, too.  The presenter, a continuous improvement training program manager at an aviation company in the midwestern United States, told attendees how he used Minitab... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger For want of a nail the shoe was lost,For want of a shoe the horse was lost,For want of a horse the rider was lostFor want of a rider the battle was lostFor want of a battle the kingdom was lostAnd all for the want of a horseshoe nail. (Lowe, 1980, 50) According to the old nursery rhyme, "For Want of a Nail," an entire kingdom was lost because of the lack of one... Continue Reading
In ancient times dragons were believed to be set by the gods to guard golden treasures. This is because dragons were the most fearsome creatures and would deter would-be thieves. Dragons typically lived in an underground lair or castle and would sleep on top of their gold and treasures.  They were terrifying and often depicted as large fire-breathing, scaly creatures with wings and a huge deadly... Continue Reading
If you have a process that isn’t meeting specifications, using the Monte Carlo simulation and optimization tool in Companion by Minitab can help. Here’s how you, as a chemical technician for a paper products company, could use Companion to optimize a chemical process and ensure it consistently delivers a paper product that meets brightness standards. The brightness of Perfect Papyrus Company’s new... Continue Reading
As someone who has collected and analyzed real data for a living, the idea of using simulated data for a Monte Carlo simulation sounds a bit odd. How can you improve a real product with simulated data? In this post, I’ll help you understand the methods behind Monte Carlo simulation and walk you through a simulation example using Companion by Minitab. Companion by Minitab is a software platform that... Continue Reading
Do your executives see how your quality initiatives affect the bottom line? Perhaps they would more often if they had accessible insights on the performance, and ultimately the overall impact, of improvement projects.  For example, 60% of the organizations surveyed by the American Society for Quality in their 2016 Global State of Quality study say they don’t know or don’t measure the financial... Continue Reading
Have you ever tried to install ventilated shelving in a closet?  You know: the heavy-duty, white- or gray-colored vinyl-coated wire shelving? The one that allows you to get organized, more efficient with space, and is strong and maintenance-free? Yep, that’s the one. Did I mention this stuff is strong?  As in, really hard to cut?  It seems like a simple 4-step project. Measure the closet, go the... Continue Reading
You run a capability analysis and your Cpk is bad. Now what? First, let’s start by defining what “bad” is. In simple terms, the smaller the Cpk, the more defects you have. So the larger your Cpk is, the better. Many practitioners use a Cpk of 1.33 as the gold standard, so we’ll treat that as the gold standard here, too. Suppose we collect some data and run a capability analysis using Minitab Statisti... Continue Reading
by Kevin Clay, guest blogger In transactional or service processes, we often deal with lead-time data, and usually that data does not follow the normal distribution. Consider a Lean Six Sigma project to reduce the lead time required to install an information technology solution at a customer site. It should take no more than 30 days—working 10 hours per day Monday–Friday—to complete, test and... Continue Reading
"You take 10 parts and have 3 operators measure each 2 times." This standard approach to a Gage R&R experiment is so common, so accepted, so ubiquitous that few people ever question whether it is effective.  Obviously one could look at whether 3 is an adequate number of operators or 2 an adequate number of replicates, but in this first of a series of posts about "Gauging Gage," I want to look at... Continue Reading
In Part 1 of this blog series, I compared Six Sigma to a diamond because both are valuable, have many facets and have withstood the test of time. I also explained how the term “Six Sigma” can be used to summarize a variety of concepts, including philosophy, tools, methodology, or metrics. In this post, I’ll explain short/long-term variation and between/within-subgroup variation and how they help... Continue Reading
Did you know the most popular diamond cut is probably the Round Brilliant Cut? The first early version of what would become the modern Round Brilliant Diamond Cut was introduced by an Italian named Vincent Peruzzi, sometime in the late 17th century.  In the early 1900s, the angles for an "ideal" diamond cut were designed by Marcel Tolkowsky. Minor changes have been made since then, but the angles... 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
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