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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.

Previously, I discussed how business problems arise when people have conflicting opinions about a subjective factor, such as whether something is the right color or not, or whether a job applicant is qualified for a position. The key to resolving such honest disagreements and handling future decisions more consistently is a statistical tool called attribute agreement analysis. In this post, we'll... Continue Reading
In my last post on DMAIC tools for the Define phase, we reviewed various graphs and stats typically used to define project goals and customer deliverables. Let’s now move along to the tools you can use in Minitab Statistical Software to conduct the Measure phase. Measure Phase Methodology The goal of this phase is to measure the process to determine its current performance and quantify the problem.... Continue Reading

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Ahoy, matey! Ye’ve come to the right place to learn about Value Stream Maps (VSM).  Just as a treasure map can lead a band o’ pirates to buried treasures, so too can the VSM lead a process improvement bilge rat to the loot buried deep inside a process! Minitab’s Quality Companion has an easy-to-use VSM tool to guide yer way. Use a value stream map to illustrate the flow of materials... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger The great Dr. Seuss tells of Mr. Plunger, who is the custodian at Diffendoofer School on the corner of Dinkzoober and Dinzott in the town of Dinkerville. The good Mr. Plunger “keeps the whole school clean” using a supper-zooper-flooper-do. Unfortunately, Dr. Seuss fails to tell us where the supper-zooper-flooper-do came from and if the production process was... Continue Reading
For all you creative and fun-loving folks out there, in this blog post I'm going to share a puzzle instead of a story or lesson. The holiday season is getting into full swing here in the United States, and that gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect, and even have a little fun while still thinking about how we can improve our processes and products.   Perhaps you're wondering what a puzzle... Continue Reading
The line plot is an incredibly agile but frequently overlooked tool in the quest to better understand your processes. In any process, whether it's baking a cake or processing loan forms, many factors have the potential to affect the outcome. Changing the source of raw materials could affect the strength of plywood a factory produces. Similarly, one method of gluing this plywood might be better... Continue Reading
If you’re familiar with Lean Six Sigma, then you’re familiar with DMAIC. DMAIC is the acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. This proven problem-solving strategy provides a structured 5-phase framework to follow when working on an improvement project. This is the first post in a five-part series that focuses on the tools available in Minitab Statistical Software that are most... Continue Reading
The season of change is upon us here at Minitab's World Headquarters. The air is crisp and clear and the landscape is ablaze in vibrant fall colors. As I drove to work one recent morning, I couldn't help but soak in the beauty surrounding me and think, "Too bad everything they taught me as a kid was a lie." You see, as a boy growing up in New Hampshire, I was told that the sublime beauty of autumn... Continue Reading
Pareto charts are a special type of bar chart you can use to prioritize almost anything. This makes them very useful in making sound decisions. For example, if you have several possible quality improvement projects, but not enough time or people to do them all now, you can use a Pareto chart to identify which projects have the most potential for making meaningful improvement. Pareto charts look... Continue Reading
If your work involves quality improvement, you've at least heard of Design of Experiments (DOE). You probably know it's the most efficient way to optimize and improve your process. But many of us find DOE intimidating, especially if it's not a tool we use often. How do you select an appropriate design, and ensure you've got the right number of factors and levels? And after you've gathered your... Continue Reading
No matter how experienced you are at analyzing data, communicating about your results can be a tremendous challenge. So it's not surprising that "Effectively Reporting Your Data Analysis" was one of the best-attended sessions at the inaugural Minitab Insights Conference last month.  The presenters, Benjamin Turcan and Jennifer Berner of First Niagara Bank, have a great deal of experience improving... Continue Reading
Every day, thousands of people withdraw extra cash for daily expenses. Each transaction may be small, but the total amount of cash dispersed over hundreds or thousands of daily transactions can be very high. But every bank branch has a fixed cash flow, which must be set without knowing what each customer will need on a given day. This creates a challenge for financial entities. Customers expect... Continue Reading
October 16–22 is National Healthcare Quality Week, started by the National Association for Healthcare Quality to increase awareness of healthcare quality programs and to highlight the work of healthcare quality professionals and their influence on improved patient care outcomes. This event deserves your attention because the quality of healthcare affects every one of us, and so does the cost of... Continue Reading
A reader asked a great question in response to a post I wrote about Pareto charts. Our readers typically do ask great questions, but this one turned out to be more difficult to answer than it first seemed. My correspondent wrote:  My understanding is that when you have count data, a bar chart is the way to go. The gaps between the bars emphasize that the data are not measured on a continuous scale.... Continue Reading
The ultimate goal of most quality improvement projects is clear: reducing the number of defects, improving a response, or making a change that benefits your customers. We often want to jump right in and start gathering and analyzing data so we can solve the problems. Checking your measurement systems first, with methods like attribute agreement analysis or Gage R&R, may seem like a needless waste... Continue Reading
If you were among the 300 people who attended the first-ever Minitab Insights conference in September, you already know how powerful it was. Attendees learned how practitioners from a wide range of industries use data analysis to address a variety of problems, find solutions, and improve business practices. In the coming weeks and months, we will share more of the great insights and guidance shared... Continue Reading
Face it, you love regression analysis as much as I do. Regression is one of the most satisfying analyses in Minitab: get some predictors that should have a relationship to a response, go through a model selection process, interpret fit statistics like adjusted R2 and predicted R2, and make predictions. Yes, regression really is quite wonderful. Except when it’s not. Dark, seedy corners of the data... Continue Reading
We’ve got a plethora of case studies showing how businesses from different industries solve problems and implement solutions with data analysis. Take a look for ideas about how you can use data analysis to ensure excellence at your business! Boston Scientific, one of the world’s leading developers of medical devices, is just one organization who has shared their story. A team at their Heredia,... Continue Reading
I confess: I'm not a natural-born decision-maker. Some people—my wife, for example—can assess even very complex situations, consider the options, and confidently choose a way forward. Me? I get anxious about deciding what to eat for lunch. So you can imagine what it used to be like when I needed to confront a really big decision or problem. My approach, to paraphrase the Byrds, was "Re:... Continue Reading
The other day I was talking with a friend about control charts, and I wanted to share an example one of my colleagues wrote on the Minitab Blog.  Looking back through the index for "control charts" reminded me just how much material we've published on this topic. Whether you're just getting started with control charts, or you're an old hand at statistical process control, you'll find some valuable... Continue Reading