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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.

5 Critical Tools for Your Lean Deployment

As your customers demand more and organizations fight to stay competitive, the battle to create more value with fewer resources is ever present. How can you leverage Lean tools to thrive in your business?

Save Your Seat

Lean, also known as “Lean Manufacturing” or “Lean Production,” focuses on maximizing customer value by removing waste and eliminating defects. Lean tools are about understanding the process, looking for waste, preventing mistakes and documenting what you did.  Let’s look at five Lean tools used in process improvements, what they do, and why they’re important. Companion by Minitab can help you get... Continue Reading
On the heels of Healthcare Quality Week last week, we wanted to share our conversation with Dr. Sandy Fogel, the surgical quality officer at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA. Although he has been a practicing surgeon for nearly 40 years, Dr. Fogel’s enthusiasm for quality improvement makes it sound as if he is just getting started. After medical school at Washington University in St. Louis and... Continue Reading
Research out of the Juran Institute, which specializes in training, certification, and consulting on quality management globally, reveals that only 30 percent of improvement initiatives succeed.   And why do these initiatives fail so frequently? This research concludes that a lack of management support is the No. 1 reason quality improvement initiatives fail. But this is certainly not a problem... Continue Reading
Control charts take data about your process and plot it so you can distinguish between common-cause and special-cause variation. Knowing the difference is important because it permits you to address potential problems without over-controlling your process.   Control charts are fantastic for assessing the stability of a process. Is the process mean unstable, too low, or too high? Is observed... Continue Reading
In statistics, as in life, absolute certainty is rare. That's why statisticians often can't provide a result that is as specific as we might like; instead, they provide the results of an analysis as a range, within which the data suggest the true answer lies. Most of us are familiar with "confidence intervals," but that's just of several different kinds of intervals we can use to characterize the... Continue Reading
The Six Sigma quality improvement methodology has lasted for decades because it gets results. Companies in every country around the world, and in every industry, have used this logical, step-by-step method to improve the quality of their processes, products, and services. And they've saved billions of dollars along the way. However, Six Sigma involves a good deal of statistics and data analysis,... Continue Reading
Six Sigma is a quality improvement method that businesses have used for decades—because it gets results. A Six Sigma project follows a clearly defined series of steps, and companies in every industry in every country around the world have used this method to resolve problems. Along the way, they've saved billions of dollars. But Six Sigma relies heavily on statistics and data analysis, and many... Continue Reading
If you have a process that isn’t meeting specifications, using the Monte Carlo simulation and optimization tools in Companion by Minitab can help. Here’s how you, as an engineer in the medical device industry, could use Companion to improve a packaging process and help ensure patient safety. Your product line at AlphaGamma Medical Devices is shipped in heat-sealed packages with a minimum seal... Continue Reading
For a process improvement practitioner, finishing the Control Phase of the DMAIC process is your ticket to move on to your next project. You’ve done an excellent job leading the project team because they identified root causes, developed and implemented solutions to resolve those root causes, put a control plan in place and transitioned the process back to the Process Owner. Soon, however, you... Continue Reading
If you have a process that isn’t meeting specifications, using Monte Carlo simulation and optimization can help. Companion by Minitab offers a powerful, easy-to-use tool for Monte Carlo simulation and optimization, and in this blog we'll look at the case of product engineers involved in steel production for automobile parts, and how they could use Companion to improve a process. The tensile... Continue Reading
Companion by Minitab® is our software for executing and reporting on quality improvement projects. It consists of a desktop app, which practitioners use to do project work, and a web app, which includes a customizable dashboard that offers stakeholders up-to-the-minute graphical summaries and reports. Since the desktop app automatically updates the dashboard as teams do their work, teams are freed... Continue Reading
Companion by Minitab® is our software for executing and reporting on quality improvement projects. It has two components, a desktop app and a web app. As practitioners use the Companion desktop app to do project work, their project information automatically rolls up to Companion’s web app dashboard, where stakeholders can see graphical summaries and reports. Since the dashboard updates... Continue Reading
It's a very exciting time at Minitab's offices around the world because we've just announced the availability of Minitab® 18 Statistical Software. Data is everywhere today, but to use it to make sound, strategic business decisions, you need to have tools that turn that data into knowledge and insights. We've designed Minitab 18 to do exactly that.  We've incorporated a lot of new features, made some... Continue Reading
by Dan Wolfe, guest blogger How would you measure a hole that was allowed to vary one tenth the size of a human hair? What if the warmth from holding the part in your hand could take the measurement from good to bad? These are the types of problems that must be dealt with when measuring at the micron level. As a Six Sigma professional, that was the challenge I was given when Tenneco entered into... Continue Reading
By now you have probably heard about Companion by Minitab®, our software for executing and reporting on quality improvement projects. We've had questions about some terminology used in the product, which has two main components: the desktop application, or desktop app for short, and the web application, or web app for short, but also sometimes referred to as the full version or subscription. If... Continue Reading
Before cutting an expensive piece of granite for a countertop, a good carpenter will first confirm he has measured correctly. Acting on faulty measurements could be costly. While no measurement system is perfect, we rely on such systems to quantify data that help us control quality and monitor changes in critical processes. So, how do you know whether the changes you see are valid and not just the... Continue Reading
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
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