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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.

by Laerte de Araujo Lima, guest blogger The NBA's 2015-16 season will be one for the history books. Not only was it the last season of Kobe Bryan, who scored 60 points in his final game, but the Golden State Warriors set a new wins record, beating the previous record set by 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. The Warriors seem likely to take this season's NBA title, in large part thanks to the performance of... Continue Reading
In the first part of this series, we looked at a case study where staff at a hospital used ATP swab tests to test 8 surfaces for bacteria in 10 different hospital rooms across 5 departments. ATP measurements below 400 units pass the swab test, while measurements greater than or equal to 400 units fail the swab test and require further investigation. I offered two tips on exploring and visualizing... Continue Reading

7 Deadly Statistical Sins Even the Experts Make

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Working with healthcare-related data often feels different than working with manufacturing data. After all, the common thread among healthcare quality improvement professionals is the motivation to preserve and improve the lives of patients. Whether collecting data on the number of patient falls, patient length-of-stay, bed unavailability, wait times, hospital acquired-infections, or readmissions,... Continue Reading
People say that I overthink everything. I've given this assertion considerable thought, and I don't believe that it is true. After all, how can any one person possibly overthink every possible thing in just one lifetime? For example, suppose I live 85 years. That's 2,680,560,000 seconds (85 years x 365 days per year x 24 hours per day x 60 min per hour x 60 seconds per minute). I'm asleep about a... Continue Reading
Most of us have heard a backwards way of completing a task, or doing something in the conventionally wrong order, described as “putting the cart before the horse.” That’s because a horse pulling a cart is much more efficient than a horse pushing a cart. This saying may be especially true in the world of statistics. Focusing on a statistical tool or analysis before checking out the condition of your... Continue Reading
In my last post, I discussed how a DOE was chosen to optimize a chemical-mechanical polishing process in the microelectronics industry. This important process improved the plant's final manufacturing yields. We selected an experimental design that let us study the effects of six process parameters in 16 runs. Analyzing the Design Now we'll examine the analysis of the DOE results after the actual... Continue Reading
I used to work in the manufacturing industry. Some processes were so complex that even a very experienced and competent engineer would not necessarily know how to identify the best settings for the manufacturing equipment. You could make a guess using a general idea of what should be done regarding the optimal settings, but that was not sufficient. You need very precise indications of the correct... Continue Reading
When you analyze a Gage R&R study in statistical software, your results can be overwhelming. There are a lot of statistics listed in Minitab's Session Window—what do they all mean, and are they telling you the same thing? If you don't know where to start, it can be hard to figure out what the analysis is telling you, especially if your measurement system is giving you some numbers you'd think are... Continue Reading
There has been plenty of noisy disagreement about the state of health care in the past several years, but when you get beyond the controversies surrounding various programs and changes, a great deal of common ground exists. Everyone agrees that there's a lot of waste and inefficiency in the way we've been doing things, and that health care should be delivered as efficiently and effectively as... Continue Reading
After my husband’s most recent visit to the dentist, he returned home cavity-free...and with a $150 electric toothbrush in hand.  I wanted details. It began innocently. His dreaded trip to the dentist ended in high praise for no cavities and only a warning to floss more. That prompted my programming-and-automation-obsessed husband, still in the chair, to exclaim, "I wish there was a way to automate... Continue Reading
For the majority of my career with Minitab, 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... Continue Reading
While the roots of Lean Six Sigma and other quality improvement methodologies are in manufacturing, it’s interesting to see how other organizational functions and industries apply LSS tools successfully. Quality improvement certainly has moved far beyond the walls of manufacturing plants! For example, I recently had the opportunity to talk to Drew Mohler, a Lean Six Sigma black belt and senior... Continue Reading
Unless you live under a black country rock, you’ve no doubt heard that the world recently lost one of the greatest artists of our time, David Bowie. My memories of the Thin White Duke go all the way back to my formative years. I recall his music echoing through the halls of our house as I crooned along whilst doing the chores. Then as now, Bowie’s creativity and energy inspired me and helped me do... Continue Reading
If you're just getting started in the world of quality improvement, or if you find yourself in a position where you suddenly need to evaluate the quality of incoming or outgoing products from your company, you may have encountered the term "acceptance sampling." It's a statistical method for evaluating the quality of a large batch of materials from a small sample of items, which statistical softwar... Continue Reading
This is an era of massive data. A huge amount of data is being generated from the web, from customer relations records but also from sensors used in the manufacturing industry (semiconductor, pharmaceutical, petrochemical companies and many other industries). Univariate Control charts In the manufacturing industry, critical product characteristics get routinely collected to ensure that all products... Continue Reading
‘Statistics’ is a rising star. Everywhere I turn, people are talking about data and the value of being able to analyze and act on it. As someone who’s been writing about that for years, I say it’s about time. Statistics is like a talented actress whose decades of appearing off Broadway have finally paid off. For years, her work has been enriching our lives without us knowing it. Statistics helps... Continue Reading
Having delivered training courses on capability analyses with Minitab, several times, I have noticed that one question you can be absolutely sure will be asked, during the course, is: What is the difference between the Cpk and the Ppk indices? Ppk vs. Cpk indices The terms Cpk and Ppk are often confused, so that when quality or process engineers refer to the Cpk index, they often actually intend to... Continue Reading
According to this article published on Food Tank, over 22 million pounds of food is wasted on college campuses each year. Now that’s a lot of food waste! Students all over the country are noticing excessive food waste at their schools and are starting programs to bring awareness and improve the problem. Naturally, many of these programs have roots in Lean Six Sigma. In one example, a group of... Continue Reading
Control charts are a fantastic tool. These charts plot your process data to identify common cause and special cause variation. By identifying the different causes of variation, you can take action on your process without over-controlling it. Assessing the stability of a process can help you determine whether there is a problem and identify the source of the problem. Is the mean too high, too low,... Continue Reading
Don't be a grumpy cat when something on your capability report doesn't smell right. After pressing that OK button to run your analysis, allow your inner cat to understand how and why certain statistics are being used. To help you along, here are some capability issues that customers have brought up recently. Cp is missing You’ve generated a capability analysis report with the Johnson transformation... Continue Reading