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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.

Minitab’s Assistant got a lot of splashy upgrades for Minitab 17. The addition of DOE and multiple regression to the Assistant are large feature improvements with obvious advantages. But there are many subtler, but still fantastic additions that shouldn't be overlooked. One of those additions is the example patterns added to the Stability Report for control charts.  The Stability Report was... 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
When we think about jobs with a romantic edge to them, most of us probably think of professions that involve action or danger.  Spies, soldiers, cops, criminals -- these are types of professions romantic leads have. Along with your occasional musician, reporter, or artist, who don't have the action but at least bring drama. But you know who never shows up as a romantic lead?  Quality improvement... Continue Reading
In my previous post, I shared a case study of how a small bicycle-chain manufacturing company in India used the DMAIC approach to Six Sigma to reverse declining productivity. After completing the Define, Measure, and Analysis phases, the team had identified the important factors in the bushing creation process. Armed with this knowledge, they were now ready to make some improvements. The Improve... Continue Reading
I didn’t expect that our family trip to Florida would end with me driving a plane load of passengers nearly 200 miles to their homes, but it did. Yes, it was a long and strange journey home. A journey that started in the tropical warmth of southern Florida and ended the next morning in central Pennsylvania, which felt like the arctic wastelands thanks to the dreaded polar vortex. During this... Continue Reading
Using data analysis and statistics to improve business quality has a long history. But it often seems like most of that history involves huge operations. After all, Six Sigma originated with Motorola, and became adopted by thousands of other businesses after it was adopted by a little-known outfit called General Electric. There are many case studies and examples of how big companies used Six Sigma... Continue Reading
When looking at a control chart, it’s important to know that the data we are looking at is accurate. Let’s face it, if the control limits we are looking at don’t really reflect what’s actually happening in our process, what does it matter if our points fall within the limits, or a little bit outside? Let’s take a trip down to the widget factory, where widgets are being produced in all shapes and... Continue Reading
I had the opportunity to speak with a great group of students from the New Jersey Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology—a summer program for high-achieving high school students. Students in the program complete a set of challenging courses while working in small groups on real-world research and design projects that relate to the field of engineering. Governor’s School students... 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
In my first post in this series, I mentioned that we reached out to our customers who are practitioners in the field of quality improvement to better understand how they complete projects, what tools they use, and the challenges and roadblocks they come across in achieving success with quality initiatives. One area quality leaders said they were struggling with was the training aspect of their... Continue Reading
In looking for the answer to an unrelated quality improvement question the other day, I ran across a blog post that answers a question I'd had for a while: what's the origin of the value stream map?  A value stream map (VSM) is a key tool in many quality improvement projects, especially those using Lean. The value stream is the collection of all of the activities, both value-added and non-value... Continue Reading
by Arun Kumar, guest blogger One of the most commonly used statistical methods is ANOVA, short for “Analysis of Variance.” Whether you’re analysing data for Six-Sigma styled quality improvement projects, or perhaps just taking your first statistics course, a good understanding of how this technique works is important. A lot of concepts are involved in any analysis using ANOVA and its subsequent... Continue Reading
Capability statistics are wonderful things. These statistics tell you how well your process is meeting the specifications that you have. But there are so many capability statistics that it's worth taking some time to understand how they’re useful together. Two capability statistics that are hard to keep straight are Cp and Cpk. Their names are different by only a single letter. A single letter... Continue Reading
Minitab Statistical Software offers three tests for Normality: Anderson-Darling (AD), Ryan-Joiner (RJ), and Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS). The AD test is the default, but is it the best test at detecting Non-Normality? Let's compare the ability of each of these normality tests to detect non-normal data under three different scenarios.  We'll use simulated data for each, but they reflect common... Continue Reading
In previous posts, I’ve outlined some reasons why a Lean Six Sigma project might have been deemed a failure. We’ve gathered many of these reasons from surveying and talking with our customers. I’d like to present a few more reasons why projects might fail, and then share some “words of wisdom” from Minitab trainers on how you can avoid these project failures. Forcing Projects into DMAIC Certain... Continue Reading
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... Continue Reading
Not too long ago, I observed that one number is rarely adequate to describe data. Means and medians can disagree, and it’s important to know whether different groups of data have similar spreads. A great tool for displaying a more complete representation of the data is the histogram. Histograms are an easy way to summarize a lot of statistics. If you’re not convinced, take a minute to explore... Continue Reading
In a previous post, I discussed how to avoid a disastrous Lean Six Sigma project failure, specifically if the reason behind the failure is that the project solution never gets implemented. In this post, let's discuss a few other project roadblocks that our customers cited when we asked them about the challenges they come across in completing projects. I’ll also go into detail about suggestions our i... Continue Reading
When I first got interested in looking at baseball park factors, I only wanted to know which parks benefited hitters and which benefited pitchers. Once I got started, I got interested in the difference between ESPN's published formula and its results and whether there were obvious reasons for the variation in park factors from year-to-year. But today I’m returning to the original question: which... Continue Reading
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... Continue Reading