Process Improvement

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

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


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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
Genichi Taguchi is famous for his pioneering methods of robust quality engineering. One of the major contributions that he made to quality improvement methods is Taguchi designs. Designed experiments were first used by agronomists during the last century. This method seemed highly theoretical at first, and was initially restricted to agronomy. Taguchi made the designed experiment approach more... Continue Reading
In its industry guidance to companies that manufacture drugs and biological products for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends three stages for process validation. While my last post covered statistical tools for the Process Design stage, here we will focus on the statistical techniques typically utilized for the second stage, Process Qualification. Stage 2: Process... Continue Reading
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
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! Companion by Minitab has an easy-to-use VSM tool to guide yer way. Use a value stream map to illustrate the flow of materials and information as a... 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