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Project Tools

Blog posts about statistical and practical tools used to manage quality improvement projects including Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.

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
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

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Tired of squinting at your computer screen?  Want to make an impact with the trainees in the last row of your class?  Try zooming in!  Here are some helpful tips on how you can blow up the size of Minitab Statistical Software screen elements for easier viewing.  Who knew Minitab looked so great close up? Worksheet Zoom Select any cell in the worksheet.  Hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard while... Continue Reading
Failure. Just saying the word makes me cringe. And if you’re human, you’ve probably had at least a couple failures in both your work and home life (that you've hopefully been able to overcome). But when it comes to Lean Six Sigma projects, there’s really nothing worse than having your entire project fail. Sometimes these projects can last months, involve a large project team, and cost companies a... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger The field of statistics has a long history and many people have made contributions over the years. Many contributors to the field were educated as statisticians, such as Karl Pearson and his son Egon Pearson. Others were people with problems that needed solving, and they developed statistical methods to solve these problems. The Standard Normal Distribution One... Continue Reading
We all seem to have our favorite statistical or quality improvement tool.  I’ve always been drawn to process mapping, or what's sometimes referred to as ‘flow charting.’ Even before I started my work with Minitab and learning about quality improvement techniques, I’ve considered myself somewhat of a visual learner. I notice myself explaining things to others by drawing pictures—and when it comes to... Continue Reading
Here are seven quality improvement tools I see in action again and again. Most of these quality tools have been around for a while, but that certainly doesn’t take away any of their worth! The best part about these tools is that they are very simple to use and work with quickly in Minitab Statistical Software or Companion, but of course you can use other methods, or even pen and paper. 1. Fishbone... Continue Reading
When it comes to creating control charts, it's generally good to collect data in subgroups, if possible. But sometimes gathering subgroups of measurements isn't an option. Measurements may be too expensive. Production volume may be too low. Products may have a long cycle time. In many of those cases, you can use an I-MR chart. Like all control charts, the I-MR chart has three main uses:  Monitoring... Continue Reading
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ken Jones, professor of operations and supply chain management at Indiana State University, about a business process improvement course he teaches at the university. The course covers a variety of Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques and gives students the opportunity to team with local businesses to complete real quality improvement projects. Upon... Continue Reading
I once had a boss who had difficulty understanding many, many things. When I need to discuss statistical concepts with people who don't have a statistical background, I like to think about how I could explain things so even my old boss would get it.  My boss and I shared a common interest in rock and roll, so that's the device I'll use to explain one of the workhorses of quality statistics, the... Continue Reading
Across all industries, there are many different ways professionals utilize Minitab Statistical Software to improve the quality of their products and services. You may be a professional in the health care industry who is interested in monitoring the days between hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) using rare event charts.  You may be a professional in manufacturing who is using a Pareto chart to... Continue Reading
While value stream mapping, or VSM, is a key tool used in many Lean Six Sigma projects for manufacturing, it’s also widely used in healthcare. Value stream mapping can help you map, visualize, and understand the flow of patients, materials (e.g., bags of screened blood or plasma), and information. The “value stream” is all of the actions required to complete a particular process, and the goal of... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger For want of a nail the shoe was lost,For want of a shoe the horse was lost,For want of a horse the rider was lostFor want of a rider the battle was lostFor want of a battle the kingdom was lostAnd all for the want of a horseshoe nail. (Lowe, 1980, 50) According to the old nursery rhyme, "For Want of a Nail," an entire kingdom was lost because of the lack of one... Continue Reading
As I sat down to examine Cost of Quality (COQ) at Minitab, I flashed back to my CQE exam almost 20 years ago. I can still vividly remember staring down at a particularly difficult Cost of Quality question and wondering why I didn’t just follow my 4th-grade career assessment and become a novelist.   Mental note: a study of the correlation between 4th grade career assessments and actual career... Continue Reading
In the past couple of years, I've noticed a new acronym popping up across the Web. In case you've not yet encountered it, "FML" typically appears in social media updates about something gone awry.  As in, "The cat ate my homework. FML!"  Or, "My production line just broke down, and now the company is going to be short on a major order. FML!"  This acronym reminds me of an abbreviation used in... Continue Reading
Marlowe the Stats Cat here. Earlier, I showed you how easy it was to set up my statistical software with a personalized menu of statistical tools I use most often.  The problem is that I share a computer with one of the humans who live in my house, and the statistical tools I use most may not be the ones he needs to use. And I don't want to clutter my interface with a "Human" menu.    I'm trying to... Continue Reading
It’s the holiday season, a time for volunteering and gift giving…and sharing!  In that same spirit, I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about sharing in Minitab.  As you may have picked up from other blog postings (see Stats Cat’s post on Minitab customization), there are lots of ways you can customize your Minitab to save time and create great looking presentations.  You can spend hours... Continue Reading
When I want to analyze data, I want my statistical software to give me the options I want, when I want them. I want a menu that's perfectly suited to my needs. Maybe even a toolbar that gives me instant access to the tools I use most frequently.  That's not too much to ask, is it?  Look, you can't argue with nature. I'm a cat, which means I want things my way. If my human puts something (like a... Continue Reading
Since we introduced new control charts in Minitab, I’ve been waiting to come across some real data I could use to showcase their awesome power. My friends, this day has come! I am about to reveal a perhaps unconventional use of the Laney P' chartto investigate national cycling data in the UK. So we’re not looking at any real process here, which is how the P' chart is usually used, just data from a... Continue Reading
I’m relatively new to the world of quality improvement and the various terms and acronyms that are often thrown about in writing and conversation. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with jargon like LSS, GR&R, MSA, MBB, SIPOC, FMEA, kaizen, kanban, poka yoke, and others flying around when you’re starting a project. Define Your Problem First If you’re new to the discipline, I’ve found that it helps... Continue Reading