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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.

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

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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
In my blog post from about 3 weeks ago, I used the Solution Desirability Matrix in Companion by Minitab to simulate how Mitt Romney might choose his VP candidate. This past weekend, Mitt Romney ultimately chose Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin U.S. Representative. In this blog, I’ll take a look at how the previous analysis fared and see what we can learn from it. At the time of my initial analysis, there... Continue Reading
The GOP vice-presidential sweepstakes, or veepstakes, is heating up. Rumors are swirling about whether Mitt Romney has picked a running mate and when he’ll announce it. Will he pick a more exciting but riskier candidate? Or, will he play it safe? Have you ever wondered how a candidate like Romney might go about evaluating all of the possibilities? There are many potential VP candidates and many... Continue Reading
I brainstorm quite frequently in my job—whether I’m trying to come up with topics that are “blog worthy” or if I’m thinking of a creative way to write content promoting a new feature of Minitab. Sometimes I brainstorm alone, and sometimes I brainstorm with others during a meeting. Sometimes I brainstorm in a structured way by sharing ideas with colleagues in a circle, and sometimes I just throw... Continue Reading
Have you ever seen the TV show Hoarders? The show documents the lives of people who have a hard time letting go of their belongings, which often results in a clutter-ridden, unorganized, and barely-livable home.Sometimes I feel like my Minitab worksheets resemble the homes seen on Hoarders, and messy worksheets certainly don’t lend themselves to Lean, efficient data analysis. I have nightmares... Continue Reading
Balancing Cost, Quality and Delivery Let's talk about risk-based testing. I should start by saying that this is a sensitive subject. It’s why a career in quality is not for the faint of heart. The fact is that cost, quality and delivery are at constant odds in every industry, including software. Quality professionals play a key role in this balancing act. And, whenever things become "unbalanced,"... Continue Reading
Choosing an appropriate Six Sigma project is challenging, and one of the biggest areas of risk involves the size and focus of the project. A simple form referred to as a SIPOC can be a big help when it comes to selecting a project that has a high likelihood of success. I explained in some detail what a SIPOC is in an earlier post, but here's the bottom-line version. The SIPOC acronym stands for Supp... Continue Reading
Working as a technical support specialist at Minitab Ltd, I regularly come across customers who experience unusual-looking normal probability plots. I have to say, my initial reaction when I was first presented with these unfriendly creatures was:  “Uh oh, the pattern does look very strange, what do I say now? “ Luckily for me, a colleague had seen many of these in his long and illustrious career.... Continue Reading
I should begin this blog by saying that I originally thought that a kanban was a just a new type of move used while dancing the Can-Can, but I already used that joke for the poka yoke blog. Instead, I’ll spare you and jump right into things! So, what is a kanban? A kanban is a quality improvement method that can help regulate the production flow in the value stream. I like to think of it as a... Continue Reading
Every so often I think of a quality improvement technique that might help me when I’m home cleaning and organizing, or doing some of my other wifely duties. The kitchen is truly a woman’s version of the “man cave,” and I like to keep my kitchen work space organized for efficiency.A 5S audit is a quality improvement technique developed to standardize a workplace for effectiveness by tracking the... Continue Reading
The other day I needed to do some probability calculations without the usual technology on hand -- no computer, smart phone, or calculator. It was a great reminder of just how much I appreciate tools that make the work of analyzing data easier and faster. Anyone who's taken a statistics class that required you to do all calculations by hand recognizes the truth of a statement that someone posted... Continue Reading
I’m lucky to be in a marriage where arguing is an unlikely occurrence, but I've found that common Lean Six Sigma tactics, such as 5-Why Analysis and Fishbone diagrams, can come in handy when I’m trying to solve minor disagreements with my husband.A 5-Why Analysis was developed by Toyota to solve defects in their vehicle process lines. The technique can help you diagnose the root cause of really... Continue Reading