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Project Tools

Blog posts and articles about tools and techniques that help keep Lean and Six Sigma projects on track.

Today, September 16, is World Ozone Day. You don't hear much about the ozone layer any more. In fact, if you’re under 30, you might think this is just another trivial, obscure observance, along the lines of International Dot Day (yesterday) or National Apple Dumpling Day (tomorrow). But there’s a good reason that, almost 30 years ago, the United Nations designated today to as a day to raise... Continue Reading
I confess: I'm not a natural-born decision-maker. Some people—my wife, for example—can assess even very complex situations, consider the options, and confidently choose a way forward. Me? I get anxious about deciding what to eat for lunch. So you can imagine what it used to be like when I needed to confront a really big decision or problem. My approach, to paraphrase the Byrds, was "Re:... Continue Reading

7 Deadly Statistical Sins Even the Experts Make

Do you know how to avoid them?

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To assess if a process is stable and in statistical control, you can use a control chart. It lets you answer the question "is the process that you see today going to be similar to the process that you see tomorrow?" To assess and quantify how well your process falls within specification limits, you can use capability analysis. Both of these tools are easy to use in Minitab, but you first need to... Continue Reading
If you’re in the market for statistical software, there are many considerations and more than a few options for you to evaluate. Check out these seven questions to ask yourself before choosing statistical software—your answers should help guide you towards the best solution for your needs! 1. Who uses statistical software in your organization? Are they expert statisticians, novices, or a mix of both?... Continue Reading
I thought 3 posts would capture all the thoughts I had about B10 Life. That is, until this question appeared on the Minitab LinkedIn group: In case you missed it, my first post, How to Calculate B10 Life with Statistical Software, explains what B10 life is and how Minitab calculates this value. My second post, How to Calculate BX Life, Part 2, shows how to compute any BX life in Minitab. But... Continue Reading
Have you ever accidentally done statistics? Not all of us can (or would want to) be “stat nerds,” but the word “statistics” shouldn’t be scary. In fact, we all analyze things that happen to us every day. Sometimes we don’t realize that we are compiling data and analyzing it, but that’s exactly what we are doing. Yes, there are advanced statistical concepts that can be difficult to understand—but... Continue Reading
I blogged a few months back about three different Minitab tools you can use to examine your data over time. Did you know you that you can also use a simple run chart to display how your process data changes over time? Of course those “changes” could be evidence of special-cause variation, which a run chart can help you see. What’s special-cause variation, and how’s it different from common-cause... Continue Reading
Statistics is all about modelling. But that doesn’t mean strutting down the catwalk with a pouty expression.  It means we’re often looking for a mathematical form that best describes relationships between variables in a population, which we can then use to estimate or predict data values, based on known probability distributions. To aid in the search and selection of a “top model,” we often utilize... Continue Reading
Here is a scenario involving process capability that we’ve seen from time to time in Minitab's technical support department. I’m sharing the details in this post so that you’ll know where to look if you encounter a similar situation. You need to run a capability analysis. You generate the output using Minitab Statistical Software. When you look at the results, the Cpk is huge and the histogram in... Continue Reading
Design of Experiments (DOE) is the perfect tool to efficiently determine if key inputs are related to key outputs. Behind the scenes, DOE is simply a regression analysis. What’s not simple, however, is all of the choices you have to make when planning your experiment. What X’s should you test? What ranges should you select for your X’s? How many replicates should you use? Do you need center... Continue Reading
Design of Experiments is an extremely powerful statistical method, and we added a DOE tool to the Assistant in Minitab 17  to make it more accessible to more people. Since it's summer grilling season, I'm applying the Assistant's DOE tool to outdoor cooking. Earlier, I showed you how to set up a designed experiment that will let you optimize how you grill steaks.  If you're not already using it and... Continue Reading
Design of Experiments (DOE) has a reputation for difficulty, and to an extent, this statistical method deserves that reputation. While it's easy to grasp the basic idea—acquire the maximum amount of information from the fewest number of experimental runs—practical application of this tool can quickly become very confusing.  Even if you're a long-time user of designed experiments, it's still easy to... Continue Reading
Earlier this month, PLOS.org published an article titled "Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical Practice." The 10 rules are good reading for anyone who draws conclusions and makes decisions based on data, whether you're trying to extend the boundaries of scientific knowledge or make good decisions for your business.  Carnegie Mellon University's Robert E. Kass and several co-authors devised... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger Control charts plot your process data to identify and distinguish between common cause and special cause variation. This is important, because identifying the different causes of variation lets you take action to make improvements in your process without over-controlling it. When you create a control chart, the software you're using should make it easy to see where... Continue Reading
You often hear the data being blamed when an analysis is not delivering the answers you wanted or expected. I was recently reminded that the data chosen or collected for a specific analysis is determined by the analyst, so there is no such thing as bad data—only bad analysis.  This made me think about the steps an analyst can take to minimise the risk of producing analysis that fails to answer... Continue Reading
Businesses are getting more and more data from existing and potential customers: whenever we click on a web site, for example, it can be recorded in the vendor's database. And whenever we use electronic ID cards to access public transportation or other services, our movements across the city may be analyzed. In the very near future, connected objects such as cars and electrical appliances will... Continue Reading
Remember the classic science fiction film The Matrix? The dark sunglasses, the leather, computer monitors constantly raining streams of integers (inexplicably in base 10 rather than binary or hexadecimal)? And that mind-blowing plot twist when Neo takes the red pill from Morpheus' outstretched hand? Well to me, there's one thing even more mind-blowing than the plot of the Matrix: the Matrix Plot.... Continue Reading
What does the eyesight of a homeless person have in common with complications from dental anesthesia?  Or with reducing side-effects from cancer? Or monitoring artificial hip implants? These are all subjects of recently published studies that use statistical analyses in Minitab to improve healthcare outcomes. And they're a good reminder  that when we improve the quality of healthcare for others, we... Continue Reading
Suppose you’ve collected data on cycle time, revenue, the dimension of a manufactured part, or some other metric that’s important to you, and you want to see what other variables may be related to it. Now what? When I graduated from college with my first statistics degree, my diploma was bona fide proof that I'd endured hours and hours of classroom lectures on various statistical topics, including l... Continue Reading
Over the past year I've been able to work with and learn from practitioners and experts who are using data analysis and Six Sigma to improve the quality of healthcare, both in terms of operational efficiency and better patient outcomes. I've been struck by how frequently a very basic analysis can lead to remarkable improvements, but some insights cannot be attained without conducting more... Continue Reading