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Quality Improvement

Blog posts and articles about using statistics and data analysis to improve quality through methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma.

Suppose that you plan to source a substantial amount of parts or subcomponents from a new supplier. To ensure that their quality level is acceptable to you, you might want to assess the capability levels (Ppk and Cpk indices) of their manufacturing processes and check whether their critical process parameters are fully under control (using control charts). If you are not sure about the efficiency... Continue Reading
For a process improvement practitioner, finishing the Control Phase of the DMAIC process is your ticket to move on to your next project. You’ve done an excellent job leading the project team because they identified root causes, developed and implemented solutions to resolve those root causes, put a control plan in place and transitioned the process back to the Process Owner. Soon, however, you... Continue Reading

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Last week I was fielding questions on social media about Minitab 18, the latest version of our statistical software. Almost as soon as the new release was announced, we received a question that comes up often from people in pharmaceutical and medical device companies: "Is Minitab 18 FDA-validated?" How Software Gets Validated That's a great question. To satisfy U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)... Continue Reading
Companion by Minitab® is our software for executing and reporting on quality improvement projects. It consists of a desktop app, which practitioners use to do project work, and a web app, which includes a customizable dashboard that offers stakeholders up-to-the-minute graphical summaries and reports. Since the desktop app automatically updates the dashboard as teams do their work, teams are freed... Continue Reading
Companion by Minitab® is our software for executing and reporting on quality improvement projects. It has two components, a desktop app and a web app. As practitioners use the Companion desktop app to do project work, their project information automatically rolls up to Companion’s web app dashboard, where stakeholders can see graphical summaries and reports. Since the dashboard updates... Continue Reading
by Dan Wolfe, guest blogger How would you measure a hole that was allowed to vary one tenth the size of a human hair? What if the warmth from holding the part in your hand could take the measurement from good to bad? These are the types of problems that must be dealt with when measuring at the micron level. As a Six Sigma professional, that was the challenge I was given when Tenneco entered into... Continue Reading
Control charts are excellent tools for looking at data points that seem unusual and for deciding whether they're worthy of investigation. If you use control charts frequently, then you're used to the idea that if certain subgroups reflect temporary abnormalities, you can leave them out when you calculate your center line and control limits. If you include points that you already know are... Continue Reading
Before cutting an expensive piece of granite for a countertop, a good carpenter will first confirm he has measured correctly. Acting on faulty measurements could be costly. While no measurement system is perfect, we rely on such systems to quantify data that help us control quality and monitor changes in critical processes. So, how do you know whether the changes you see are valid and not just the... Continue Reading
Rare events inherently occur in all kinds of processes. In hospitals, there are medication errors, infections, patient falls, ventilator-associated pneumonias, and other rare, adverse events that cause prolonged hospital stays and increase healthcare costs.  But rare events happen in many other contexts, too. Software developers may need to track errors in lines of programming code, or a quality... Continue Reading
Users often contact Minitab technical support to ask how the software calculates the control limits on control charts. A frequently asked question is how the control limits are calculated on an I-MR Chart or Individuals Chart. If Minitab plots the upper and lower control limits (UCL and LCL) three standard deviations above and below the mean, why are the limits plotted at values other than 3 times... Continue Reading
In Part 1 of my A New Spin on the "Stand in a Circle" Exercise blog, I described how Taiichi Ohno, the creator of the Toyota Production System, used the “Stand in a Circle” exercise to help managers identify waste in their operations.  During this exercise Ohno would take a manager or student to the shop floor, draw a chalk circle on the floor, then have them stand inside the circle and observe an... Continue Reading
As a member of Minitab's Technical Support team, I get the opportunity to work with many people creating control charts. They know the importance of monitoring their processes with control charts, but many don’t realize that they themselves could play a vital role in improving the effectiveness of the control charts.   In this post I will show you how to take control of your charts by using Minitab... Continue Reading
In the mid 1940s, Taiichi Ohno established the Toyota Production System, which is primarily based on eliminating non-value-added waste. He discovered that by reducing waste and inventory levels, problems get exposed and that forces employees to address these problems. To engage the workers and therefore improve processes, Ohno developed many exercises. One of his most popular exercises, “Stand in a... Continue Reading
One of the most memorable presentations at the inaugural Minitab Insights conference reminded me that data analysis and quality improvement methods aren't only useful in our work and businesses: they can make our home life better, too.  The presenter, a continuous improvement training program manager at an aviation company in the midwestern United States, told attendees how he used Minitab... 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
In ancient times dragons were believed to be set by the gods to guard golden treasures. This is because dragons were the most fearsome creatures and would deter would-be thieves. Dragons typically lived in an underground lair or castle and would sleep on top of their gold and treasures.  They were terrifying and often depicted as large fire-breathing, scaly creatures with wings and a huge deadly... Continue Reading
As someone who has collected and analyzed real data for a living, the idea of using simulated data for a Monte Carlo simulation sounds a bit odd. How can you improve a real product with simulated data? In this post, I’ll help you understand the methods behind Monte Carlo simulation and walk you through a simulation example using Companion by Minitab. Companion by Minitab is a software platform that... Continue Reading
Choosing the right type of subgroup in a control chart is crucial. In a rational subgroup, the variability within a subgroup should encompass common causes, random, short-term variability and represent “normal,” “typical,” natural process variations, whereas differences between subgroups are useful to detect drifts in variability over time (due to “special” or “assignable” causes). Variation within... Continue Reading
Do your executives see how your quality initiatives affect the bottom line? Perhaps they would more often if they had accessible insights on the performance, and ultimately the overall impact, of improvement projects.  For example, 60% of the organizations surveyed by the American Society for Quality in their 2016 Global State of Quality study say they don’t know or don’t measure the financial... Continue Reading
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