Quality Improvement

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

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


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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
In Parts 1 and 2 of Gauging Gage we looked at the numbers of parts, operators, and replicates used in a Gage R&R Study and how accurately we could estimate %Contribution based on the choice for each.  In doing so, I hoped to provide you with valuable and interesting information, but mostly I hoped to make you like me.  I mean like me so much that if I told you that you were doing... 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
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
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
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: Process Design, Process Qualification, and Continued Process Verification. In this post, we we will focus on that third stage. Stage 3: Continued Process Verification Per the FDA guidelines, the goal of... Continue Reading
To make objective decisions about the processes that are critical to your organization, you often need to examine categorical data. You may know how to use a t-test or ANOVA when you’re comparing measurement data (like weight, length, revenue, and so on), but do you know how to compare attribute or counts data? It easy to do with statistical software like Minitab.  One person may look at this bar... 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