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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.

In my last post on DMAIC tools for the Define phase, we reviewed various graphs and stats typically used to define project goals and customer deliverables. Let’s now move along to the tools you can use in Minitab Statistical Software to conduct the Measure phase. Measure Phase Methodology The goal of this phase is to measure the process to determine its current performance and quantify the problem.... Continue Reading
People frequently have different opinions. Usually that's fine—if everybody thought the same way, life would be pretty boring—but many business decisions are based on opinion. And when different people in an organization reach different conclusions about the same business situation, problems follow.  Inconsistency and poor quality result when people being asked to make yes / no, pass / fail, and... Continue Reading

7 Deadly Statistical Sins Even the Experts Make

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Ahoy, matey! Ye’ve come to the right place to learn about Value Stream Maps (VSM).  Just as a treasure map can lead a band o’ pirates to buried treasures, so too can the VSM lead a process improvement bilge rat to the loot buried deep inside a process! Minitab’s Quality Companion has an easy-to-use VSM tool to guide yer way. Use a value stream map to illustrate the flow of materials... Continue Reading
The line plot is an incredibly agile but frequently overlooked tool in the quest to better understand your processes. In any process, whether it's baking a cake or processing loan forms, many factors have the potential to affect the outcome. Changing the source of raw materials could affect the strength of plywood a factory produces. Similarly, one method of gluing this plywood might be better... Continue Reading
If you’re familiar with Lean Six Sigma, then you’re familiar with DMAIC. DMAIC is the acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. This proven problem-solving strategy provides a structured 5-phase framework to follow when working on an improvement project. This is the first post in a five-part series that focuses on the tools available in Minitab Statistical Software that are most... Continue Reading
A member of Minitab's LinkedIn group asked how to create a chart to monitor change by month, specifically comparing last year's data to this year's data. My last post showed how to do this using an Individuals Chart of the differences between this year's and last year's data.  Here's another approach suggested by a participant in the group.  Applying Statistical Thinking An individuals chart of the... Continue Reading
Reliability analysis is the perfect tool for calculating the proportion of items that you can expect to survive for a specified period of time under identical operating conditions. Light bulbs—or lamps—are a classic example. Want to calculate the number of light bulbs expected to fail within 1000 hours? Reliability analysis can help you answer this type of question. But to conduct the analysis... Continue Reading
In Parts 1 and 2 of this blog series, I wrote about how statistical inference uses data from a sample of individuals to reach conclusions about the whole population. That’s a very powerful tool, but you must check your assumptions when you make statistical inferences. Violating any of these assumptions can result in false positives or false negatives, thus invalidating your results.  The common... Continue Reading
Pareto charts are a special type of bar chart you can use to prioritize almost anything. This makes them very useful in making sound decisions. For example, if you have several possible quality improvement projects, but not enough time or people to do them all now, you can use a Pareto chart to identify which projects have the most potential for making meaningful improvement. Pareto charts look... Continue Reading
At the inaugural Minitab Insights Conference in September, presenters Benjamin Turcan and Jennifer Berner discussed how to present data effectively. Among the considerations they discussed was choosing the right graph. Different graphs are good for different things. Of course, opinions about which graph is best can, and do, differ. Dotplot devotees might decide that they are demonstrably... Continue Reading
If your work involves quality improvement, you've at least heard of Design of Experiments (DOE). You probably know it's the most efficient way to optimize and improve your process. But many of us find DOE intimidating, especially if it's not a tool we use often. How do you select an appropriate design, and ensure you've got the right number of factors and levels? And after you've gathered your... Continue Reading
No matter how experienced you are at analyzing data, communicating about your results can be a tremendous challenge. So it's not surprising that "Effectively Reporting Your Data Analysis" was one of the best-attended sessions at the inaugural Minitab Insights Conference last month.  The presenters, Benjamin Turcan and Jennifer Berner of First Niagara Bank, have a great deal of experience improving... Continue Reading
Every day, thousands of people withdraw extra cash for daily expenses. Each transaction may be small, but the total amount of cash dispersed over hundreds or thousands of daily transactions can be very high. But every bank branch has a fixed cash flow, which must be set without knowing what each customer will need on a given day. This creates a challenge for financial entities. Customers expect... Continue Reading
A reader asked a great question in response to a post I wrote about Pareto charts. Our readers typically do ask great questions, but this one turned out to be more difficult to answer than it first seemed. My correspondent wrote:  My understanding is that when you have count data, a bar chart is the way to go. The gaps between the bars emphasize that the data are not measured on a continuous scale.... Continue Reading
On the Minitab Blog, we’ve often discussed getting data into Minitab from Excel. Here's a small sampling, in case you currently have data in Excel: Minitab and Excel: Making the (Data) Connection Linking Minitab to Excel to Get Answers Fast 3 Tips for Importing Excel Data into Minitab But if your data is not in Excel to begin with, taking it into Excel to prepare it for entry into Minitab isn’t... Continue Reading
The ultimate goal of most quality improvement projects is clear: reducing the number of defects, improving a response, or making a change that benefits your customers. We often want to jump right in and start gathering and analyzing data so we can solve the problems. Checking your measurement systems first, with methods like attribute agreement analysis or Gage R&R, may seem like a needless waste... Continue Reading
We hosted our first-ever Minitab Insights conference in September, and if you were among the attendees, you already know the caliber of the speakers and the value of the information they shared. Experts from a wide range of industries offered a lot of great lessons about how they use data analysis to improve business practices and solve a variety of problems. I blogged earlier about five key... Continue Reading
If you were among the 300 people who attended the first-ever Minitab Insights conference in September, you already know how powerful it was. Attendees learned how practitioners from a wide range of industries use data analysis to address a variety of problems, find solutions, and improve business practices. In the coming weeks and months, we will share more of the great insights and guidance shared... Continue Reading
We’ve got a plethora of case studies showing how businesses from different industries solve problems and implement solutions with data analysis. Take a look for ideas about how you can use data analysis to ensure excellence at your business! Boston Scientific, one of the world’s leading developers of medical devices, is just one organization who has shared their story. A team at their Heredia,... 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