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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.

Each year Santa’s Elves have to take all the information provided by family, friends and teachers to determine if all the children of the world have been “Naughty” or “Nice.” This is no small task, as according to the website www.santafaqs.com Santa delivers over 5 billion presents per year. Not only is it a large task in terms of size, but it is critical that the Elves have a consistent approach to... Continue Reading
Many of us have data stored in a database or file that we need to analyze on a regular basis. If you're in that situation and you're using Minitab Statistical Software, here's how you can save some time and effort by automating the process. When you're finished, instead of using File > Query Database (ODBC) each time you want to perform analysis on the most up-to-date set of data, you can add a... Continue Reading

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Having delivered training courses on capability analyses with Minitab, several times, I have noticed that one question you can be absolutely sure will be asked, during the course, is: What is the difference between the Cpk and the Ppk indices? Ppk vs. Cpk indices The terms Cpk and Ppk are often confused, so that when quality or process engineers refer to the Cpk index, they often actually intend to... Continue Reading
Control charts are a fantastic tool. These charts plot your process data to identify common cause and special cause variation. By identifying the different causes of variation, you can take action on your process without over-controlling it. Assessing the stability of a process can help you determine whether there is a problem and identify the source of the problem. Is the mean too high, too low,... Continue Reading
Don't be a grumpy cat when something on your capability report doesn't smell right. After pressing that OK button to run your analysis, allow your inner cat to understand how and why certain statistics are being used. To help you along, here are some capability issues that customers have brought up recently. Cp is missing You’ve generated a capability analysis report with the Johnson transformation... Continue Reading
By Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger A problem must be understood before it can be properly addressed. A thorough understanding of the problem is critical when performing a root cause analysis (RCA) and an RCA is necessary if an organization wants to implement corrective actions that truly address the root cause of the problem. An RCA may also be necessary for process improvement projects; it is... Continue Reading
Did you know that November is World Quality Month? The American Society for Quality is once again heading up this year’s festivities. Throughout the month of November, ASQ will be promoting the use of quality tools in businesses, communities, and institutions all over the world. You can check it out at http://asq.org/world-quality-month/. Here at Minitab, we’re also pretty excited about World... Continue Reading
In Part 5 of our series, we began the analysis of the experiment data by reviewing analysis of covariance and blocking variables, two key concepts in the design and interpretation of your results. The 250-yard marker at the Tussey Mountain Driving Range, one of the locations where we conducted our golf experiment. Some of the golfers drove their balls well beyond this 250-yard maker during a few of... Continue Reading
By Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger Teaching process performance and capability studies is easier when actual process data is available for the student or trainee to practice with. As I have previously discussed at the Minitab Blog, a catapult can be used to generate data for a capability study. My last blog on using a catapult for this purspose was several years ago, so I would like to revisit... Continue Reading
People who are ill frequently need medication. But if they miss a dose, or receive the wrong medication—or even get the wrong dose of the right medication—the results can be disastrous.  So medical professionals have a lot at stake in making sure patients get the right medicine, in the right amount, at the right time. But hospitals and other medical facilities are complex systems, and mistakes do... Continue Reading
Step 3 in our DOE problem solving methodology is to determine how many times to replicate the base experiment plan. The discussion in Part 3 ended with the conclusion that our 4 factors could best be studied using all 16 combinations of the high and low settings for each factor, a full factorial. Each golfer will perform half of the sixteen possible combinations and each golfer’s data could stand as... Continue Reading
I read trade publications that cover everything from banking to biotech, looking for interesting perspectives on data analysis and statistics, especially where it pertains to quality improvement. Recently I read a great blog post from Tony Taylor, an analytical chemist with a background in pharmaceuticals. In it, he discusses the implications of the FDA's updated guidance for industry analytical... Continue Reading
Step 1 in our DOE problem-solving methodology is to use process experts, literature, or past experiments to characterize the process and define the problem. Since I had little experience with golf myself, this was an important step for me. This is not an uncommon situation. Experiment designers often find themselves working on processes that they have little or no experience with. For example, a... Continue Reading
As we broke for lunch, two participants in the training class began to discuss, debate, and finally fight over a fundamental task in golf—how to drive the ball the farthest off the tee. Both were avid golfers and had spent a great deal of time and money on professional instruction and equipment, so the argument continued through the lunch hour, with neither arguer stopping to eat. Several other... Continue Reading
Whatever industry you're in, you're going to need to buy supplies. If you're a printer, you'll need to purchase inks, various types of printing equipment, and paper. If you're in manufacturing, you'll need to obtain parts that you don't make yourself.  But how do you know you're making the right choice when you have multiple suppliers vying to fulfill your orders?  How can you be sure you're... 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
The difference between defects and defectives lets you answer questions like whether to use a P chart or a U chart in Minitab, so it’s a handy difference to be able to explain. Of course, if you’ve explained it enough times—or if someone’s explained it to you enough times—the whole thing can get a little tired. Fortunately, a new explanation of defects and defectives is one more way we... Continue Reading
Kappa statistics are commonly used to indicate the degree of agreement of nominal assessments made by multiple appraisers. They are typically used for visual inspection to identify defects. Another example might be inspectors rating defects on TV sets: Do they consistently agree on their classifications of scratches, low picture quality, poor sound?  Another application could be patients examined... Continue Reading
Before I joined Minitab, I worked for many years in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences as a writer and editor. I frequently wrote about food science and particularly food safety, as I regularly needed to report on the research being conducted by Penn State's food safety experts, and also edited course materials and bulletins for professionals and consumers about ensuring they had safe... Continue Reading
When data are collected in subgroups, it’s easy to understand how the variation can be calculated within each of the subgroups based the subgroup range or the subgroup standard deviation. When data is not collected in subgroups (so the subgroup size is 1), it may be a little less intuitive to understand how within-subgroup standard deviation is calculated.  How does Minitab Statistical Softwarecalcu... Continue Reading