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So Many Statistics, So Little Time

Statistics are everywhere! They are in our everyday jobs, in the news, and are working behind-the-scenes to ensure companies are running smoothly and their processes have been implemented for efficiency. I’m intrigued by all the ways statistics influence and touch our lives.

My name is Carly Barry and my role at Minitab is to collaborate with others to reveal the power of quality improvement and data analysis tools in all sorts of deliverable communications—from customer success stories to help resources.

My goal is to present statistics in a manner that can be easily related to real life. Why?...

ITEA Sneak-Peek: The Great Escape from Foam Defects

The 2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement is coming up in early May in Dallas, and this year’s International Team Excellence Award Process (ITEA) will also come to a close at the conference, as winners from the finalist teams will be chosen for ASQ gold, silver, or bronze-level statuses.

What’s ITEA?

The annual ASQ ITEA process celebrates the accomplishments of quality improvement teams from a broad spectrum of industries from around the world. The ITEA is the only international team recognition process of its kind in the United States, and since 1985, more than 1,000 teams from...

Using Statistics to Show Your Boss Process Improvements

Ughhh... your process is producing some parts that don't meet your customer's specifications! Fortunately, after a little hard work, you find a way to improve the process.

However, you want to perform the appropriate statistical analysis to back up your findings and make it easier to explain the process improvements to your boss. And it's important to remember that your boss is much like the boss in Eston's posts -- he's not too familiar with statistics, so you'll have to take it slow and show lots of "visual aids" in your explanation. How should you begin? 

Enter before-and-after process...

Creating a Shatterproof Process: Students Use Six Sigma to Improve Window Manufacturing

I had the opportunity to speak with a great group of students from the New Jersey Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology—a summer program for high-achieving high school students. Students in the program complete a set of challenging courses while working in small groups on real-world research and design projects that relate to the field of engineering. Governor’s School students are mentored by professional engineers as well as Rutgers University honors students and professors, and they often work with companies and organizations to solve real engineering problems.

The team of students...

Avoiding a Lean Six Sigma Project Failure, part 4

In my first post in this series, I mentioned that we reached out to our customers who are practitioners in the field of quality improvement to better understand how they complete projects, what tools they use, and the challenges and roadblocks they come across in achieving success with quality initiatives. One area quality leaders said they were struggling with was the training aspect of their programs—actually getting their belts and/or project team members up to speed with adequate training to complete projects independently.

Insufficient Training

They told us projects were failing because of...

Celebrating World Quality Month

It’s back! World Quality Month will be celebrated this month, and the American Society for Quality is again heading up this year’s festivities.

Quality is definitely our “thing” here at Minitab, and we’re excited to celebrate World Quality Month with quality professionals worldwide. It’s also a good time to remind our customers that we’re as dedicated as ever to providing the best tools for improving quality.

In honor of World Quality Month, be sure to check out the resources and learning opportunities available on Minitab.com:

Case Studies
We’re very proud to recognize the accomplishments of our...

Itchy, Sneezy, Stuffy: Delivering Relief with Nasal Spray and DOE

Recently, a customer called our Technical Support team about a Design of Experiment he was performing in Minitab Statistical Software. After they helped to answer his question, the researcher pointed our team to an interesting DOE he and his colleagues conducted that involved using nasal casts to predict the drug delivery of nasal spray.

The study has already been published, and you can read more about it here, but I wanted to highlight this use of the DOE tools in Minitab in this blog post.

Using Nasal Casts to Predict Nasal Spray Drug Delivery

The nose is a convenient route of administration...

Avoiding a Lean Six Sigma Project Failure, part 3

In previous posts, I’ve outlined some reasons why a Lean Six Sigma project might have been deemed a failure. We’ve gathered many of these reasons from surveying and talking with our customers.

I’d like to present a few more reasons why projects might fail, and then share some “words of wisdom” from Minitab trainers on how you can avoid these project failures.

Forcing Projects into DMAIC

Certain quality improvement projects were never meant to be Six Sigma projects that fit neatly into the DMAIC (Define – Measure – Analyze – Improve – Control) methodology. Examples include:

1. Selecting a vendor...

Avoiding a Lean Six Sigma Project Failure, part 2

In a previous post, I discussed how to avoid a Lean Six Sigma project failure, specifically if the reason behind the failure is that the project solution never gets implemented.

In this post, let's discuss a few other project roadblocks that our customers cited when we asked them about the challenges they come across in completing projects. I’ll also go into detail about suggestions our industry-seasoned trainers at Minitab offer to avoid these failures.

Is the project scope too large?

One common reason quality improvement projects get started on the wrong foot is that their scope is too large.

In...

Avoiding a Lean Six Sigma Project Failure

Failure. Just saying the word makes me cringe. And if you’re human, you’ve probably had at least a couple failures in both your work and home life (that you've hopefully been able to overcome).

But when it comes to Lean Six Sigma projects, there’s really nothing worse than having your entire project fail. Sometimes these projects can last months, involve a large project team, and cost companies a lot of money to carry out, so it can be very upsetting for all involved to know that the project failed (for whatever reason).

At Minitab, we’re always talking to our customers and practitioners in the...

Analyzing a Process Before and After Improvement: Historical Control Charts with Stages

We tend to think of control charts only for monitoring the stability of processes, but they can be helpful for analyzing a process before and after an improvement as well. Not only do control charts allow you to monitor your process for out-of-control data points, but you’ll be able to see how your process mean and variability change as a result of the improvement.

You might create separate before and after control charts for each phases of the improvement project, but making comparisons between those charts can be difficult. You could also try analyzing all of the data over the course of your...

Spicy Statistics and Attribute Agreement Analysis

My husband, Sean, and I were recently at my parent’s house for a picnic dinner. As a lover of hot sauce (I’m talking extremely hot, hot, hot, HOT sauce!), my stepdad always has a plethora of bottles around to try. While I do enjoy spicy foods from time to time, I’ve learned not to touch his hot sauce selections. His favorites are much too spicy for my taste!

Unfortunately, Sean learned the hard way. He used Habanero hot sauce on his hot sausage sandwich – talk about double the heat! I saw him sinking in his seat, eyes watering … a few hoarse coughs …

Yikes!  Anyway, Sean is alive and well after...

How Lean Six Sigma Students at Rose-Hulman Reduced Food Waste

To promote ethical and moral responsibility in shaping its graduates, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology created a sustainability initiative to reduce its own environmental footprint.

As part of that team's efforts, Six Sigma students at Rose-Hulman conducted a project to reduce food waste at the campus dining center. We got the opportunity to learn more about the project by talking with Dr. Diane Evans, a Six Sigma black belt and associate professor of mathematics at Rose-Hulman who led the students’ efforts, and Neel Iyer, a mechanical engineering student who was also on the project team.

Calc...

Statistical Fun … at the Grocery Store?

Grocery shopping. For some, it's the most dreaded household activity. For others, it's fun, or perhaps just a “necessary evil.”

Personally, I enjoy it! My co-worker, Ginger, a content manager here at Minitab, opened my eyes to something that made me love grocery shopping even more: she shared the data behind her family’s shopping trips. Being something of a data nerd, I really geeked out over the ability to analyze spending habits at the grocery store!

So how did she collect her data? What I find especially interesting is that Ginger didn’t have to save her receipts or manually transfer any...

My Favorite Quality Tool: Process Mapping

We all seem to have our favorite statistical or quality improvement tool. Jim Frost wrote a tribute to regression analysis. Dawn Keller seems to enjoy control charts. Eston Martz discusses reliability analysis and the Weibull distribution pretty regularly. So, I started thinking … what’s my favorite quality tool?

I’ve always been drawn to process mapping, or what's sometimes referred to as ‘flow charting.’ Even before I started my work with Minitab and learning about quality improvement techniques, I’ve considered myself somewhat of a visual learner. I notice myself explaining things to others...

Quality Improvement in Financial Services

Process improvement through methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean has found its way into nearly every industry. While Six Sigma had its beginnings in manufacturing, we’ve seen it and other process improvement techniques work very well in the service industry—from healthcare to more service-oriented business functions, such as human resources.

However, Six Sigma seems to have had a slower rate of adoption in financial services. I recently came across a great article about the challenges faced in the financial industry when it comes to successfully implementing a process improvement...

Seven Basic Quality Tools to Keep in Your Back Pocket

Here are seven quality improvement tools I see in action again and again. Most of these quality tools have been around for a while, but that certainly doesn’t take away any of their worth!

The best part about these tools is that they are very simple to use and work with quickly in Minitab Statistical Software or Quality Companion, but of course you can use other methods, or even pen and paper.

1. Fishbone Diagram

Fishbones, or cause-and-effect diagrams, help you brainstorm potential causes of a problem and see relationships among potential causes. The fishbone below identifies the...

Quality Improvement in Healthcare: Completing Projects with DMAIC

The DMAIC methodology for completing quality improvement projects divides project work into five phases: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. It’s also probably the most well-known and most used project methodology for projects that focus on improving an existing process. (Many other methodologies exist, such as DMADV, which focuses on using quality improvement techniques to create a new product of process design.)

Franciscan Hospital for Children, a hospital in Brighton, Mass., that specializes in the care of children with special health care needs, recently completed a project...

Lean Six Sigma in the Classroom: Preparing Students for Careers in Quality Improvement

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ken Jones, professor of operations and supply chain management at Indiana State University, about a business process improvement course he teaches at the university. The course covers a variety of Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques and gives students the opportunity to team with local businesses to complete real quality improvement projects. Upon successful completion of the class, students even become certified green belts.

One item we talked about was how valuable the experiential component of the projects can be for students, especially...

Lean Six Sigma in Healthcare: Improving Patient Satisfaction

For providers like Riverview Hospital Association, serving Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. and surrounding areas, recent changes in the U.S. healthcare system have placed more emphasis on improving the quality of care and increasing patient satisfaction. “In this era of healthcare reform, it is even more essential for providers to have a systematic method to improve the way care is delivered,” says Christopher Spranger, director of Lean Six Sigma and Quality Improvement at Riverview Hospital Association. “We have had a Lean Six Sigma program in place for four years, and we are continuously working on...

Using Games to Teach Statistics

We usually think of games as a distraction—just something we do for fun. However, growing evidence suggests that games can do much more, especially when it comes to learning in a classroom setting.

Because statistics is a topic that doesn’t come easily to most, using properly designed games to teach statistics can become a valuable tool to spark interest and help explain difficult concepts.

So what kinds of “properly designed” games are we talking about here? Not traditional board games like Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders, but interactive computer games—the types of games younger generations...