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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...

The Best European Football League: What the CTQ’s and Minitab Can Tell Us

by Laerte de Araujo Lima, guest blogger

In a previous post (How Data Analysis Can Help Us Predict This Year's Champions League), I shared how I used Minitab Statistical Software to predict the 2013-2014 season of the UEFA Champions league. This involved the regression analysis of main critical-to-quality (CTQ) factors, which I identified using the “voice of the customer” suggestions of some friends.

Since that post was published, my friends have stopped discussing the UEFA Champions league—they were convinced by the results I shared.

But now they’ve challenged me to use Six Sigma tools to...

Control Chart Tutorials and Examples

The other day I was talking with a friend about control charts, and I wanted to share an example one of my colleagues wrote on the Minitab Blog.  Looking back through the index for "control charts" reminded me just how much material we've published on this topic.

Whether you're just getting started with control charts, or you're an old hand at statistical process control, you'll find some valuable information and food for thought in our control-chart related posts. 

Different Types of Control Charts

One of the first things you learn in statistics is that when it comes to data, there's no...

Got Good Judgment? Prove It with Attribute Agreement Analysis

Many Six Sigma and quality improvement tools could be applied in other areas. For example, I wonder whether my son's teachers could benefit from a little attribute agreement analysis. 

He seemed frustrated the other day when I picked him up at school. He'd been working on a presentation that needed to be approved by his teachers. (My son attends a charter school, and each class is taught by a two-person teaching team.)

"What's wrong?" I asked when he clambered into the car with a big sigh.

My son explained that he'd given the presentation to teacher Jennifer that morning. A few minor suggestions...

Lessons in Quality During a Long and Strange Journey Home

I didn’t expect that our family trip to Florida would end with me driving a plane load of passengers nearly 200 miles to their homes, but it did.

Yes, it was a long and strange journey home. A journey that started in the tropical warmth of southern Florida and ended the next morning in central Pennsylvania, which felt like the arctic wastelands thanks to the dreaded polar vortex.

During this journey, I didn’t just experience temperature extremes, but also extremely different levels in the quality of customer care. Working at Minitab, I'm very aware of the quality of service because quality...

Applying Six Sigma to a Small Operation, Part 2

In my previous post, I shared a case study of how a small bicycle-chain manufacturing company in India used the DMAIC approach to Six Sigma to reverse declining productivity.

After completing the Define, Measure, and Analysis phases, the team had identified the important factors in the bushing creation process. Armed with this knowledge, they were now ready to make some improvements.

The Improve Phase

In the Improve phase, the team applied a statistical method called Design of Experiments (DOE) to optimize the important factors they'd identified in the initial phases.

Most of us learn in school...

Applying Six Sigma to a Small Operation

Using data analysis and statistics to improve business quality has a long history. But it often seems like most of that history involves huge operations. After all, Six Sigma originated with Motorola, and became adopted by thousands of other businesses after it was adopted by a little-known outfit called General Electric.

There are many case studies and examples of how big companies used Six Sigma methods to save millions of dollars, slash expenses, and improve quality...but when they read about the big dogs getting those kind of results, a lot of folks hear a little voice in their heads...

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...

The Value Stream Map: It's Been Around Longer than You Think

In looking for the answer to an unrelated quality improvement question the other day, I ran across a blog post that answers a question I'd had for a while: what's the origin of the value stream map? 

A value stream map (VSM) is a key tool in many quality improvement projects, especially those using Lean. The value stream is the collection of all of the activities, both value-added and non-value added, that generate a product or service that meets customer needs. The VSM shows how both materials andinformation flow as a product or service moves through the process value stream, helping teams...

Double Overtime! Analyzing College Football Overtimes Part II

Last week I took a look at some different aspects of overtime in college football. I found that most games only last one overtime period, home field advantage still exists, and that the team that gets the ball 2nd has an advantage.

Now I want to continue the data analysis and ask some more questions. Specifically, how many points do teams combine for in overtime, and does the team that ties the game in regulation carry that momentum to overtime? You can follow along by getting the data here.

How many points are scored in an overtime period?

The first thing I did was make a bar chart of all the...

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...

Understanding ANOVA by Looking at Your Household Budget

by Arun Kumar, guest blogger

One of the most commonly used statistical methods is ANOVA, short for “Analysis of Variance.” Whether you’re analysing data for Six-Sigma styled quality improvement projects, or perhaps just taking your first statistics course, a good understanding of how this technique works is important.

A lot of concepts are involved in any analysis using ANOVA and its subsequent interpretation. You’re going to have to grapple with terms such as Sources of Variation, Sum of Squares, Mean Squares, Degrees of Freedom, and F-ratio—and you’ll need to understand what statistical...

Making a Difference in How People Use Data

A colleague of mine at Minitab, Cheryl Pammer, was recently featured in "A Statistician's Journey," a monthly feature that appears in the print and online versions of the American Statistical Association's AMSTAT News magazine.  

Each month, the magazine asks ASA members to talk about the paths they took to get to where they are today. Cheryl is a "user experience designer" at Minitab. In other words, she's one of the people who help determine how our statistical softwaredoes what it does, and tries to make it as helpful, useful, and beneficial as possible. Cheryl is always looking for ways to...

Is the "Madden Curse" Real?

If you like football and you like video games, you must certainly be aware of the “Madden Curse.” Each year, EA Sports releases a new version of Madden, a video game based on the National Football League. Each version of Madden features a different NFL player on the cover of the game. And it seems that each year, the player featured on the cover gets hurt or has a terrible season. Thus, the “Madden Curse” was born.

As a statistician, I’m always skeptical of these things. When people make judgments based on their own perception and not on data, it can be easy to think you see trends that aren’t...

How Data Analysis Can Help Us Predict This Year's Champions League

by Laerte de Araujo Lima, guest blogger

A few weeks ago, my football friends and I were talking about the football in the UEFA Champions league (UEFA CL), and what we could expect for the 2013-14 season.

Some of us believe that the quality of the football played in the UEFA CL has improved in the last few years, as evidenced by more goals per match, more teams with strategies based in the attack and, finally, more show games. Others disagree, arguing that the teams were pursued defensive strategies with consequently fewer goals per match, more faults per game, and less effective use of game time...

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...

Kickoffs into the End Zone: To Return, or Not to Return?

In the world of Six Sigma, we’re always looking to improve our process. Whether it’s increasing the strength of building materials or improving the way calls are processed in a call center, it’s always a good idea to use a data-driven analysis to determine the best solution to your process.

The same is true for the NFL. Two years ago, the NFL decided to move kickoffs up from the 30 yard line to the 35. This has resulted in more kicks traveling into the end zone. So NFL coaches have a decision to make on their kick return process:

  • Should I have my player take a knee whenever he catches the ball...

Using Hypothesis Tests to Bust Myths about the Battle of the Sexes

In my home, we’re huge fans of Mythbusters, the show on Discovery Channel. This fun show mixes science and experiments to prove or disprove various myths, urban legends, and popular beliefs. It’s a great show because it brings the scientific method to life. I’ve written about Mythbusters before to show how, without proper statistical analysis, it’s difficult to know when a result is statistically significant. How much data do you need to collect and how large does the difference need to be?

For this blog, let's look at a more recent Mythbusters episode, “Battle of the Sexes – Round Two.” I...

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...