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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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Variation Amplification: Even a 3-Year-Old Understands It...Do You?

This weekend my 3-year-old son and I were playing with his marble run set, and he said to me, "The marbles start together, but they don't finish together!"

It dawned on me that the phenomenon he was observing seems so obvious in the context of a marble run, and yet many practitioners fail to see the same thing happening in their processes.  I quickly made a video of me placing six marbles in simultaneously so I could illustrate to others what I will call "variation amplification:"

It is obvious in the video that there is little variation in the positions of the marbles in the beginning, but as...

Using Minitab Statistical Software to Analyze the Woeful Bengals

by Jeff Parks, guest blogger

Being a Cincinnati Bengals fan is tough. It's true that Bengals fans don't have it as bad as, say, long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans...nevertheless, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since January 1991. That's currently the longest streak in the NFL. In the 1990s they were voted the worst sports franchise by ESPN. Not the worst football team, mind you, but the worst franchise in all of sports.

Not the L.A. Clippers. Not the Cleveland Browns. Not the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Cincinnati Bengals.

Why? Why must it be so? What separates the Bengals from the good teams in...

How Many Licks to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop? Part 2

by Cory Heid, guest blogger

A few months ago I posted a blog about Tootsie Pops and how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center. If you haven’t read the post, here's a quick summary.

Recap of Initial Study

I broke down my experiment into four parts where I would test:

  • the force of a lick
  • temperature of a person's mouth
  • pH level of a person's saliva
  • the solubility of a person's saliva

After some tests and analysis of the data I collected, I was able to conclude that none of the factors I tested were statistically different or important enough to affect the number of licks required to...

Doing Gage R&R at the Microscopic Level

by Dan Wolfe, guest blogger

How would you measure a hole that was allowed to vary one tenth the size of a human hair? What if the warmth from holding the part in your hand could take the measurement from good to bad? These are the types of problems that must be dealt with when measuring at the micron level.

As a Six Sigma professional, that was the challenge I was given when Tenneco entered into high-precision manufacturing. In Six Sigma projects “gage studies” and “Measurement System Analysis (MSA)” are used to make sure measurements are reliable and repeatable. It’s tough to imagine doing that...

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...

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...

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...

6 Simple Everyday Efficiency Tips You Can Learn From Six Sigma

by Alex Orlov, guest blogger

While it has been called the "million-dollar methodology" for the significant investment sometimes required to deliver results, Six Sigma has a wealth of practices that can be adapted to small and medium industries, home businesses and even personal finances. 

Organizations have used Six Sigma as a reliable part of the quality improvement process since 1986. And while a large Six Sigma project could cost anything from $1,000 to $1 million in work-hours and other resources, the results of such projects often far outweigh the investment. In addition to the direct...