Blog posts and articles about statistical principles and their application in quality improvement methods such as Lean and Six Sigma.

Suppose that you plan to source a substantial amount of parts or subcomponents from a new supplier. To ensure that their quality level is acceptable to you, you might want to assess the capability levels (Ppk and Cpk indices) of their manufacturing processes and check whether their critical process parameters are fully under control (using control charts). If you are not sure about the efficiency... Continue Reading
Easy access to the right tools makes any task easier. That simple idea has made the Swiss Army knife essential for adventurers: just one item in your pocket gives you instant access to dozens of tools when you need them.   If your current adventures include analyzing data, the multifaceted Editor menu in Minitab Statistical Software is just as essential. Minitab’s Dynamic Editor Menu Whether you’re... Continue Reading

7 Deadly Statistical Sins Even the Experts Make

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It's a very exciting time at Minitab's offices around the world because we've just announced the availability of Minitab® 18 Statistical Software. Data is everywhere today, but to use it to make sound, strategic business decisions, you need to have tools that turn that data into knowledge and insights. We've designed Minitab 18 to do exactly that.  We've incorporated a lot of new features, made some... Continue Reading
Before cutting an expensive piece of granite for a countertop, a good carpenter will first confirm he has measured correctly. Acting on faulty measurements could be costly. While no measurement system is perfect, we rely on such systems to quantify data that help us control quality and monitor changes in critical processes. So, how do you know whether the changes you see are valid and not just the... Continue Reading
The 1949 film A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court includes the song “Busy Doing Nothing,” and this could be written about the Null Hypothesis as it is used in statistical analyses.  The words to the song go: We're busy doin' nothin'Workin' the whole day through Tryin' to find lots of things not to do And that summarises the role of the Null Hypothesis perfectly. Let me explain why. What's... 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
Users often contact Minitab technical support to ask how the software calculates the control limits on control charts. A frequently asked question is how the control limits are calculated on an I-MR Chart or Individuals Chart. If Minitab plots the upper and lower control limits (UCL and LCL) three standard deviations above and below the mean, why are the limits plotted at values other than 3 times... Continue Reading
One highlight of writing for and editing the Minitab Blog is the opportunity to read your responses and answer your questions. Sometimes, to my chagrin, you point out that we've made a mistake. However, I'm particularly grateful for those comments, because it permits us to correct inadvertent errors.  I feared I had an opportunity to fix just such an error when I saw this comment appear on one of... Continue Reading
As someone who has collected and analyzed real data for a living, the idea of using simulated data for a Monte Carlo simulation sounds a bit odd. How can you improve a real product with simulated data? In this post, I’ll help you understand the methods behind Monte Carlo simulation and walk you through a simulation example using Companion by Minitab. Companion by Minitab is a software platform that... Continue Reading
Choosing the right type of subgroup in a control chart is crucial. In a rational subgroup, the variability within a subgroup should encompass common causes, random, short-term variability and represent “normal,” “typical,” natural process variations, whereas differences between subgroups are useful to detect drifts in variability over time (due to “special” or “assignable” causes). Variation within... Continue Reading
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... Continue Reading
Earlier, I wrote about the different types of data statisticians typically encounter. In this post, we're going to look at why, when given a choice in the matter, we prefer to analyze continuous data rather than categorical/attribute or discrete data.  As a reminder, when we assign something to a group or give it a name, we have created attribute or categorical data.  If we count something, like... Continue Reading
You run a capability analysis and your Cpk is bad. Now what? First, let’s start by defining what “bad” is. In simple terms, the smaller the Cpk, the more defects you have. So the larger your Cpk is, the better. Many practitioners use a Cpk of 1.33 as the gold standard, so we’ll treat that as the gold standard here, too. Suppose we collect some data and run a capability analysis using Minitab Statisti... Continue Reading
In Part 1 of Gauging Gage, I looked at how adequate a sampling of 10 parts is for a Gage R&R Study and providing some advice based on the results. Now I want to turn my attention to the other two factors in the standard Gage experiment: 3 operators and 2 replicates.  Specifically, what if instead of increasing the number of parts in the experiment (my previous post demonstrated you would need... Continue Reading
by Kevin Clay, guest blogger In transactional or service processes, we often deal with lead-time data, and usually that data does not follow the normal distribution. Consider a Lean Six Sigma project to reduce the lead time required to install an information technology solution at a customer site. It should take no more than 30 days—working 10 hours per day Monday–Friday—to complete, test and... Continue Reading
"You take 10 parts and have 3 operators measure each 2 times." This standard approach to a Gage R&R experiment is so common, so accepted, so ubiquitous that few people ever question whether it is effective.  Obviously one could look at whether 3 is an adequate number of operators or 2 an adequate number of replicates, but in this first of a series of posts about "Gauging Gage," I want to look at... Continue Reading
Everyone who analyzes data regularly has the experience of getting a worksheet that just isn't ready to use. Previously I wrote about tools you can use to clean up and eliminate clutter in your data and reorganize your data.  In this post, I'm going to highlight tools that help you get the most out of messy data by altering its characteristics. Know Your Options Many problems with data don't become... Continue Reading
You've collected a bunch of data. It wasn't easy, but you did it. Yep, there it is, right there...just look at all those numbers, right there in neat columns and rows. Congratulations. I hate to ask...but what are you going to do with your data? If you're not sure precisely what to do with the data you've got, graphing it is a great way to get some valuable insight and direction. And a good graph to... Continue Reading
In my last post, I wrote about making a cluttered data set easier to work with by removing unneeded columns entirely, and by displaying just those columns you want to work with now. But too much unneeded data isn't always the problem. What can you do when someone gives you data that isn't organized the way you need it to be?   That happens for a variety of reasons, but most often it's because the... Continue Reading
Isn't it great when you get a set of data and it's perfectly organized and ready for you to analyze? I love it when the people who collect the data take special care to make sure to format it consistently, arrange it correctly, and eliminate the junk, clutter, and useless information I don't need.   You've never received a data set in such perfect condition, you say? Yeah, me neither. But I can... Continue Reading