Statistics Help

Blog posts and articles that offer tips about the statistics used in lean and six sigma quality improvement projects.

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
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

7 Deadly Statistical Sins Even the Experts Make

Do you know how to avoid them?

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Control charts are excellent tools for looking at data points that seem unusual and for deciding whether they're worthy of investigation. If you use control charts frequently, then you're used to the idea that if certain subgroups reflect temporary abnormalities, you can leave them out when you calculate your center line and control limits. If you include points that you already know are... 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
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'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 its industry guidance to companies that manufacture drugs and biological products for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends three stages for process validation: Process Design, Process Qualification, and Continued Process Verification. In this post, we we will focus on that third stage. Stage 3: Continued Process Verification Per the FDA guidelines, the goal of... Continue Reading
People can make mistakes when they test a hypothesis with statistical analysis. Specifically, they can make either Type I or Type II errors. As you analyze your own data and test hypotheses, understanding the difference between Type I and Type II errors is extremely important, because there's a risk of making each type of error in every analysis, and the amount of risk is in your control.    So if... Continue Reading
Welcome to the Hypothesis Test Casino! The featured game of the house is roulette. But this is no ordinary game of roulette. This is p-value roulette! Here’s how it works: We have two roulette wheels, the Null wheel and the Alternative wheel. Each wheel has 20 slots (instead of the usual 37 or 38). You get to bet on one slot. What happens if the ball lands in the slot you bet on? Well, that depends... Continue Reading
Right now I’m enjoying my daily dose of morning joe. As the steam rises off the cup, the dark rich liquid triggers a powerful enzyme cascade that jump-starts my brain and central nervous system, delivering potent glints of perspicacity into the dark crevices of my still-dormant consciousness. Feels good, yeah! But is it good for me? Let’s see what the studies say… Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee... Continue Reading
Statistics can be challenging, especially if you're not analyzing data and interpreting the results every day. Statistical software makes things easier by handling the arduous mathematical work involved in statistics. But ultimately, we're responsible for correctly interpreting and communicating what the results of our analyses show. The p-value is probably the most frequently cited statistic. We... Continue Reading
To make objective decisions about the processes that are critical to your organization, you often need to examine categorical data. You may know how to use a t-test or ANOVA when you’re comparing measurement data (like weight, length, revenue, and so on), but do you know how to compare attribute or counts data? It easy to do with statistical software like Minitab.  One person may look at this bar... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger.  The old saying “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it must be a duck” may be appropriate in bird watching; however, the same idea can’t be applied when observing a statistical distribution. The dedicated ornithologist is often armed with binoculars and a field guide to the local birds and this should be sufficient. A... Continue Reading
Have you ever wanted to know the odds of something happening, or not happening?  It's the kind of question that students are frequently asked to calculate by hand in introductory statistics classes, and going through that exercise is a good way to become familiar with the mathematical formulas the underlie probability (and hence, all of statistics).  But let's be honest: when class is over, most... Continue Reading
In its industry guidance to companies that manufacture drugs and biological products for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends three stages for process validation. While my last post covered statistical tools for the Process Design stage, here we will focus on the statistical techniques typically utilized for the second stage, Process Qualification. Stage 2: Process... Continue Reading
T'was the season for toys recently, and Christmas day found me playing around with a classic, the Etch-a-Sketch. As I noodled with the knobs, I had a sudden flash of recognition: my drawing reminded me of the Empirical CDF Plot in Minitab Statistical Software. Did you just ask, "What's a CDF plot? And what's so empirical about it?" Both very good questions. Let's start with the first, and we'll... Continue Reading
The language of statistics is a funny thing, but there usually isn't much to laugh at in the consequences that can follow when misunderstandings occur between statisticians and non-statisticians. We see these consequences frequently in the media, when new studies—that usually contradict previous ones—are breathlessly related, as if their findings were incontrovertible facts. Similar, though less... Continue Reading