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Statistics

Blog posts and articles about statistical principles in quality improvement methods like Lean and Six Sigma.

Halloween's right around the corner, so here's a scary thought for the statistically minded: That pattern in your time series plot? Maybe it's just a ghost. It might not really be there at all.   That's right. The trend that seems so evident might be a phantom. Or, if you don't believe in that sort of thing, chalk it up to the brain's desire to impose order on what we see, even when it doesn't... Continue Reading
Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for any kid, so much so that we even use the expression "taking the training wheels off" for all kinds of situations. We say it to mean that we are going to let someone perform an activity on their own after removing some safeguard, even though we know they will likely experience failures before becoming proficient at it. You see, riding a bike requires... Continue Reading
Screening experimental designs allow you to study a very large number of factors in a very limited number of runs. The objective is to focus on the few factors that have a real effect and eliminate the effects that are not significant. This is often the initial typical objective of any experimenter when a DOE (design of experiments) is performed. Table of Factorial Designs Consider the table below.... Continue Reading
In his post yesterday, my colleague Jim Colton applied binary logistic regression to data on the current ebola virus outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and revealed that, horrific as it is, this outbreak actually appears to have a lower death rate than some earlier ones.  He didn't address the potential for a global ebola pandemic, but over the last few days more than enough leading... Continue Reading
The current Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is making headlines around the world, and rightfully so: it's a frightening disease, and last week the World Health Organization reported its spread is outpacing their response. Nearly 900 of  the more than 1,600 people infected during this outbreak have died, including some leading medical professionals trying to stanch the... Continue Reading
by Iván Alfonso, guest blogger I'm a huge fan of hot cakes—they are my favorite dessert ever. I’ve been cooking them for over 15 years, and over that time I’ve noticed many variation in textures, flavor, and thickness. Personally, I like fluffy pancakes. There are many brands of hotcake mix on the market, all with very similar formulations. So I decided to investigate which ingredients and inputs... Continue Reading
The calendar just flipped to August, meaning it’s time to get ready for fantasy football season! As you prepare for your draft, you will no doubt be looking at all sorts of rankings. But when the season is over, do you ever go back and see how accurate those rankings were? And are rankings for some positions more accurate than others? Well that’s exactly what we’re going to find out! I went back... Continue Reading
If you teach statistics or quality statistics, you’re probably already familiar with the cuckoo egg data set. The common cuckoo has decided that raising baby chicks is a stressful, thankless job. It has better things to do than fill the screeching, gaping maws of cuckoo chicks, day in and day out. So the mother cuckoo lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species. If the cuckoo egg is similar... Continue Reading
I caught the end of Toy Story over the weekend, which is definitely one of my all-time favorite children’s movies. Now—unfortunately or fortunately—I can’t get Randy Newman's theme song,“You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” out of my head! It's also got me thinking about the nature of friendship, and how "best friends forever" are supposed to always be there when you need them. And, not to get too maudlin... 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
Everyone loves a Pareto chart. That is, everyone who knows that Pareto charts are a type of bar chart ordered by bar size to help you to determine which bars comprise the vital few that you care about and which are the trivial many that you don't care about. Pareto charts are a great tool for communicating where the largest gains can be made as you focus your improvement efforts. Since I love... Continue Reading
Last time, we went over Bar Charts you could create from Counts of Unique Values. However, sometimes you want to convey more information than just simple counts. For example, you could have a number of parts from different models. The number of occurrences themselves don't offer much value, so you may want a chart displaying the means, sums, or even standard deviations of the different parts.... Continue Reading
A few weeks ago I looked at the number of goals that were being scored in the World Cup. At the time there were 2.9 goals per game, which was the highest since 1970. Unfortunately for spectators who enjoyed the higher scoring goals, this did not last. By the end, the average had fallen to 2.7 goals per game, the same amount scored in the 1998 World Cup. After such a high-scoring start, the goals... Continue Reading
There’s a lot going on in the world, so you might not have noticed that the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) released their new set of health statistics for member nations. On the OECD website, you can now download the free data series for 2014. (Be aware that “for 2014” means that the organization has a pretty good idea about what happened in 2012.) Of course, there’s nothing more fun... Continue Reading
NOTE: This story will reveal how easy it can be to optimize settings using the statistical method called Design of Experiments, but it won't provide easy answers for making your own office coffee any better. After her team’s ultimatum about the wretched office coffee, Jill used the design-of-experiments (DOE) tool in Minitab 17’s Assistant to design and analyze a screening study. Jill now knew... Continue Reading
NOTE: This story reveals how easy it can be to identify important factors using the statistical method called Design of Experiments. It won't provide easy answers for making your own office's coffee any better, but it will show you how you can begin identifying the critical factors that contribute to its quality. At their weekly meeting, her team gave Jill an ultimatum: Make the coffee better. The... Continue Reading
Keeping your vehicle fueled up is expensive. Maximizing the miles you get per gallon of fuel saves money and helps the environment, too.  But knowing if you're getting good mileage requires some data analysis, which gives us a good opportunity to apply one of the common tools used in Six Sigma -- the I-MR (individuals and moving range) control chart to daily life.    Finding Trends or Unusual... Continue Reading
Did you know that this year the American Statistical Association (ASA) is celebrating its 175th anniversary? That’s a pretty significant birthday! On the ASA’s 175thanniversary webpage, they publish blog posts periodically that cover ASA happenings, such as anniversary events and celebrations, as well as interesting tidbits about the organization. Recently, they published a post covering the... Continue Reading
Control charts are some of the most useful tools in statistical science. They track process statistics over time and detect when the mean or standard deviation change from what they have been. The signals that control charts send about special causes can help you zero in on the fastest ways to improve any process, whether you’re making tires, turbines, or trying to improve patient care. I’ve menti... Continue Reading
Via Christi Health, the largest provider of healthcare in Kansas, operates a Center for Clinical Excellence that's made up of a team of quality practitioners, all who have Lean and Six Sigma training. I recently had the opportunity to talk with the team about the types of projects they're working on. I learned not only about the areas of patient care where they are targeting improvements, but about... Continue Reading