Eston Martz

I’m not a “math” person, but I've overcome fear of statistics and acquired a real passion for it. And if I can learn to understand and apply statistics, so can you. Continue Reading »

The other day I needed to do some probability calculations without the usual technology on hand -- no computer, smart phone, or calculator. It was a great reminder of just how much I appreciate tools that make the work of analyzing data easier and faster. Anyone who's taken a statistics class that required you to do all calculations by hand recognizes the truth of a statement that someone posted... Continue Reading
Companies invest a great deal of time, effort, and money in Lean Six Sigma programs. So if you're doing a project, the expectations are probably high: companies that have made this investment expect good projects to challenge expectations, make processes better, and improve profitability. When you hear about projects that save companies like Motorola and General Electric millions of dollars, you... Continue Reading


Smarter Process Improvement

with Companion by Minitab

Your Lean Six Sigma project resulted in tremendous process improvement. It's time to share the results. To help people understand your data quickly and clearly -- especially if they don’t know statistics -- you need graphs.Statistical software lets us use a wide array of graphs to display data, depending on what we want to convey. So why restrict yourself to pie or bar charts, when there are many... Continue Reading
Control charts are simple but very powerful tools that can help you determine whether a process is in control (meaning it has only random, normal variation) or out of control (meaning it shows unusual variation, probably due to a "special cause"). In an earlier post, I wrote about the common elements that all control charts share: upper and lower control limits, an expected variation region, and... Continue Reading
They say "variety is the spice of life," but when it comes to doing business, variation is not your friend. That's why we have control charts. One of these things is not like the others...is it common cause variation you can accept, or special variation that needs to be addressed? Control charts could tell you. We know that a little bit of variation is inevitable, but we tolerate it within... Continue Reading
Statistics can get pretty complicated, which is one reason why so many people are intimidated by the idea of data analysis. But even simple analyses can wind up having a big impact on a company's bottom line.You don't need an elephant gun to take care of a mosquito. Similarly, you don't want to devise a 15-factor, full-factorial designed experiment when a much simpler analysis can take care of the... Continue Reading
There's a scene in the movie Apocalypse Now where Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is puzzling over what his commanders have asked him to do, and even why they're asking him to do it. As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that his project really hasn't been very well thought out. If the commanders in the film had been Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, I wonder how the narrative would have changed. I... Continue Reading
I recently came across a good post about fishbone diagrams on Christian Paulsen's Lean Leadership blog.  Fishbones (also called cause-and-effect, C&E or Ishikawa diagrams) help you brainstorm potential causes of a problem--and see relationships among potential causes. Brainstorming frequently gets a bad rap.  Some people have had bad experiences with brainstorming sessions that were too loose, and... Continue Reading
Statistics can be confusing, especially when you look under the hood at the mathematical engines that underlie it. That's why we use statistical software to do so much of the work for us, and why we use tools like p-values to help us make sense of what our data are saying.The p-value is used in basic statistics, linear models, reliability, multivariate analysis, and many other methods. It's a ... Continue Reading
"Gimme a latte grande with a double shot of statistical analysis. Hold the sugar."If I tried ordering that the next time I go to Starbucks, my barista would probably just give me a blank look. But the fact is that the world's best-known coffee company applies a great deal of statistical know-how to making sure customers get the best possible coffee, whether they're getting it at a Starbucks... Continue Reading
Value stream mapping is a tremendously valuable tool for improving a process, but it requires patience and careful attention to details.  In an earlier post, I shared some value stream map guidelines to help ensure that the energy you invest pays off.  Here are some additional items to consider.  Identify critical paths and bottlenecks.Your map may reveal a number of potential areas... Continue Reading
Value stream mapping is a cornerstone of the Lean process improvement methodology, and also is a recognized tool used in Six Sigma. A value stream map illustrates the flow of materials and information as a product or service moves through a process. Creating a “current state” value stream map can help you identify waste and also makes it easier to envision an improved state for process in the... Continue Reading
Today we announced the winner of the Minitab Experiment ContestFord, Bobcat, Smith & Nephew, Metalor, and more than a dozen other companies from many different industries entered the contest, which focused on using a statistical technique called Design of Experiments (DOE) to solve business problems.Quality improvement professionals use DOE to create experiments that provide insight into how... Continue Reading
Careful data analysis is always important, but sometimes we need to quickly get a sense of the relationship between variables or factors.  It’s also true that pictures speak louder than raw data – you may have analyzed every last scrap of your data and run every possible test to confirm your analysis, but an effective graph shows people what your data mean in much less time than a collection of... Continue Reading
Some people take to statistics and data analysis naturally. They're attracted to numbers and aren't intimidated by formulas full of arcane symbols drawn from long-dormant languages. That's not me.  My name is Eston Martz, and I gravitate to words, not numbers. In school I was the kid completely unfazed by William Faulkner and James Joyce. But Statistics? It stupefied me. I feared it. And that's a... Continue Reading
We use statistics because it's usually not practical to collect all of the data from an entire population. Instead, we sample the population, and then use statistics for that random sample to draw conclusions about the whole population.Many common statistical procedures require data to be approximately normal -- in other words, to roughly follow the bell curve.  But what happens when you have a... Continue Reading