Q: Minitab and Six Sigma are often mentioned in the same breath, but what does Minitab actually do?

A: Minitab is a software package that helps you to analyse data. Analysing data is an important part of Six Sigma (but it’s not the whole story!), particularly in the Measure and Analyse phases of DMAIC. Minitab provides a quick, effective solution for the level of analysis required in most Six Sigma projects.

Q: Can’t I just use Excel?

A: Well, yes and no. In order to create the types of graphs most often used in Six Sigma, you will generally need to use Excel macros. For example, have you ever tried to create a histogram in Excel? You’ll need to find a macro to make it easy. There are lots of Excel macros available, but we find that Minitab is easier and more flexible, once the data is correctly structured. At QSB, we tend to use Minitab and Excel side by side. We generally prepare the data in Excel, and use functions such as Pivot tables to help see what sort of data we have. Then we often cut and paste into Minitab when we need to analyse the data through the use of graphs or other statistical analysis.

Q: Isn’t Minitab for really complex analysis?

A: Again, yes and no. Minitab’s capabilities extend far beyond those required for most Six Sigma projects. But, it’s also very easy to use for a range of basic graphs and statistical tools that are used in Six Sigma. You don’t need to know all of Minitab’s functions to produce simple histograms, Pareto or Run charts for example.

Q: Why does Minitab need the data in columns?

A: It might seem strange at first, but structuring your data into columns provides an extremely versatile format from which you can rapidly analyse your data in lots of different ways. So, if you invest a few minutes to prepare your data, you’ll save lots of time later. In contrast, when using Excel, you’ll often find yourself preparing the data to complete one function, then having to rearrange the data to complete another.