Summarizing control chart data with queries

Steve DaumIt may seem arcane to some folks – but I enjoy a good query challenge. Recently, a customer needed help with a query to aggregate raw data into a useful form for charting. Since I’ve helped several customer do almost the same thing, I decided to write a short article for our Knowledge Base. Here is the link:

http://www.pqsystems.com/kb/activekb/questions/540/A+simple+query+pattern+for+summarizing+raw+data

If you want to chart data where several rows get summarized for each data point – this article contains example SQL queries. These make good patterns for solving a large class of data summery problems. Don’t let the SQL queries intimidate you – it is pretty simple once you see a few examples. The article includes a download containing example data and example CHARTrunner charts.

Happy querying!

Software tip: Adding some style to your charts in CHARTrunner

Scott JohnsonEvery now and then I’m complimented on the way my charts look.  I’m not going to give myself all the credit. I mainly give the credit to the CHARTrunner and its designers.  Each month, I create a chart for our monthly newsletter, Quality eLine. I have found myself utilizing CHARTrunner’s chart style options more and more.  I would like to go through some of the advantages that I have found.

A few benefits of chart styles include:

  1. Helps produce consistent charts each time they are drawn;
  2. Allows you to assign fonts to different areas on the chart;
  3. Has many options for color management;
  4. Provides options for other various styles like line styles and data marker styles;
  5. Properly used, it can make charts easier to read;
  6. And there is no limit to the number of styles (each one is a file ending in .csc).

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Thanks for responding!

Steve DaumWe recently surveyed some of our CHARTrunner users. Each time we do this, I am amazed at the diversity among our charting software users. CHARTrunner has found a home in so many different industries. If you responded to the survey, thank you. Your input is invaluable. It helps us to prioritize and plan for future product improvements.

For many years PQ has taken pride that our customers drive the next set of enhancements to our software products. Recently, we began an effort to shorten this feedback cycle. The idea is to get customer input earlier and more often during a project. To this end, we are having many reviews of progress throughout a project. Additionally, we are making daily builds of functioning, if incomplete, new versions as enhancements are added. It is important that we get feedback from non-software developers who have a stake in the project outcome. This means not only sales staff, tech support analysts, and the management team–but most importantly customers.

If you did not have a chance to respond to our survey or if you are interested in providing feedback on early product releases, feel free to drop me an email (steved@pqsystems.com). We would love to hear your suggestions and evaluations of early software builds.

Steve

Control charts for monthly presentations

Matt SavageI recently returned from training a hospital that has been using CHARTrunner for a number of months. One individual, I’ll call her Rita, presents her quality improvement charts every month in a quality meeting with her managers. She has 22 charts and wanted an easier way to automate the process of getting ready for this monthly presentation.

Her current process is to display the chart, copy it to the Windows Clipboard, go to PowerPoint, paste the chart, resize the chart, and then repeat this for all of her charts. I feel Rita’s pain. The process is time consuming and error-prone.

The good news is that there is an easier way! We automated this process to the point that Rita never needs to launch CHARTrunner. Instead she clicks on a desktop icon each month that launches a command line parameter to update her 22 charts in her PowerPoint presentation. Two clicks accomplishes what previously took her 2 full days. The custom application we developed for Rita saves her 2 days of work each month! I have set this up for many organizations, and I’d like the opportunity to do the same for you.

If you are interested in learning more about a system that automates the process of getting ready for your recurring meetings, let’s talk.

Software tip: Lloyd Nelson control limit option

Steve DaumCustomers often request that we add very specific statistical features to our software products. Before we decide to implement new features, we consider several questions. Is the feature within our realm of core competency? Is the feature related to the types of analysis we already do? Will the feature appeal to a narrow or wide swath of our customers? Is the feature aligned with our mission of providing the simplest solutions that apply practical statistics to improve our customers’ quality?

If the feature makes it though this gauntlet, we study the specifics of the new feature. What algorithms are required? What formulae will be used? How will the feature be tested? Where will the feature be visible in the user interface? This process takes time. We are continuously improving our turn around on feature requests, but many steps exist between getting the idea from the customer into a working product.

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Software tip: Software pricing based on usage

Steve Daum

For 20+ years we have been selling our software based on a per-workstation license. The idea is that for each computer where the software is installed, the user must purchase one license. This has worked well and we will continue to offer this option into the future.

One of the trends we are watching is software licensing based on how much it is used. There are different usage-based pricing models but most of them tie the price to how many people use the software rather than the number of computers where it is installed. In the past, the technology for managing this type of license added complexity to the installation and deployment experience. With networks, the internet, and new license tools, the usage-based license model is becoming more appealing.

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Software tip: A more informative x-axis label for your control chart

Steve DaumI spoke with a customer the other day who wanted multiple labels along the x-axis of his control chart. His data set and original chart looked like this:

Did you notice how the x-axis labels contain only the date column? He also wanted the batch number as part of the x-axis label. In the chart definition form, you can select only a single identifier as the label as shown below:

The solution lies on the data definition tab.

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Software tip: Charting time data on a control chart

Matt SavageRecently I was given an Excel file that contained some data for the time it took to complete a task. The data had a column that listed the “time” and the data was in time-of-day format. I wanted to make a control chart showing how long, in minutes & seconds, a task took. Unfortunately, Excel categorized this as a Date/Time field, which can not be easily charted. Since the column listed the time the task took in hours:minutes:seconds, I needed a way to convert this to a number that I could chart on a control chart.

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