Problem Solving and Data Analysis Using Minitab: An interview with author Rehman M. Khan

Features

  • Author: Statistics Views
  • Date: 29 May 2013

Last month, Wiley was proud to publish Problem Solving and Data Analysis Using Minitab: A Clear and Easy Guide to Six Sigma Methodology by new author Rehman M. Khan, a Process Engineer at British Gypsum East Leake Works, the UK's leading manufacturer in internal drylining systems.

Problem Solving and Data Analysis using Minitab presents example-based learning to aid readers in understanding how to use MINITAB 16 for statistical analysis and problem solving. Each example and exercise is broken down into the exact steps that must be followed in order to take the reader through key learning points and work through complex analyses. Exercises are featured at the end of each example so that the reader can be assured that they have understood the key learning points.

Making Six Sigma statistical methodology accessible to beginners, this book is aimed at numerical professionals, students or academics who wish to learn and apply statistical techniques for problem solving, process improvement or data analysis whilst keeping mathematical theory to a minimum.

Here Statistics Views interviews Mr Khan about the book, making Six Sigma accessible to beginners and how statistics has contributed to his engineering career.

thumbnail image: Problem Solving and Data Analysis Using Minitab: An interview with author Rehman M. Khan

1. Congratulations on the publication of Problem Solving and Data Analysis Using Minitab: A Clear and Easy Guide to Six Sigma Methodology, which ‘presents example-based learning to aid readers in understanding how to use MINITAB 16 for statistical analysis and problem solving. Each example and exercise is broken down into the exact steps that must be followed in order to take the reader through key learning points and work through complex analyses'. How did the writing process begin? What was it that initiated the project?

I completed my Black Belt training and certification in 2010 but I still felt that I would like to fortify my learning. I decided I would do this by writing my own course for using Minitab and then use it to teach others either privately or within British Gypsum. I told my Boss what I intended to do and he said that it was one of his development goals to learn more about statistical tools and that we could help each other. A couple of other guys from BG also decided to volunteer themselves for the training course.

I started to write the modules and then train them out as soon as I completed them. Even back then the framework for the chapters was Theory, Examples and then Exercise. My audience was small but very keen to learn and very positive about the training they were receiving.

Towards the end of the training I again started to think about what to do next with the course material. I decided to approach publishers and see if there was an interest. It still amazes me that Wiley were the first publishers that I approached and that they agreed to publish the book.

I spent the next month’s overhauling the course material and converting it into a manuscript for the book. I believe this evolution helped the course become a better product as well.

2. The book also addresses the issue of making Six Sigma statistical methodology accessible to beginners. Is this the reason why you have created exercises at the end of each example so that the reader can be assured that they have understood the key learning points?

The idea behind the book has always been to teach the reader. The exercises are where the reader is left alone to solve the problem. They are designed to test whether the reader has understood how to apply the tools to the problem scenario, whether they can execute the procedure and interpret the results. In order to help the reader through this process the answers in the book provide a lot of feedback and the reader can immediately see if they have done everything correctly and whether the conclusions that they made were correct.

3. What were your main objectives during the writing process? What did you set out to achieve in reaching your readers?

The objective for me was always clear. Most of the text books on Minitab present information and I wanted my book to teach the reader how to use Minitab. I wanted a beginner in Minitab to be able to pick up the book and teach themselves to a standard that we might expect from a Six Sigma black belt.

4. Were there areas that you found more challenging and if so, why?

Getting the time to write the book after writing the course was the most challenging part of the whole process. I wrote the course and the manuscript for the book in my own time, so it was like having two jobs. I remember on the two holidays that we went on I took my laptop and used the time on the airplane and any spare time on holiday to work on this project. Luckily, my wife has been extremely supportive and my children were very understanding and helpful. My twelve year old son used to help me with converting the course from Power points to Word and also to proof read.

In terms of the writing process as I have always been better at mathematics than writing and I did find that the supporting text was more challenging to write than creating the examples.

I wanted a beginner in Minitab to be able to pick up the book and teach themselves to a standard that we might expect from a Six Sigma black belt.

5. When did you first start using Six Sigma in your career? When were you introduced to its statistical tools?

In 2006 I did my Green belt training while I was working for Springfields Fuels Limited (SFL). SFL were contracted to run the Springfields site by Westinghouse. The program which they ran had been set up by the Six Sigma Academy.

I completed the training and passed the exam but did not complete two projects in order to get certified. This was because I left SFL to join British Gypsum later in the same year. Most of my work within British Gypsum was project based and there were plenty of opportunities to practice the six sigma tools. The only issue was that you were not allowed to advertise the fact that you were using Six Sigma tools. This was because British Gypsum had adopted World Class Manufacturing (WCM) as their Improvement Methodology and not Six Sigma. Luckily, WCM is also data driven and using Minitab in the project environment was very beneficial.

6. What will be your next book-length undertaking?

There are a couple of ideas that I have short listed but there is nothing definite yet. One of the ideas is to write a second volume for many of the tools that were not covered in the first book, such as Non-parametric testing, Handling of Attribute Data, Advanced DOE etc. I also have a unique idea that nobody has ever done before but I am not decided on whether that will be in the form of a book or web based or a combination of the two. Sorry, but I am not going to tell you what that one is.

7. With an educational background in chemical engineering from Swansea University, what was it that brought you to recognise statistics as a discipline in the first place?

When I did my Green Belt Training in 2006 I was working as a Project Engineer in a nuclear chemical plant and running projects to improve the plant and also setting up the maintenance strategy for my areas of the plant. I think to this date I have never done any training that improved my professional development so much in a short space of time. In fact I could not believe that I had managed to get through almost 15 years in a numerical trade without having done this training. Even now I love learning about and applying these statistical techniques.

Rehman M. Khan

8. You are currently Process Engineer at British Gypsum East Leake Works. Please could you tell us more about your role there and what it entails?

I work at East Leake within the flagship British Gypsum plaster board plant in the UK. My main role is to improve the process and save money. Most of our improvements projects are focussed on saving energy. This is because plaster board production is a very energy intensive process. I am fortunate in that British Gypsum is a part of Saint Gobain and this opens up many opportunities in terms of training others in my ‘Problem Solving and Data Analysis Course’. At the start of May I trained research engineers at Saint Gobain Plastics and Abrasives in the USA.

9. What do you think the most important recent developments in statistical software have been?

Having only used Minitab I have to limit my comments to this software. Minitab is certainly trying to reach a wider audience by making the software more accessible using the Assistant, which first appeared in version 16. I cover the ‘Classic’ method, which is the toolbar driven method and I also cover the Assistant. Most people who have not used Minitab to any great depth instantly take to the Assistant rather than that Classic Menu’s. This is understandable as the Assistant just makes it so easy for new users. As the Assistant is still limited, in the number of tests you can perform, I think we will see it expanding within the next version of Minitab. This makes sense as Minitab need to stop there software from looking dated. This is a real danger as so many of us are using the new look Internet explorers and the sexy operating systems we have on our smart phones.

10. What do you think will be the most exciting and productive areas in engineering during the next few years?

There is a lot of great work going on. Work in material science is probably leading the way for many engineering innovations. There is a still lot of work to be done to ensure we can feed the world, ensure there is enough clean energy for all and to improve our health and eradicate disease.

When I did my Green Belt Training in 2006 I was working as a Project Engineer in a nuclear chemical plant and running projects to improve the plant and also setting up the maintenance strategy for my areas of the plant. I think to this date I have never done any training that improved my professional development so much in a short space of time. In fact I could not believe that I had managed to get through almost 15 years in a numerical trade without having done this training. Even now I love learning about and applying these statistical techniques.

11. What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the profession of engineering in the coming years?

Sadly, the main challenge for engineering in the UK is survival. We all know that manufacturing in the UK has been declining but since engineering is so strongly linked with manufacturing it has also been suffering.

12. Are there people or events that have been influential in your career?

My mum and dad were probably had more influence than anyone on my early education which then allowed me to go to University to study Chemical Engineering. My dad was a very clever guy but he never had the opportunities to learn and develop that I had. He always pushed me and my brother to do well at school and strive to go to University.

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