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Review of QI Macros Add-in for Excel

written by: Heidi Wiesenfelder • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/6/2011

QI Macros is an add-in for Excel that provides functionality to support data manipulation, charting, and analysis for Six Sigma and other process management initiatives. Learn about its capability, usability, and availability.

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    Uses for QI Macros

    QI Macros software is known by a variety of names, including QI Macros SPC Software for Excel and Excel SPC Software. According to the company that produces it, there are over 100,000 users of QI Macros, including many hospitals and manufacturers.

    Originally in use by Six Sigma project leaders for conducting analysis and creating charts in Excel, it is being billed by the company as a the standard for Green Belts and "No Belts" (business leaders without extensive Six Sigma training) for Lean Six Sigma, which is a combination of the Lean and Six Sigma methodologies.

    QI Macros is long on Six Sigma capabilities, with some Lean tools and techniques built in as well. The company website provides a comparison of QI Macros and Minitab, the heavy-hitting analysis package that many Six Sigma teams use. Chances are many Green Belts and some Black Belts will be able to do everything they need with QI Macros and Excel, while some Black Belts and Master Black Belts will need the advanced capabilities and more esoteric functions in Minitab.

    The familiar Excel interface reduces the learning curve and makes it a viable option for anyone who needs to create control charts, conduct statistical analysis or perform data manipulations.

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    Capability

    The feature set of QI Macros has expanded extensively over the years, including a full array of Six Sigma options as well as some Lean tools such as Value Stream Mapping and a Lean Scorecard. It boasts over 30 different charts, including histograms, Pareto charts, scatter plots, box-and-whiskers plots and an assortment of control charts. It can handle statistical analysis such as ANOVA, t-tests, regression, normality testing and sample size requirement calculations.

    it also has "fill-in-the-blank" templates to be used for creating fish bone cause-and-effect diagrams, Gage R&R tests, Failure Modes & Effects Analysis (FMEA) and Design of Experiments (DOE). In addition, users can manipulate data for charting or analysis purposes using built-in features such as pivot tables, word counts for text data and stacking data.

    Additional capabilities include creation of process maps, SIPOC diagrams (Suppliers-Inputs-Process-Outputs-Customers) and Gantt charts. It has templates for dashboards and balanced scorecards, Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and Pugh matrices.

    Users can modify the rules for control charts, for instance altering the number of points in a row above or below the center line that should be called out as special cause.

    QI Macros does not handle nested Gage R&R, attribute agreement analysis, logistic regression, multivariate analysis or trend analysis and has less advanced capabilities for DOE than does Minitab.

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    Usability

    Because QI Macros is integrated into the Excel interface, users will find it fairly easy to learn and start using. Upon installation, there is an option to select the traditional menu-and-toolbar interface or the newer ribbon style interface that started with Excel 2007. They both provide the same capabilities, so the choice of which one to use is simply a matter of user preference and comfort. For access to both, choose the Excel 2007 ribbon style and view the Classic version using the Add-ins ribbon instead of the QI Macros ribbon.qimacros-ribbon A one-hour webinar is offered for new users to learn about the program and a 35-page user guide is provided in PDF form. Also included are an SPC quick reference card and a guide to selecting the right type of chart for your data. The company site offers video tutorials for many of the most common activities, such as creating control charts and conducting analysis.

    Creating charts from data is quite straightforward. Simply highlight the data set, then using the QI Macros menu or ribbon select the chart that you want to generate.

    For instance, to create a scatter plot, simply highlight your data, select Scatter plot and either accept the default entries for Chart Title, X-axis label and Y-axis label or type in what you want to use for this settings. The calculations are automatically generated in a new worksheet next to the data set and the chart is generated in another new worksheet.qimacros-scatterplot The design of the chart can be modified using Excel's chart design features.

    Users can select any of a variety of types of control chart depending on the type of data being analyzed. For users who are unsure about the correct type of control chart, QI Macros offers a Control Chart Wizard which uses an algorithm to create the appropriate chart based on the type of data. It may simply generate a chart or first present one or more dialog boxes with questions you must answer. I would recommend verifying any selection that is made using this automatic tool.

    The fill-in-the-blank templates are quite helpful for anyone who has trouble understanding how to initially set up their data in Excel for charting and analysis. Just use the template and supply the data in the appropriate areas; charts and calculations will automatically update.

    Users will need to install the Analysis Toolpak Add-in if they have not yet done so in order to use the ANOVA and Analysis tools in QI Macros.

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    Availability

    QI Macros is available for purchase as a download or in CD format from the manufacturer at www.qimacros.com. The cost is $139, plus shipping and handling, for the physical product if that is chosen. Quantity discounts are available. A 30-day trial for Windows can also be downloaded. The program is available risk-free for Mac but not as a trial download. The optional annual maintenance plan $60 per year.