Six Sigma is a business process improvement methodology that utilizes teamwork, project management, and powerful statistical tools in the quest to improve quality, productivity and profits. Six Sigma allows companies to use data to minimize variation and eliminate defects in any process. Six Sigma quality means no more than 3.4 defects or errors per one million product or service process opportunities. When fully implemented, Six Sigma involves a cultural transformation that requires decision making based on accurate data, not “tribal knowledge”. Its depth can affect process design, employee training, choice of equipment, and the overall effectiveness of the workforce.
Lean and Six Sigma are complementary. Both start with a focus on the needs of the Customer. You would select Lean or Six Sigma tools (or a combination of both) depending on the type of problem you are trying to solve.
Simplify Work Flows
Focus On High-value Steps
- Reduce Variation
- Eliminate Defects
Six Sigma attacks sources of process variation that impact profits as well as Customer satisfaction. The methodology holds at its core the COST OF POOR QUALITY (COPQ). Project success is built around COPQ, and project priority is set using this criteria.
Applications include practically any business, from manufacturing to customer service call centers to hospitals to government. It can and should be applied in situations where difficult problems have not responded to conventional methods.
The key to Six Sigma’s success is the tools and their deployment. Gage R&R studies, Process Mapping, Cause and Effect studies, Designed Experiments (D.O.E.), Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (F.M.E.A.) and Control Plans are all part of the toolbox and are not new; they have been around for many years as part of Quality and Engineering methods. The key is the training of qualified “Belts” and the structured methodology called DMAIC, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.
Should your company consider Six Sigma? If you exhibit the following conditions, perhaps you should consider applying the Six Sigma process:
- Ongoing Customer Satisfaction issues
- Out of Control processes
- Nagging quality problems
- Declining process yields
- Areas of declining profit