Susan’s business manufactured electrical components. She started off with a monopoly and earned huge profits. Although there was no visible competition, the organization started experiencing a fall in sales. On digging deeper, Susan realized her managers had been overlooking complaints regarding quality and after-sales services. She promptly hired a team of industry professionals to implement solutions but saw no major change in affairs.
Susan discussed the matter with the team, who advised her to try the Six Sigma methodologies. After benchmarking Six Sigma against older methods, the organization drastically improved sales. They could identify product defects and correct service shortcomings while achieving Six Sigma quality.
Six Sigma comes from a field of statistical quality control that originally referred to the ability to produce a high proportion of output. It is a disciplined approach that eliminates defects with data-driven methodology. Processes operating with Six Sigma quality produce low long-term defects. So, organizations use this system to obtain near-perfect quality.
6 Sigma minimizes defects, improves operational excellence and achieves customer perfection, earning different names in different organizations. No matter what an organization calls it, if they’re following the 6 Sigmas, they’re all using the Six Sigma methodologies. What is the concept of Six Sigma? The International Organization of Standardization explained it publishing the first standard ISO 13053:2011. Organizations and universities have also created other standards with first-party Six Sigma certification programs.
Find out what is the concept of Six Sigma here.
What Is 6 Sigma?
Six Sigma is a set of tools and techniques for quality control and process improvement. Six Sigma methodologies use data-driven approaches to limit or eliminate defects and mistakes in processes. By emphasizing cycle-time improvement, 6 Sigma reduces manufacturing defects to a level not higher than 3.4 defects per million occurrences (dpmo). It started as a management methodology to work faster and reduce mistakes. Now it has become an industry standard for which managers and executives are offered certifications.
Statistically, in a 6 Sigma process, almost all opportunities to produce a feature are expected to be defect-free. 6 Sigma strategies seek to improve manufacturing quality. Six Sigma quality processes use strategies to identify and remove the causes of defects and minimize variability in the manufacturing process. The strategies are based on statistical and empirical quality management methods executed by people hired to serve as 6 Sigma experts. Every project has a defined methodology and specific targets such as improved customer services or sustainable practices.
Now that we know what is 6 Sigma, let’s discover where it gets its name.
An error occurs when there is a six—standard-deviation event from the mean along a bell curve. Here, the word ‘sigma’ stands for standard deviation. The deviation from mean represents a defect—any quality outside customer preference or satisfaction. Organizations aim for 3.4 defects per million occurrences because only 3.4 out of a million normally and randomly distributed events would fall outside the six—standard-deviation. A 6 Sigma opportunity is the total number of chances per defect and it quantitatively describes process performance. With this method, it’s unlikely that a product won’t meet expectations.
What Is The Concept Of Six Sigma?
The 6 Sigmas define numerous ideas, which can be confusing. At its core, the methodology asserts that it’s important to make continuous efforts to get stable process results. Six Sigma strategies are effective in correcting defects and achieving sustained improvements in quality by analyzing, measuring, defining, controlling and improving manufacturing processes. Here are some defining features that’ll help you understand what is 6 Sigma:
- It’s a management ideology that deals with statistical improvements to processes
- Its focus is on qualitative measurements of success over markers
- It helps achieve quantifiable and measurable financial returns
- It emphasizes management support and leadership
- Defects are capped at 3.4 per million occurrences to gauge an efficient business process
- It negates assumptions by making statistical methods and verifiable data the basis for decisions
- It’s a certification program for learning the core principles of Six Sigma
Six Sigma is often practiced by people who use financial analysis and statistics or project managers hoping to improve functionality.
The Six Sigma Hierarchy
To maximize resources, streamline processes and improve efficiency, 6 Sigma emphasizes quality management. Formal certification programs follow a ranking system similar to that of Karate to establish a hierarchy of Six Sigma executives. The roles defined in certification are:
- Executive leadership includes members from top management. They create a vision and allow stakeholders to use resources and enjoy the liberty to transcend organizational barriers
- Champions are responsible for implementing 6 Sigma across the organization
- Master Black Belts act as in-house coaches and are responsible for statistical tasks. They are leaders with extensive experience
- Black Belts apply the process to specific projects. They execute projects identified by Master Black Belts and Champions and focus on influencing organizational change.
- Green Belts function under Black Belts and focus on advanced analysis and resolution. They manage projects and other tasks
- Yellow Belts are employees with basic training in process and application
Some organizations assign White Belts to employees with an introductory knowledge of Six Sigma methodologies.
Steps In Six Sigma Methodologies
The fundamental objective of the 6 Sigmas is to implement a measurement-based strategy that can focus on variation reduction while improving processes. Projects typically follow two frameworks: DMADV and DMAIC, each with five phases.
1. What Is DMADV?
DMADV stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Verify. It focuses on developing new services, processes or products. It’s applied when an existing product can’t meet customer specifications and Six Sigma quality or when a new product needs to be developed. The five phases of this methodology are:
- Measurable and realistic design goals are designed that align with organizational strategy and customer demands. Schedules and guidelines are created in this phase to identify, assess and review potential risks
- Characteristics critical to quality, production process capability, risks and product capability are measured
- After careful analysis, design alternatives are developed and precise combinations of requirements are identified that are fundamental for achieving value within constraints. A design’s total life cycle cost is determined and alternatives are explored
- After analyzing the alternatives and prioritizing the elements of the design, a high-level design is developed
- Production process is implemented, pilot runs are set up and design is handed over to the process owner after verification
2. What Is DMAIC?
DMAIC is a data-driven, problem-solving and quality improvement method for boosting performance. It stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. The DMAIC process is incorporated when a problem is treated as a project that requires the organization to direct its resources to solve it. The five phases of this methodology are:
- The problem, system, project goals and customer requirements are specifically defined. A value stream map is used to give an overview of the process and opportunity for improvement is highlighted
- Important aspects of the current process are measured and relevant data is collected. Frequency of errors and process capability are assessed
- Data is analyzed to determine cause and effect. Root Cause Analysis (RCA), multi-vari chart and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis are used to analyze all factors associated with the process
- Using data analysis, the current process is optimized and techniques are improved. After analyzing the alternatives and prioritizing the elements of the design, a high-level design is developed. The root cause is eliminated in this phase
- Steps to control improved process and future process performance are determined
Some organizations include an additional step to recognize a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. This is the RDMAIC methodology of Six Sigma.
Examples Of Six Sigma
Benchmarking 6 Sigma processes has been highly effective for organizations, whether to develop newer processes free of defects or improve existing processes. Let’s take a look at some examples:
Microsoft implemented 6 Sigma to improve the availability and reliability of its networks worldwide. It used the robust data-driven process to eliminate system defects and minimize IT infrastructure failures. The organization always points to 6 Sigma as a crucial factor behind its success in building near-perfect products and services.
General Electric is one of the most successful organizations to have implemented 6 Sigma. It heavily invested in training employees and adopting the system across the board to attain management excellence. It streamlined every process to meet customer and organizational requirements.
Six Sigma has become a business management philosophy on customer retention and meeting consumer needs. It improves products and services and makes them sustainable. It’s versatile as it applies across all industries and even governments. Vendors Motorola and Microsoft adopted this methodology and offer Six Sigma certification for every level.
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