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A look at six sigma methodologies

What is Six Sigma?
Developed by Motorola, Six Sigma is a management philosophy that "emphasizes setting extremely high objectives, collecting data, and analyzing results to a fine degree as a way to reduce defects in products and services."

The structure of Six Sigma is to get as close to perfection as possible. Therefore, companies measure how many defects are in a process and then narrow them down to achieve perfection. In order for a company to achieve Six Sigma, it cannot produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities, where an opportunity is defined as a chance for nonconformance.

Six Sigma asserts the following:

  • Continuous efforts to reduce variation in process outputs is key to business success

  • - Manufacturing and business processes can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled

  • - Succeeding at achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization.

The Six Sigma Methodologies
There are two popular methodologies to Six Sigma; The DMAIC methodology and DMADV methodology.

The DMAIC methodology is about solving a problem with an unknown solution.
The breakdown for the acronym is as follows:
D = Define the project goals and customer deliverables
M = Measure the process to determine current performance
A = Analyze and determine the root cause of the defects
I = Improve the process by eliminating defects
C = Control future process performance
The DMADV methodology is geared towards creating new products and business practices. The breakdown for the acronym is as follows:
D = Define. Define the project goals and customer deliverables.
M = Measure. Measure and determine customer needs and specifications.
A = Analyze. Analyze the process options to meet the customer needs.
D = Design. Design (detailed) the process to meet the customer needs.
V = Verify. Verify the design performance and ability to meet customer needs.

The main thing that makes both processes stand out is the Define step. This step proves that the customer satisfaction is the most important factor. The Define stage calls for baselining and benchmarking the process to be improved.

The similarities between the two processes are as follows:

  • Six Sigma methodologies used to drive defects to less than 3.4 per million opportunities.

  • - Data intensive solution approaches. Intuition has no place in Six Sigma -- only cold, hard facts.

  • - Implemented by Green Belts, Black Belts and Master Black Belts.

  • - Ways to help meet the business/financial bottom-line numbers.

  • - Implemented with the support of a champion and process owner.

There are many key differences between the processes as well. DMAIC should be used when a product or process is in existence, but not meeting expectations. DMADV should be used when a product or process is not in existence and needs to be developed or an existing product is developed and has been optimized with DMAIC and is still not meeting requirements.

Results from Six Sigma Methodologies

Six Sigma methodologies have been implemented with several different organizations such as; health care, call centers, industrial, software firms, manufacturing companies and many other fields. Many organizations adopt the one of the two popular processes and structure them to fit their needs.

Six Sigma proponents claim that its benefits include up to 50% process cost reduction, cycle-time improvement, less waste of materials, a better understanding of customer requirements, increased customer satisfaction, and more reliable products and services.

One firm, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) helped a U.S. government agency "increase customer satisfaction and save approximately $2.8 million." They implemented a Quality Management System that entails document control, quality assurance processes, and information assurance certification and delivery coordination.

CSC also reported helping another client save more than $1 million for helping to reduced time in service requests and data analysis.

DMAIC, DMADV or any other method of Six Sigma will yield results if implemented as required. Not only will your company save money, but the outcome of other processes will be pleasing.

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