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A look at the various levels of six sigma

Quality management techniques are rarely simple fixes to improve quality and production in a manufacturing company.They are rather complex techniques that investigate every facet of the process and structure of a given company.Six sigma is one of the most popular quality management techniques used currently.Motorola has claimed savings of up to 17 billion dollars as of 2006 solely from the implementation of six sigma.However, just like with any successful quality management technique, six sigma is made of many levels.

Level One: Define

This level of six sigma is very important for any manufacturer to use before starting to change anything with their company.The "define" level is where the manufacturer will look at established goals of customer satisfaction, production quality, and overall effectiveness, and decide how to break those goals into sub-goals that are more specific.They must also define which processes and/or departments must be marked for improvement or change.

Level Two: Measure

In order for a manufacturer to improve on the current quality of products, organization, and production, they must measure the current quality of all of the different aspects of their company.This includes ALL facets of the company including organization and customer satisfaction.A team must be established to gather all of this information in order to accomplish measure everything in a timely, yet thorough, manner.

Level Three: Analyze

Once all of the data has been compiled from all of the different parts of the company, the team must analyze the data.The purpose of this evaluation is to find patterns, casual relationships, or trends that can then be evaluated for effectiveness.By understanding how different parts of the manufacturing process operate, the team is able to see which trends lead to the established goal and which are falling short of the mark.However, process is not the only part of the company that is analyzed.Teams must sift through statistical data, customer satisfaction records, employee practices, etc. in order to ensure that every aspect of the manufacturing company is analyzed properly.

Level Four: Improvement

Having established which parts of the manufacturing company are not performing toward the defined sub-goals and goals, the team must figure out how to improve those selected parts.This may include experiments, tests, theories, or other scientific methods that allow the team to foresee if a given change will actually improve the ailing part of the company or further impair it.The team must be sure that any suggestions for improvement will actually lead to improvement when placed back into the established company procedures.

Level Five: Control

Improvement strategies will only lead to long-term progress if those strategies can be maintained.In order to accomplish this, controls must be set.These controls must be set at all levels of the company, including procedural methods, preventative activities, and statistical organization.If these controls are not established correctly it is highly likely that the company will fall back into some of the same ineffective practices that were ailing it to begin with.This is especially possible if employees are forced to change to a new procedure that they may not be comfortable with.

Six sigma is a very effective method that has made many companies more effective and more profitable.While the method may seem complex, it is extremely adaptable to any sized manufacturer and can be combined with many other types of management control methods.

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