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Six Sigma 101

manwithmachine7803402.jpgSix Sigma is a process by which quality is measured.Once the level of quality is assessed, improvements can be made to that quality to bring the execution of a process as close to perfection as possible.This means the elimination of any wasteful actions (a key element that lends Six Sigma to being a popular tool used among those who are fans of lean manufacturing) as well as the creation of a product that fulfills the needs of the customer in both price and function.

If you are not one for numbers, Six Sigma may not be very appealing to you. In Six Sigma data is extremely important.Numbers, ratios, percentages and other data drive the system.Six Sigma provides a way for unquantifiable data to become quantifiable.When you can calculate something quantifiably, you eliminate the bias or subjectivity that exists.In business, there is a great deal of subjective thinking.Business people have operated under the same beliefs for many years.In most cases, these business people have been very successful by operating under the same beliefs.Without a way to firmly illustrate that there may be a better way to run a business, these executives are unlikely to change.The data reveals weaknesses and even defects in a product that an emotionally invested businessperson may not be able or willing to see for themselves.

The use of statistics is important in the Six Sigma process.Mathematically, the goal of Six Sigma is to drive towards six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit.The numbers needed to complete this calculation are derived from statistical representations of how a process is performing.For example, six standard deviations is equivalent to no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities.Through this use of mathematics, objectivity can be brought about.

Six Sigma is very much an umbrella term for a great many more specific processes.Six Sigma has many different improvement projects, the most popular of which are called, DMAIC and DMADV.The Six Sigma DMAIC process stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control.DMAIC is an improvement system for existing processes that fall below acceptable expectations. The Six Sigma DMADV process stands for define, measure, analyze, design, and verify.DMADV is an improvement system used to develop new processes or products, rather than simply fixing existing substandard processes.

There are individuals who receive specialized training in order to be qualified to teach or to implement these specific improvement projects.In most cases the training for certification is hired out or performed by private consultants.However, in larger organizations it is not uncommon to have in-house Six Sigma trained professionals.Just as is the case with lean manufacturing implementation or any implementation of a process that is new and different, having a willingness to change one's way of thinking is very important.To suddenly be able to assign numbers and values to a flow process can be hard to grasp, but the benefits are evident.The next thing that is going to be important if your Six Sigma process is going to be successful is to maintain your information and remain current on the numbers that you are using in your calculations.You need to know where customer demands are changing and account for those changes in your manufacturing process.Communication between management teams and floor employees is definitely a vital component of successful implementation of Six Sigma methods.
The take away message from this short tutorial is that Six Sigma, when implemented correctly, can make your business more profitable.

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