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Six Sigma, an overview

The Six Sigma method of lean manufacturing is both complex in construction and simple in concept.Larger manufacturing organizations can spend a great deal of time perfecting the nuances of the process while smaller organizations can apply much simpler versions of the Six Sigma principles.So, what is Six Sigma you may ask.Well, Six Sigma is a process by which quality can be measured.Once quality is measured, actions are taken to bring the level of quality to a point that is as close to perfection as possible.

In six sigma data is extremely important.Numbers, ratios, percentages and other data are what drives the entire system.The theory is that the data can reveal the defects in the process and steps can be taken to improve.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.Six standard deviations is equivalent to no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities.The Six Sigma process is a process by which objectivity can be gained because ultimately either the math is going to tell you where you stand.

Six Sigma improvement projects are what are used to eliminate wasted time and materials in their many forms. This is accomplished through the use of two Six Sigma sub-methodologies that are called: DMAIC and DMADV. The Six Sigma DMAIC process (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) is an improvement system for existing processes that fall below what an acceptable expectation is and that can be improved incrementally. The Six Sigma DMADV process (define, measure, analyze, design, verify) is an improvement system used to develop new processes or products, rather than simply fixing existing substandard processes. It can also be employed if a current process requires more than just incremental improvement, but instead a complete change and reinstatement of a new process is required.There are individuals who train to become qualified for the positions of teaching in these processes.Only those individuals who have the correct qualifications can be masters of implementing a set string of Six Sigma ideas.

Implementing Six Sigma, as was eluded to earlier, is a process that can be quite lengthy.
There are several basic steps used for the implementation of Six Sigma in an organization. These steps include beginning with having the mentality for change.The next step in the Six Sigma implementation process is to maintain access to current information on the requirements or demands of your customers.A process management system must then be put into place to quantitatively measure current performance and identify where improvements are needed.Establishing these systems of management and measurement take a trained staff if they are to be done properly, that is why many organizations implementing Six Sigma choose to employ individuals who have specific training in the different roles of implementation.Management must be involved in all these steps of implementation in order to reinforce the need that the implementation team has for process management and improvement design.The last step that an organization seeks to attain is to implement successful Six Sigma methods throughout the entire organization.Communication is also important if this widespread change and improvement is to become something that is ongoing (as is necessary due to the fact that market conditions are always changing and so too are the needs of the customer).Six Sigma, when implemented correctly, can be the key to a lean manufacturing system that ultimately makes your business more profitable.

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