Using six sigma to reduce costs and improve quality
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.
Motorola implemented Six Sigma for the following reasons:
- To address major performance flaws in requirements and architecture
- To improve on-time delivery and reduce defects
- To improve robust design and performance benchmarking
- To employ metric-based decision making for product development
- To utilize templates and criteria to support rigorous gate reviews
- To enable leadership to realistically set high expectations and demand evidence
- To provide tools, tasks and deliverables that clarify and support meeting those high expectations
Motorola believes in employing Six Sigma, an organization can be saved by cutting out waste and repetition, improving efficiency and saving money. First step to improve quality in the organization is to identify the quality issues you may have.
1. Always look for defects and question areas that you think need improvement.
2. Look for flaws in the process
3. Measure and collect data you actually use. All other data is a waste of time and money
Implementing Six Sigma
There are several people involved in implementing Six Sigma. Six Sigma has adopted the "belt system" of Karate to name the leaders and the levels of the process. First, there has to be "executive leaders" or "black belts" who are able to devote all their time to the process. Then, there are "middle leaders" or "green belts" that devote some of their time to Six Sigma. Lastly, there are "lower leaders" or "yellow belts" that have been trained in the process, but have not completed a Six Sigma project. Starting Six Sigma is a cultural change. You must make sure all parties involved are trained and ready to implement the process. They all must commit to following through with Six Sigma, or the process will fail. Some organizations such as Sun Microsystems have developed some steps to help with implementing Six Sigma:
- Acknowledge that organizations are systems
- Identify and leverage the natural interactions that exist
- Assess the system to see what is working and what needs to be changed
- Use a model that reflect the complexity of the organization
- Work with individuals
Six Sigma has 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 process and adapt it to fit their company's needs. Many companies have even added consulting firms to teach others about Six Sigma.
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.
If done properly Six Sigma will reduce costs, improve efficiency and ultimately lead to your customers overall satisfaction. Dedication to the process is essential along with strong communication between all levels. Remember to always follow-thru with the program, if started strong, it must always be strong!