Six Sigma is powered by principles which are governed by continuous improvement. In pure terms, Six Sigma helps manufacturing organizations reduce the number of errors or reduce the number of defective products manufactured by them. This is achieved by a regular sharpening of the process and constant monitoring on processes and how they can be improved.
However, Six Sigma today has moved on from the manufacturing realm of business and is also very much a part of the services industries where the spirit of the process is lauded. Constant improvements are sought in almost all industries today. A reason for the phenomenal success of this business process and quality management and practice has been the short term and long term impact it has on bottom line of the business.
Six Sigma is not a process which begins to show results only over a long period of time or results which can only be measured by abstract measurements. In fact its results can be measured right away by the reduction in the number of faulty products, reduction in returns from customer and reduction of useless inventory. A before and after the Six Sigma implementation can easily highlight the benefits to the organization. If you are new to this concept and have only heard about it on the passing, here are some vital answers to frequently asked queries:
What does it take to implement Six Sigma in an organization?
It takes phenomenal operational efficiency and discipline as well as organizational leadership to implement Six Sigma. Since the concentration of the manufacturing process has to be reducing the number of defects or defective products, each process has to be scrutinized closely and amended to work towards this goal. In-house champions make this quality conscience-ness possible as it is not possible for all processes and involved managers to be highly quality conscience. Technology is also a great enabler in the implementation of Six Sigma as it helps reduce faults to a large extent.
A number of professionals are required to be employed to be able to implement this business process improvement method in an organization. There are individuals who have in-depth knowledge about the principles of Six Sigma as well as manufacturing processes (some even have specialized working knowledge pertaining to some specific industries such as automobiles, aircrafts, etc).
Achieving Six Sigma certification in your organization requires you to execute one project completely in the recommended process. Documenting the process and training existing business and manufacturing heads forms a large part of the implementation of Six Sigma processes. An organization also requires investments within the company by way of people, man hours, machine hours, technology etc to implement Six Sigma.
Getting familiar with the nomenclatures of Six Sigma:
The Total Quality Management process of Six Sigma has gained popularity over the past few years specially as businesses have become more quality conscience and as manufacturing processes become more complicated. The key industries implementing Six Sigma are Healthcare, Banking, Insurance and Construction. The two prominent methodologies are DMAIC (Define Measure Analyze, Improve and Control ) and DMADV ( Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Verify). There is also operational hierarchy when it comes to Six Sigma. Apart from the senior Management, there are Champions, Master black belts, Black Belts and Green Belts who have a predefined role in the implementation of Six Sigma in the organization.
If the benefits are so prominent, why are more companies not implementing Six Sigma?
Six Sigma has not changed much from the time it was put together way back in the 1980s. The success factor has been the absolute number of achieving 3.4 defects per million products which is phenomenal. Even with this measurement, Six Sigma has largely remained a territory for the large companies and very few small to medium enterprises have ventured in this direction. The primary reason has been the cost of implementing this process is very prohibitive. The man power resources required to manage the process is equally difficult.
Some organizations which are very convinced about this quality management procedure adapt something called the Lean Six Sigma. The Lean Six Sigma has the same spirit but lesser number of defines processes and steps and is quite suited for smaller organizations.
Six Sigma which started at Motorola can be found as an initiative in most large quality conscience organizations which have a commitment to quality and a vision for better products and services to their customers.