What Is Six Sigma? Definition Of Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma Concepts
Six Sigma stands for Six Standard Deviations (Sigma is the Greek letter used to represent standard deviation in statistics) from mean. Six Sigma methodology provides the techniques and tools to improve the capability and reduce the defects in any process.
It was started in Motorola, in its manufacturing division, where millions of parts are made using the same process repeatedly. Eventually Six Sigma evolved and applied to other non manufacturing processes. Today you can apply Six Sigma to many fields such as Services, Medical and Insurance Procedures, Call Centers.
Six Sigma methodology improves any existing business process by constantly reviewing and re-tuning the process. To achieve this, Six Sigma uses a methodology known as DMAIC (Define opportunities, Measure performance, Analyze opportunity, Improve performance, Control performance).
DFSS or DMADV
Six Sigma methodology can also be used to create a brand new business process from ground up using DFSS (Design For Six Sigma) principles. Six Sigma Strives for perfection. It allows for only 3.4 defects per million opportunities for each product or service transaction. Six Sigma relies heavily on statistical techniques to reduce defects and measure quality.
Six Sigma experts (Green Belts and Black Belts) evaluate a business process and determine ways to improve upon the existing process. Six Sigma experts can also design a brand new business process using DFSS (Design For Six Sigma) principles. Typically its easier to define a new process with DFSS principles than refining an existing process to reduce the defects.Six Sigma incorporates the basic principles and techniques used in Business, Statistics, and Engineering. These three form the core elements of Six Sigma. Six Sigma improves the process performance, decreases variation and maintains consistent quality of the process output. This leads to defect reduction and improvement in profits, product quality and customer satisfaction.
Six Sigma methodology is also used in many Business Process Management initiatives these days. These Business Process Management initiatives are not necessarily related to manufacturing. Many of the BPM’s that use Six Sigma in today’s world include call centers, customer support, supply chain management and Project Management.
Lean Six Sigma
Some Six Sigma practitioners have In recent years combined Six Sigma ideas with lean manufacturing to invent new a methodology. This new methodology is called Lean Six Sigma.
Key Elements of Six Sigma
Customer requirements, design quality, metrics and measures, employee involvement and continuous improvement are main elements of Six Sigma Process Improvement.
The three key elements of Six Sigma are:
Defining Processes and defining Metrics and Measures for Processes
- Using and understanding Data and Systems
- Setting Goals for Improvement
Team Building and Involving Employees
Involving all employees is very important to Six Sigma. The company must involve all employees. Company must provide opportunities and incentives for employees to focus their talents and ability to satisfy customers.
Defining Roles: This is important to six sigma. All team members should have a well defined role with measurable objectives.
Six Sigma in Business
Even though Six Sigma was initially implemented at Motorola to improve the manufacturing process, all types of businesses can profit from implementing Six Sigma..
Businesses in various industry segments such as Services industry (Example: Call Centers, Insurance, Financial/Investment Services), Ecommerce industry (Example: B2B/B2C websites), Education can definitely use Six Sigma principles to achieve higher quality. Many big businesses such as GE and Motorola have successfully implemented Six Sigma but the adaptation by smaller businesses has been very slow.
GE is a pioneer in using Six Sigma. This article on Six Sigma GE Experiences explains how various GE divisions adopted and benefited from Six Sigma.
Here are some of the reasons to consider:
- Bigger companies have resources internally who are trained in Six Sigma and also have ‘Train the Trainer’ programs using which they churn out many more Six Segma instructors. Also many bigger companies encourage the employees to learn Six Sigma process by providing Green Belts/Black Belts as mentors.
- Effectively applying the Six Sigma techniques is difficult compared to actually learning the techniques in a class.
- Big companies make Six Sigma as part of the Goals for employees and provide incentives for employees who undergo training and mentor colleagues.
- Many assume that that Six Sigma works for bigger companies only as they produce in volumes and have thousands of employees. This notion is not true and Six Sigma can be effectively applied for small businesses and even companies with fewer than 10 employees.