October 08, 2007

Deploying Six Sigma –The Right Way

By Priya Jestin, Staff Writer

How do you deploy Six Sigma in your enterprise? If you are like these companies, you start a few teams, give them their choice of problems to solve, and then sit back and wait for the process to kick off. When, after a few months, you don’t sight the money or the changes, you cry foul.

This is the best way to get things horribly wrong. One of the first things you need to remember is that the leadership in the teams you create, should work with an improvement expert. Next, ensure that these two elements are in place: a line graph showing defects over a period, and Pareto charts showing the probable reasons for the problem areas identified in the line graph. Don’t bother trying to collect new data – you must work with the data that is already available or you will delay the deployment of the Six Sigma process.

Next most important thing that must fall in place before you begin is the team. Always ensure that the team you choose stands a good chance of succeeding. Or, you’ll just end up wasting time and losing focus on the result. Now you are ready to begin the root cause analysis and the implementation process.


February 12, 2007

Black Belts: Your Own Or Hired?

By Priya Jestin, Staff Writer

It’s good to ensure that your organization deploys the Six Sigma method. However, the easiest part is the decision-making process with the actual deployment becoming a huge commitment. For instance, if an organization needs to ensure that the Six Sigma method is followed to a ‘T’, it may have to make a few sacrifices.

The company may have to foot the bill to train its own people as Black Belts and Green Belts by releasing them from their current duties. An alternative is to hire Black Belts from different organizations and have them lead projects.

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages and it is important that company leaders weigh all these pros and cons before taking the final decision. When you decide to get your own employees trained for the purpose, the investment is huge – both in terms of money and productive hours lost. However, the return on that investment in terms of moral and culture change may be even larger.

Another benefit of promoting your own employees is that it improves the employee-employer relationship. Those you’ve short listed for the Six Sigma training know they are trusted by the company and will want to live up to this trust.

Now, let us take a look at the other side of the coin. When you get in an external Black Belt who’s already completed Six Sigma training, you save on huge initial investments. However, you do have to pay for hiring costs to bring in external Black Belts. And you cannot get the Black Belt to work from the word go. They need time and resources to become familiar with your company’s processes. One other disadvantage with hiring Black Belts is that their need to learn more about processes to initiate Six Sigma projects, can lengthen project times and delay results.


January 31, 2007

Six Sigma Defined

By Priya Jestin, Staff Writer

We’ve probably gone so much into the intricacies of the process that we have probably forgotten to ask ourselves a very pertinent question: What Is Six Sigma? For those who came in late, here is a small orientation course on the management mantra that has taken the corporate world by storm.

The corporate environment today is highly charged and you have absolutely no room for error. Six Sigma is a highly disciplined process that helps us focus on developing and delivering near-perfect products and services.

So what’s in the name? The word Sigma is a statistical term that measures how far a given process deviates from perfection. The basic idea behind Six Sigma is that if you can measure the number of "defects" in a process, you can systematically figure out how to eliminate them. This will help you get as close to "zero defects" as possible. To achieve Six Sigma Quality, a process must produce no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. An "opportunity" is defined as a chance for nonconformance, or not meeting the required specifications.


January 25, 2007

Small Business, Big Gains

By Priya Jestin, Staff Writer

If you are one of those who thought that Six Sigma was only for large corporations, you’re not alone. Many people believe that Six Sigma process improvement results can only be achieved by huge organizations. What they don’t realize is that small businesses too can succeed in implementing Six Sigma and reap the process improvement benefits of this approach.

Agreed, the implementation and results may vary depending on the size of your organization. For instance a small business doesn’t have access to a large pool or resources like a big business firm. At the same time, the very nature of its business – small in size – will ensure that the process flows are flexible, and the decision-making chain is shorter.

Another thing a small business cannot do is, undertake massive training programs for its employees. They also cannot afford to have full-time Master Black Belts on staff and may not have the personnel with the skills and expertise to step into the role of Black Belts without extensive training. In such a scenario, you can get a certified Six Sigma consultant to act as your Black Belt for the initial projects. Once you have generated enough savings, you can use some of this amount to train your own people. Financially, savings realized from the first set of projects usually justifies the entire cost of the Six Sigma training.


January 09, 2007

What Is Six Sigma?

One cannot continue to write about how to achieve perfection without understand the notion of perfection. The same theory applies for the Six Sigma method. Six Sigma at many organizations simply means a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. So what exactly is Six Sigma? It can be called a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects in any process. This means a firm using the Six Sigma approach, methodically tries to correct all defects from the manufacturing to the transactional process and from product to service.

If we go as per the definition, to achieve Six Sigma, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. A Six Sigma defect is defined as anything outside of customer specifications. A Six Sigma opportunity is then the total quantity of chances for a defect. Process sigma can easily be calculated using a Six Sigma calculator. Isixsigma.com reports:

The fundamental objective of the Six Sigma methodology is the implementation of a measurement-based strategy that focuses on process improvement and variation reduction through the application of Six Sigma improvement projects. This is accomplished through the use of two Six Sigma sub-methodologies: DMAIC and DMADV.

Read more: Six Sigma - What is Six Sigma?


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