Discover how the Six Sigma methodology can eliminate defects in your processes – WAU

Six Sigma is a strategy developed by Motorola, with the aim of eliminating the reduction of variation in processes and, therefore, eliminating defects in the final result, which are products and services. The biggest beneficiary is the customer.

Those who are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste costs and increase the company’s profits, should seek to know more about the Six Sigma strategy and the results it can generate.

Nowadays, it is not enough to just be looking for innovations in the creation of products and solutions, like some management methods that exist. It is also necessary to apply this innovation in business management.

Waste cutting can be applied to any area and should be an integral part of the activities of any employee in a company. But in real life, this is not how it works.

That is why it is necessary to implement management methods that contain this philosophy and Six Sigma fulfills this requirement with praise.

Learn more about this method and how to apply it to your business successfully in this article. You will find out:

Interested? Keep reading!

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a methodology that aims to eliminate defects in products, services or processes. It is guided by statistical data, aiming at continuous improvement in the management of processes.

The etymology of the term came from the London sigma, known by the symbol “σ”, which is used in statistics to represent the deviation from the mean or the objective of something, which in the case of the method, are the processes.

Six Sigma can be implemented in companies of varying sizes, but each size requires a different challenge at the time of implementation.

Where did Six Sigma come from?

Six Sigma emerged during a discussion at Motorola management. The story goes that during a meeting, executive Art Sundry shouted his opinion on what he thought of Motorola’s quality control: “Our quality stinks!”.

What should have been a resignation case ended up becoming a promotion: now Art Sundry was responsible for exactly what he disliked at Motorola: quality control and everything related.

At that time (late 1970s), the Toyota Production System was already in use and Motorola couldn’t keep up with developments of its Japanese competitors.

Wanting to find a solution to improve Motorola’s quality, Sundry then hired two outside consultants, Dr. Mikel J Harry and Bill Smith, who are now known as the creators of the Six Sigma method.

Their idea was based on concepts already created, such as the statistical method of Walter Stewart, elaborated in 1920, in addition to some concepts of the Lean method and other ideas, which were extracted from scholars such as Kaoru Ishikawa, W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran , Philip Crosby and Genichi Taguchi.

The name of the method was officially released in 1986, with the first publication on the methodology, but it had already been used, within the company, a year earlier.

Subsequently, in 1995, the Six Sigma method was brought to GE by the CEO at the time, Jack Welch.

What is the purpose of Six Sigma in processes?

In a graphic representation, the objective of the technique is to show six sigmas, that is why this choice of name. When conquering the six sigmas in the graph of a process, the defect rate is classified as “extremely low” and therefore, ideal.

This means, for example, that if a product has the standard length X, the difference between the shortest length and the standard-average size must be 6 sigma difference, as well as the difference between the longest length and the average size.

Although it seems to be an extremely technical and mathematical method, which could keep small and medium-sized companies away, the main objective even with the reduction of defects is to increase profitability and also customer satisfaction.

Besides that, a side effect of Six Sigma is improving leadership, according to Jack Welch in his book “Definitive Jack – Secrets of the Executive of the Century”. We can also mention the improvement in productivity, cost reduction and, consequently, growth of the company that will implement it.

How does Six Sigma work?

Six Sigma uses two concepts based on the PDCA cycle, by Stewart and Deming, with 5 steps in each one. These concepts depend on the stage the company is in not only in the implementation, but also in the maturity of its business.

The first one we’re going to talk about is the DMAIC, which is a method focused on data collection, with the objective of improving products or services that already exist to increase customer satisfaction.

The name is an acronym of the 5 phases, which are:

  • D: define;
  • M: measure;
  • A: analyze;
  • I: improve (in English, improve);
  • C: control.

The other is the DMADV, which is also the acronym for the phases of your method. It is designed to design or redesign (if they do not pass the validation stage) creation of new products or services:

  • D: define;
  • M: measure;
  • A: analyze;
  • D: Design;
  • V: Validate

These steps are done in circles, one pulling the next. Each step has its own steps, which we will explain further in the next topic.

The professionals who specialize in Six Sigma are divided into “belts”, According to his experience and certifications:

  • white belt: beginners;
  • yellow belt: member of the Six Sigma project team at the company and superficial to intermediate knowledge of the methodologies and DMAIC;
  • green belt: 3 years’ experience in Six Sigma, working full time in the area;
  • black belt: 3 years of full experience in Six Sigma, having completed 2 Six Sigma projects;
  • master Black Belt: 5 years of experience, 10 completed Six Sigma projects, among other criteria.

How to implement Six Sigma in process management?

As it is a method that must be geared towards customer satisfaction, all steps must be carried out taking this approach into account.

In DMAIC, the first step (the D to define), must then be done by following the following steps:

  1. define the problem, based on the customers’ perspective;
  2. find the goals that must be achieved to eliminate or minimize it;
  3. map the process, taking into account the opinion of those who are part of it.

One way to collect this data is by talking to the customer, and this can be done even by the marketing sector, using digital marketing techniques, or, if it exists, the customer’s successful sector.

The ideal is that there is at least one person who is dedicated exclusively to the implementation of Six Sigma in companies smaller companies, while larger companies should have an entire team focused on the method.

The second step, which is measuring, is focused on the process metrics:

  1. measure the problem using collected data;
  2. establish criteria for performance;
  3. check if the measurement system can really help to achieve the goal.

The third step, analyzing, is important to discover what are the variables that influence the process. You must then:

  1. verify that the process is effective and efficient;
  2. quantify the goals, in order to be measurable;
  3. catalog the variations, according to the data collected;

In the improvement stage, the key is to find out how one variation affects another. It is usually performed with the following steps:

  1. test to see which variations are directly related;
  2. identify the relationships between the variations found in step 3 of the analysis;
  3. define what the tolerance rate will be for the result of the process to be acceptable. Here you can use robust optimization or another form of validation to find tolerances.

The last step, control, has as main focus to guarantee that the objective has been reached and to know if the solutions found are really efficient. It is done as follows:

  1. validate the measurement system;
  2. discover the real capacity of the process, that is, if it is really capable of reaching the goal;
  3. if the answer in step 2 is yes, then the improvement process must be carried out.

The difference between DMAIC and DMADV is in the last two stages. In the first, the two steps are to find the defects in the processes and make the control, to apply the improvement or not. In the second, it is necessary to make a process and validate it later, to know if it will be implemented or not.

Six Sigma, to be successfully established in an organization, needs resources (human and material) and constant training with employees, including for their cooperation in much-needed activities of the method, such as data collection.

Leadership support is essential for Six Sigma to be well applied and bring relevant results for the company and especially for its customers.

Six Sigma has some similarities with another method, Lean Innovation Management, despite having differences in its concepts, as Lean Innovation seeks lean ways to bring innovation to the company.

Find out more about this methodology, which is also bringing many results to the companies that adopt it, in the article that we separated on the subject, here.