Using Six Sigma: Everything You Need To Know

Six Sigma is a technique designed to reduce the likelihood of human error in a business by adopting a data-driven approach. By utilizing modern technology capabilities, the statistical methods help to remove any dated processes which can be minimizing productivity and lowering profit margins. To remain strong in a competitive industry, both big and small companies need to adapt to the fast paced environment and continue to improve their processes by identifying any potential flaws and finding ways to strengthen their foundations.

Organizations have been using Six Sigma since the concept arose in 1986, being developed by Motorola who were researching quality management processes. The name is based on sigma, the Greek symbol which is a statistical measurement process one deviation from the mean.‘Six Sigma’ indicates the bell shaped curve which has three sigmas above and below the mean, meaning the defect rate is minimal. Since being created over 35 years ago, the methodology has been refined so people nowadays can work to a more efficient process and emerge into bigger markets.

The Principles Of Six Sigma

With the aim of Six Sigma being to iron out any defects in a process to produce a high quality of product and improve customer satisfaction, the overarching theme of the methodology is to identify any key problems and know where change can be implemented to overcome the issue.

The process can be broken down into smaller principles which each contribute to the outcome:

  • A customer centric approach
    
With the customers being at the heart of each and every business, the main aim of a team should be to realize where value is being provided to their audience. By getting to know the ideal customer profile and their needs, sales and repeat purchases will follow once demand is understood.
  • Establish your issues in the value stream
    
By analyzing data to identify any problem areas which are creating waste in a funnel, a business can understand where to focus their efforts and turn around an issue. Data is key so looking at insights and ensuring that data collection systems are accurate will mean numbers can be used to work towards goals in a data-driven way.
  • Squash the defects

    Once a problem has come to light, it will become easier to iron out the issues by removing the parts of the process which are failing to add value. If it is not clear where a problem sits, carefully analyzing each step in a process to discover any anomalies will mean potential bottlenecks can be identified and removed.
  • Repeat the process

    Regularly using Six Sigma will mean a business can continue to reflect on their processes and improve them. All stakeholders should be used to combine specialisms and collaboratively solve a problem by each looking into their areas of expertise and providing feedback on the aspects which can lead to error.
  • Adapt to your surroundings
    
With change being at the heart of the methodology, being able to respond to issues with an open minded approach is key. A flexible business culture will allow all members of a workforce to make changes when required and adapt to the new processes, ultimately making their job roles easier as they fix any flawed processes.

The Six Sigma Project Methodologies

The process of using Six Sigma can be broken down into two main methodologies; DMAIC and DMADV. Each acronym is made up of five phases and DMAIC is most suitable for projects looking to improve existing manufacturing processes whereas DMADV is better for creating new ones.

DMAIC

Define
Define the problem primarily from a customer perspective in order to establish goals that can be used to track success.
Measure

Measure the current process by looking into the current tools used and analyzing whether they collect relevant quantifiable data.
Analyze
Analyze the different data components collected to see whether they are useful in contributing towards the process.
Improve

Based on the data collected, it should be possible to identify the problems and this is where a solution can be implemented to improve the whole process.
Control

The implementation of the improvements should be monitored against the initial goals that were setup to ensure that productivity is being achieved.

DMADV

Define
The customer’s needs should be carefully considered in order to define the basis of the process and what should be achieved as the outcome.
Measure

Production capability should be considered in a realistic manner and any potential risks should be identified so they can be planned for.
Analyze
Various process plans should be made and each should be thoroughly analyzed by various team members with different expertises to select the best approach.
Design

The chosen design will be simulated using advanced softwares to visualize the process and identify any areas for optimization before implementation.
Verify
Once the design is approved and any trials have been completed, the process can be implemented by the owners of the process to kickstart the production.

Certification For Using Six Sigma

To know which Six Sigma program is the best for your situation, the training levels are split into five different belts which each consist of different roles and responsibilities. Which belt you start at will depend on factors such as education, job role, and training requirements and then every belt will help you prepare for the next.

White belt
Although not an official certification, the white belt signifies the base stage which can be joined by newcomers as long as they understand the basic principles of using Six Sigma.
Yellow Belt

With a yellow belt, employees can get involved in projects and review the process improvements in order to gain a deeper understanding of the methodologies involved.
Green Belt
This is a more intermediate program which requires at least three years of full time employment and hands on experience working with process transformations within a company.
Black Belt
Once someone has been using Six Sigma to successfully carry out two projects and has demonstrated that they can lead project teams, the black belt can be achieved.
Master Black Belt
Being the highest level possible, the master black belt is a prestigious program that requires a significant portfolio of past projects and prepares them for training others.

Using Six Sigma For The First Time

If a company is looking to improve processes but has not experienced using Six Sigma previously, it is recommended to get a certification before doing so as this will provide education on the methodology and help grow a business. To maximize the process and achieve the best results from Six Sigma, it can be highly beneficial to bring in a black belt or master black belt to manage the project and guide the team through it. Without sufficient knowledge from managers, making drastic changes to existing processes can result in negative results that halt the progress of an organization.

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