What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is a structured way to deliver a substantial, measurable improvement. It is used to improve an organisation's competitiveness by improving process outputs. This might be witnessed through higher productivity, higher quality, lower costs (fewer returns and waste) or shorter time to market. Six Sigma projects are led by trained people and target the most pressing issues.
There are two distinct approaches – one is for problem solving, and the second is for designing new products and/or processes. The latter is sometimes referred to as Design For Six Sigma, or 'DFSS' for short. These two approaches are often referred to by their initial letters (DMAIC or DMADV / DIDOV), but when they are combined with a 'Lean' methodology they become an even more powerful way of working which is referred to as Lean Six Sigma.
Why is it different?
Lean Six Sigma uses long-term measured data to drive informed decision making and introduces controls to ensure issues stay fixed. It provides a route to measuring, understanding, and reducing variation and non-value added activity. The result is effective and efficient processes that provide consistently high quality.
Where can it be used? Isn’t it only for manufacturing?
No! Lean Six Sigma can be applied to almost any area of an organisation in almost any sector – including manufacturing, Finance, healthcare and logistics.
How does Six Sigma fit in with JIT, Kaizen and ISO9000 series?
Lean Six Sigma complements these fully by building on the skills already in the workforce and bringing new focus on sustained performance excellence. The methodology also fits very well with programme management approaches.
When in the project cycle can we use this?
Six Sigma can be used for new business, for current activities or for future projects.
Who should be involved, isn’t it only for Maths Wizards?
Certainly Not! Most projects will only use basic maths, and most calculations are done for you in Excel spreadsheets.
How do you measure the experience of a six sigma professional?
Usually those trained to different levels are called Yellow belts, Green belts or Black belts. In general:
- A Yellow Belt would understand the methodology, but not necessarily drive it, so would participate in projects run by others, and incorporate the approaches into their “day job”.
- Green Belt is a “practitioner” level and would be able to run smaller projects, spending around 20% of their time on Six Sigma. Green Belts would also identify issues for new problem solving projects.
- A Black Belt is “expert” level and in many business would be fully committed to running larger projects and mentoring Green Belts.
- Master Black Belts look at the implementation from a strategic viewpoint, assessing how to implement Lean Six Sigma for the best business benefit.