So you want to introduce Six Sigma into your organization. Congratulations! Thousands of organizations have walked this path and found not just gold at the end of the rainbow, but satisfied employees, improved morale, and other benefits.
The goal of implementing Six Sigma in your organization is to improve the quality of your products or services. That is the essence of the Six Sigma method. Usually the Six Sigma becomes ingrained into the culture of the organization over time.
The 3 Steps
The process can be carried out in various ways but the three basic steps are:
- Select Projects
Obviously, you need to have the appropriate management buy-in and budget. The larger the organization, the more it will cost to get started. There is a training requirement which will be an upfront cost, and a recurring cost of using those Six Sigma practitioners on improvement projects rather than other, paying work. Perhaps most importantly, the implementation of the improvements identified by the Six Sigma practitioners will require regular, ongoing expenditures. But this is the whole point – to spend a bit of money to increase product quality. So to summarize:
- Initial training of green belts, black belts, etc. – $2,000 – $4,000 per course.
- Cost of using those personnel on Six Sigma projects.
- Cost of the process improvements, as they happen.
The up front expenditures should at least partly pay for themselves in the form of higher quality products and satisfied clients. These are sometimes hard to quantify because you are trying to measure additional orders for the product, or services, based on improved quality. But if you are thinking of implementing Six Sigma to correct a product quality problem, rather than improve an already smooth process, there will be a high likelihood of recovering the costs.
To implement Six Sigma there should be at least one Green belt, Black belt, and Master black belt. The roles are as follows:
- Green belt: Does the analysis and bulk of the work for Six Sigma improvement projects.
- Black belt: Leads and organizes Six Sigma projects, makes recommendations for improvements and plans for their implementation.
- Master black belt: Provides overall direction, and makes decisions regarding which Six Sigma projects to pursue.
A Six Sigma improvement project is a project which analyzes and improves a process to achieve higher quality products.
Courses for green belt certification are usually 1 week, while black belt is about 2 weeks.
Once training is completed, six sigma improvement projects are selected and the process is started. Six Sigma practitioners will use statistics to analyze the output of a process and determine the required improvements to increase product quality. The concepts are based on reducing variability. In other words, the closer the widgets are to exactly the same, the better the quality of the product.
Management support is essential, and often the organization needs to be prepared for change. The benefits for the customer and business can be easily identified, and process improvement can be integrated with existing initiatives.
Six Sigma green and black belts will be trained to look at process through the eyes of DMAIC and DMADV.
- DMAIC (pronounced “Demayik”) looks at existing processes using Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control
- DMADV (pronounce “Demadvee”) looks at developing new processes using Define-Measure-Analyze-Design-Validate
The Six Sigma process is very statistical in nature. Six Sigma practitioners are trained to look at the output of a production process in terms of statistical distributions and create targets for percentage defective. The goal is 6 standard deviations from the mean (hence the name “Six Sigma”) which correlates to 3.4 defects in 1 million products.