What is Six Sigma?
Written by Steve Hudgik
Six Sigma is an approach to reducing defects that was originally developed by Motorola. It uses extensive data collection and detailed analysis to achieve a very low defect rate, and a low rate of variability, in products or a process.
The Greek letter sigma is used as the name of this approach to defect reduction because it is commonly used to represent a deviation from a standard. The Six Sigma approach to improving a business is to measure the number of defects and find a way to eliminate those defects by bringing the product or process as close as possible to a standard of zero defects. To achieve a difference of six sigma (six standard deviations between the mean and zero defects) requires a defect rate of no more than 3.4 defects per 1,000,000 opportunities for a defect.
The overall goal of Six Sigma may be a quality goal, a safety goal, a cost reduction goal, or a profit increase goal.
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Six Sigma accomplishes its goal through the use of two Six Sigma Methods: DMAIC and DMADV.
What Is Six Sigma DMAIC?
The acronym DMAIC stands for:
- Define the problem. What is the desired outcome? This may be based on customer requirements, internal goals, or your competition.
- Measure the important parts of the production process.
- Analyze the data that was collected to identify the root causes of defects.
- Improve or modify the the process to create an improved process that produces fewer defects.
- Control the process to prevent deviations from the required standard and correct deviations before they result in defects.
Six Sigma DMAIC is typically used to improve an existing process.
What Is Six Sigma DMADV?
Six Sigma DMADV is used when a new product or process is being designed, and is also known as DFSS (Design For Six Sigma). The DMADV acronym stands for:
- Define design standards that align with the product or process goals. These are typically based on your business goals or customer requirements.
- Measure and identify characteristics of the product or process that are Critical To Quality (CTQ) .
- Analyze the resulting data to determine possible sources of defects or errors and evaluate potential methods for correcting or eliminating the sources defects or errors.
- Design changes in the process or product to eliminate the source of defects or errors.
- Verify that the design will meet the requirements.
What Is Six Sigma? - How does Six Sigma compare with Kaizen?
Both Six Sigma and Kaizen strive for significant improvements. Kaizen does it through a continuous flow of worker suggestions. This produces an ongoing flow of small improvements. Six Sigma is based on Six Sigma experts leading data collection, analysis and product improvement. Six Sigma, through it's use of expert and a focus on data collection and analysis, has the potential to identify and solve the big problems quicker.
Kaizen is less data intensive and does not require experts. As a result it can cost significantly less to implement than Six Sigma. Because of the continuous flow of suggestions, Kaizen provides relentless and continuing improvement over the long term. Six Sigma also provides long term benefits driven by its continuous monitoring, data collection and analysis.
Which is best for your company? That probably depends on your current corporate culture. If your culture favors centralized and data-driven decision making, then Six Sigma is the way to go. If you have a collaborative workplace which empowers employees to participate in decisions, then Kaizen most likely will be the more effective approach.
Whichever approach you use you will need to support your defect and waste reduction efforts with effective visual communication using DuraLabel printers. Implementing changes and conforming to standards can be difficult. By using a DuraLabel printer you can create custom labels and signs that deliver important information right where it is needed. Whether for safety or to identify data collection points, custom labels made with a DuraLabel printer help you improve productivity and reduce defects.
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