3M Finding its Way to Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 30 June 2005 | 9:28 am

When you need abrasives, bandage, locks, fiberglass, or gun injections, chances are you will find the name 3M on them. 3M is a highly diverse technology company. It has wide market share on consumer and office; display and graphics; electro and communications; health care; industrial; safety, security and protection services; and transportation. The company was able to reach these markets because of its systmematic research, manufacturing, and marketing strategies.

3M however continued to seek for a better market position. The company found the answer in Six Sigma methodology. The quality strategy has proved that fundamental process change leads to higher quality output, increased productivity, and energized employees.

At present, more than 30,000 employees have trained and completed Green Belt training for all salaried employees. This includes the entire industrial business sales force and technical teams. Globally, over 11,000 projects have closed and more than 12,000 projects are currently underway.

Here are just a few examples of 3M Industrial Business-Customer Six Sigma projects:

* A major automotive manufacturer had a significant challenge with one of its largest-selling vehicles. 3M led a Six Sigma joint effort that provided a cost-effective solution in a short time frame. 3M now has multiple Six Sigma projects underway with this customer.

* A well-known food producer needed to keep track of products it makes and ships. In the event of a product recall, it needed to locate every food item shipped, right down to the hour it left the production line. The Six Sigma solution involved a combination of 3M packaging equipment, 3M-developed packaging management software and a Six Sigma control plan.

* A leading manufacturer was experiencing a quality issue with one of its new product designs. 3M applied Six Sigma methodology and, together, the joint team developed a solution in less than a month. As a result of Six Sigma, 3M is now a “benchmark supplier” for this customer and has multiple joint Six Sigma projects underway.

3M Finding a Way: Six Sigma Methodology

Filed under: General

1 Comment |

Customer Need, Anyone?

Posted by: meikah | 29 June 2005 | 4:17 am

Every business, if not all, claims that customer is king. Thus each designs its processes to cater to every customer need. That is important especially in the face of stiff competition and more aggressive marketing; knowing one’s market or customers spell a big difference. No business would want something like this to happen.

Cartoon adapted from six_sigma_systeem

Chet Damania, Master Black Belt at Ethicon Endo Surgery, a J&J company, applied Process Excellence to improve process controls, quality systems and develop customer/vendor relationships. He defined Process Excellence as ?A breakthrough strategy that will drive results in market penetration, customer satisfaction, organisational speed and cost of doing business utilising a systematic method to optimise key business processes that achieve desired business objectives and meet customer needs constantly.?

What follows are selected projects that are launched using the DMAIC methodology. The methodolgy is to drive process improvements and focus on ?dial moving? projects. ?You can then funnel-down to the critical projects, quantify their impact on the metric and aggressively manage the project through to completion,? Damania explained. “If you want extraordinary results”, Damania said, “You must have breakthrough thinking.”

With this project, Inventory Management was reduced from 80 days down to 40 days, and Customer Order Fulfillment was increased on average from 90% to over 98%.

Read more Establishing Leading Indicators Using Six Sigma for the Global Supply Chain

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

Six Sigma and Organization Culture

Posted by: meikah | 28 June 2005 | 4:02 am

The organization that decides to achieve Six Sigma cannot help having its culture change. Six Sigma relationship consultant, Stephen Matthews has observed that most companies recognize that achieving a step-change improvement probably means that the organizational culture has to change.

Matthews defined culture as “That set of attitudes, values, and beliefs that you see being enacted on a day to day basis in the organisation.” He further outlined two ways of looking at organizational culture.

The roots/external view, which looks at culture as ?unchangeable? over a period of time. That is because this culture is created by everyone in the workplace and combined with company’s existing one.

The internal/behavioural view, on the other hand, treats culture as the behaviour of the company?s people. Thus it can be led and changed.

A common thread of the two views is people?s or employee’s behavior, which is a major
consideration. Emphasis is on what action to take, what to do, or which behavior will deliver the results.

Matthews then brought the aspect of individual temperament to a person’s behavior. He said that individuals of different temperaments often describe dramatically different goals and ideals for the organization. Therefore temperament can also shed light on the organizational culture.

Below are examples of Six Sigma projects that incorporate culture and temperament.

Practical and Structured Culture (“Guardian” or “SJ”)
General Focus is on policy, rules, procedures, protocol, schedules, systems, follow through, logistics, practical requirements and results, getting things done in accordance with the plan ? short, medium and long term.

Six Sigma Focus is on right training, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity, at the right quality, to deliver the right results in alignment with existing plans and budgets.

Creative and Empathetic Culture (“Idealist” or “NF”)
General Focus is on human values, impact of actions on people, meaning, morale, harmony and cooperation, vision, inspiration, growth and development of the person and the company.

Six Sigma Focus is on right training for ALL the people, clarification of the deeper issues, mediation and conflict resolution, generating enthusiasm and championing the cause.

Tactical and Flexible Culture (“Artisan” or “SP”)
General Focus is on tactics, needs of the moment, employing any available means to accomplish an end, using tools, immediate (sensory) information, and action.

Six Sigma Focus is on pointing out the immediate needs, detecting and exploiting options, crisis management, handling the unexpected, getting the whole thing under way, improvisation, getting on with it.

Strategic and Analytical Culture (“Rational” or “NT”)
General Focus is on strategy, technology, abstract analysis, searching for patterns, developing hypotheses, logical systems, and change.

Six Sigma Focus is on relating the means to the overall vision and goal, the appropriate projects for the larger perspective, developing multiple plans for meeting all possible contingencies, and generating strategic options.

Six Sigma Culture and Personality

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

Six Sigma Champions

Posted by: meikah | 27 June 2005 | 5:23 am

Like all other project deployments, a system must be in place for it to work. Part of this system is what management groups call job description. Organizational roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined and aligned.

Same is true with a Six Sigma project, which should have a strong and clear support structure. The relationship between Master Black Belts, and Green Belts clear because of the intuitive nature of the titles. The structure is completed with the Champions on board.

In the Six Sigma parlance, what the Champions do is to remove roadblocks. “Champions need to be in a position to defuse any issues that may arise between a Black Belt and another person in the organization, particularly if the issue is with someone with a higher formal position in the company. The Champion should be the buffer that keeps a Black Belt out of a head-to-head confrontation with Managers, Vice Presidents and Directors in the company, allowing Black Belts the freedom to focus on the problem, not engage in some inane territorial dispute. This is the most fundamental function of the Champion.”

One critical characteristic for successful Six Sigma Champions is that they are some hybrid of Henry Kissinger and Xena, the Warrior Princess. It may actually be easier to find the mutant offspring of these two leaders than it is to find the complete Champion. Being the complete Champion requires more than diplomatic and warrior skill sets.

Champions must be proficient in four other areas:

1. Business and operations interface
2. Project selection
3. Pace mediation
4. Results implementation

Obviously, Champions have a much larger role in deploying Six Sigma or any other initiative than just removing roadblocks. The job requires more than just this single task. Champions must be integrated into the business, select projects accurately, adjust the speed of the deployment as necessary, and take responsibility for implementation.

The Champion’s Role In Successful Six Sigma Deployments

Six Sigma Organizational Architecture

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

A Six Sigma Experience

Posted by: meikah | 24 June 2005 | 3:55 am

When Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Inc. embraced Six Sigma in 2001, it was able to develop innovative customer focused solutions and to transfer these solutions across the global organization.

One glaring proof was when one of its chains of hotel, The Westin Turnberry Resort in Scotland won the IQPC’s 5th Annual European Six Sigma Summit in London on April 28, 2004. The five star resort hotel won the fiercely contested European Award category “Design for Six Sigma” for a reservation project.

With the innovative project, The Westin Turnberry Resort has created a single point of contact from which all the individual reservation channels for hotel, golf, spa, transport, restaurant and outdoor activities are received and redirected. They have formed a multi-skilled Resort Sales team that can immediately confirm and cross sell any request received by the hotel.

The benefits were immediate. To date there has been an 11.95% increase in incremental spend by customers and increase in rooms revenue of more than 19%. In addition, The Spa revenues have increased from GBP 91 per booking to GBP 141 per booking as a result of the newly centralised reservation group, which enables the maximum utilisation of treatment rooms and

As a result of this success, the Starwood Hotels & Resorts group is continually sending some of their people for Six Sigma training. As of August 1 last year, the hotel company, with over 740 properties globally, had trained over 1000 associates from all over the world to become Six Sigma Green Belts, the first training stage in the Six Sigma development program. And executives of the hotel company will be sending more associates from Europe, Middle East, Africa, and other regions for an intensive Six Sigma training.

Paul James, Master Black Belt, North West Europe said, “This project is just one example of countless SIX SIGMA projects we have going on in many of our hotels across the world. We are constantly looking at ways we can improve the guest experience and make the use of our associates time and skills more productive, so it is a win-win situation. However, SIX SIGMA projects are not a one off – ‘lets do it and leave it – there needs to be on-going monitoring of results to ensure that improvements made are continuous and sustainable.”

That’s definitely putting value for money where it should be.

Green Belts Galore at Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

Improving PR Through Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 23 June 2005 | 11:50 am

Public relations play a very important role in business. It is not surprising therefore that Six Sigma efforts will be tried on this field.

Initial Six Sigma efforts on public relations were started at GE. While GE’s Work-Out strategy was applied to all GE processes, it was not consistently applied to communication functions within the organization. GE Appliances corporate communication team however was convinced that its processes will improve with Six Sigma.

GEA then worked closely with its research partner, Delahaye. Together they worked on linking the Delahaye’s Weighted Impact and Net Effect method. Toward the latter part of 2000 until mid-2001, GEA and Delahaye began its initial Six Sigma projects with the aim of developing a real-time strategy for consistently improving and controlling overall PR productivity costs, ROI, and effectively satisfying customer needs.

The results: GEA’s corporate communication team has developed a PR Effectiveness Control Plan, which can be used throughout its PR efforts, including media relations strategy, product exposure strategy, and overall resource allocation. Research findings prove a significant impact on business:

* a substantial improvement in overall PR productivity costs
* a 16% increase in “cost per positive media impression” produced
* an 8-basis-point increase in the number of positive media impression produced
* a 20-basis-point decrease in the number of negative media impression produced

Six Sigma process in public relations begins with understanding its two kinds of customers: the internal (those who fund PR activities) and external customers (may be a journalist, an analyst, employee, or a PR practitioner). Then it proceeds to understanding the needs of the customers. The common tools used to identify customer needs are survey, focus groups, content analysis of news coverage.

Following are some of Six Sigma Project Ideas for Public Relations :

1. Reduce time for press release approval.
2. Improve media targeting (identify media that have proven reach among your target audience.)
3. Assess journalist’s preferences and satisfaction with current PR initiatives.
4. Assess “internal client” preferences and satisfaction with current PR initiatives.
5. Improve the ratio of releases sent versus releases used.
6. Improve the ratio of placements featuring critical messages.
7. Improve the ratio of featuring a company spokesperson.
8. Improve the ratio of stories featuring visuals or graphics.
9. Improve the ratio that are either exclusives or feature-length.
10. Improve the ratio of ROI of events and event sponsorships.
11. For agencies, improve percentage of billable hours.

Six Sigma for Improved Public Relations

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

Working at 6 Toward 6

Posted by: meikah | 22 June 2005 | 5:07 am

The number 6 can very well be the key by which an organization can succeed in their Six Sigma projects.

Nari Kannan wrote in his article Six Ways to Make Six Sigma Efforts Succeed that Six Sigma deployments might fail if proponents ignored some of the pragmatic and mechanical issues involved.

He outlined six ways to ensure that the Six Sigma projects will see completion and experience success.

1. Apply the 80/20 rule when selecting a Six Sigma project: “20 percent of a company’s processes or technologies contribute 80 percent of the improvement possible.” This 80-20 ratio varies from one organization to the other. For instance, in a mortgage loan market, a company may have to spend more time on the loan origination and underwriting cycle than on post-loan processes. The crucial question to determine the ratio would be: “What kind of Six Sigma projects can give maximum impact to the company strategically?”

2. Examine the conflicting priorities in the organization. Speeding up sales and order processing, for example, may be a worthwhile goalfor the marketing people, but are the same concerns taken seriously by the manufacturing people and are they ready to handle the additional speed or volume that increased sales bring?

3. Ensure buy-in from all quarters of the organization. The employees must believe and fully support the efforts of each department. Sales may be happy with an increased customer base but is finance finding that a thoughtless rush to bring in new customers is bringing in customers of poorer quality causing bad debts to go up?

4. Emphasize the control aspect of DMAIC cycle. “How do you know that the response time is still what was achieved before in the Six Sigma effort?” Control or continuous monitoring of these projects and the improvements made will spell the Six Sigma success.

5. Value organizational knowledge and experience as champions and change agents. Experienced upper management as champions and change agents are absolutely essential to ensure continued Six Sigma efforts.

6. Emphasize cross-functional successes. This step strengthens numbers 2 and 3 efforts. These efforts avoid labeling of a particular project as as a manufacturing project or customer service project. It definitely encourages team effort.

Bearing this 6 by 6 principle, organizations aiming at achieving Six Sigma will realize a solid control plan, improved efficiency throughout the organization, and real savings.

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

Six Sigma in Public Schools

Posted by: meikah | 21 June 2005 | 4:56 am

As more and more manufacturing and service companies turn to Six Sigma for improved efficiency, it is interesting to know that the same quality strategy can also be used in the public school system.

It all started when businessman and an advocate of Six Sigma himself Jim Wiegel, president of the school board for Adams County chool District 12 in Thornton, Colorado (USA), gave his fellow board members an unusual holiday gift. He gave each of them a copy of the book The Six Sigma Way and told them to read it during the break and be ready to discuss it at the first school board meeting in the new year.

Wiegel knew that it would not be easy to convince academic people to do extra work. His first step was to find a consultant who would work with a public school system. He found consultant Peter Pandy, who did leadership training. Pandy then went to work. His first step was to present a case study of a radio broadcasting company. He demonstrated how a system with many flaws could be improved by a careful, thorough application of Six Sigma. In turn, faculty and staff learned how a problem can be solved by using a step-by-step method of looking at all aspects of a process: to identify and quantify problems, to analyze, improve, and finally control a process.

Then came Brien Hodges, an assistant principal who wanted to solve some issues within the school system and had statistics training. Hodges was familiar with Six Sigma, thus he was perfect as quality improvement process evaluator. He received Six Sigma training, advancing to Black Belt status.

Hodges being a teacher himself knew that teachers are good at finding solutions to problems. Thus, he would begin every meeting with questions like “what is the problem?” “how do you know?” “what are the causes?” “what treatment can we apply” and “what the results likely be?”

After many repetitions of this process, the teachers began to see the importance of identifying the problem before trying to solve it.

One problem identified was poor air quality in the classrooms. After the Six Sigma DMAIC, it was found that some of the teachers kept animals in their classrooms, without even the slightest intention of caring for them. Other teachers, for lack of appropriate space, had placed books, papers and other materials on top of ventilators, thereby blocking effective air circulation in those rooms. The result of the Six Sigma project was clean air. Also, the teachers were happy that their grievances had been listened to, and that a solution had been found. To top it off, the school district was honored with an indoor air quality award.

Then came the harder part, which was the curriculum aspect, the heart of the education system. One problem was that the schools in the district were not all teaching the same curriculum. It was impossible for the district to assess students with a standardized test.

What Hodges did, he had the teachers apply Six Sigma to this problem. The teachers found that it could be done. The move was to pilot one textbook through the ninth and tenth grade levels (and advanced eighth grade) in all schools in the district. At the end of that period, with all students literally “on the same page,” they would be able to test on a particular core of knowledge. Test results would be quantifiable, and there would be the added benefit of a cost savings. With all the schools buying the same textbooks, a larger discount could be negotiated.

“The key,” Hodges said, “was taking us out of the way we were used to thinking. Forcing a different pattern of thinking brought a newer, clearer vision of what could be done.”

Hodges’s work does not stop there. With the success of the pilot projects he is excited and is bursting with ideas.

Using Six Sigma to Solve Issues in Public School System

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

Six Sigma in the Medical Industry

Posted by: meikah | 20 June 2005 | 4:42 am

Six Sigma relies heavily on statistical analysis of data and strong problem-solving techniques to eliminate defects. For more than a decade, manufacturing have used it to eliminate errors. Only recently have health care organizations begun applying Six Sigma methods into their operations, and Froedtert & Medical College are pioneers in this implementation.

The move to deploy Six Sigma took place after a study released by the National Academy of Science?s Institute of Medicine (IOM). The study found that medical errors are responsible for the deaths of 44,000 to 98,000 hospital patients every year. And even if the numbers were lower it would still make medical errors the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing causes such as motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS.

Beth Lanham, RN, BSN, Quality Management Six Sigma Coordinator of the Froedtert Six Sigma effort, said in her article for the March 2003 issue of the journal Nursing Economics that unintended human error is at the root of many medical errors. The IOM, on the other hand, concluded that ?the problem is not bad people in health care ? it is that good people are working in bad systems. No one questions the fact that health care today is high-risk, highly complex and labor intensive. It has grown far too complex for the model that worked decades ago. The quality of our current care delivery system is, to a large extent, dependent on complex internal systems working smoothly and efficiently together. Froedtert Hospital believes that implementation of Six Sigma methodology is the catalyst needed to successfully combine quality, cost and patient safety.?

True enough, when Froedtert & Medical College deployed its three initial Six Sigma projects, it was able to significantly improve patient care and reduce errors.

1. IV drug infusions improve the accuracy of drip calculations. Error rates and clinical discrepancies improved significantly.

2. Patient Controlled Pumps for Administering Pain Medications. The crucial errors on concentrations for medication and pump programming greatly improved, resulting in fewer errors, and if errors did occur, they were less severe and were discovered more quickly.

3. Laboratory turn-around time discovered a variety of obstacles to improvement, such as software and interface issues and the pneumatic tube system, among others.

Following Froedtert Hospital, other hospitals also turned to Six Sigma to reduce costs. According to the IOM report, “reducing medical errors can also result in significant financial savings, reporting that total national costs of preventable medical errors resulting in injury account for between $17 billion and $29 billion per year. The study noted that preventable adverse drug reactions can increase average hospitalization costs by $4,700 per admission.”

The successful Six Sigma initiative by Froedtert & Medical College and the American Society for Quality has been mentioned on several occasions by John Torinus, a West Bend CEO who writes a regular column in the Sunday Business Section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In a recent column he hailed those efforts again:

?Health experts say defects in the medical system cause as much as 30% of all costs. In the $1.3 trillion health care industry, that means $390 million in waste every year.”

In the article, it was shown that there are still a lot of improvements that the medical industry is facing, even in terms of employing the Six Sigma strategy. The effort of Froedtert & Medical College is a good start though.

Six Sigma Program Takes Aim at Medical Errors

Filed under: General

No Comments » |

Six Sigma at the Ford Motor Company

Posted by: meikah | 17 June 2005 | 12:00 pm

Ford Motor Company truly lives by its famous slogan “Quality is Job 1.” You can therefore expect your Ford automobile to be in top shape when it reaches you wherever you may be in the world. That’s the promise of Farzin Ghodsi, Six Sigma Black Belt at Ford Worldwide Direct Market Operations. Succinctly expressing the company’s consumer driven Six-Sigma initiative, Ghodsi says, ?The goal at Ford is to present customers with a vehicle with a ?Factory Fresh Look? no matter where in the world they are located.?

The company decided to deploy Six Sigma after finding out that their vehicles reached their destination points with exterior surface defects. This is how vehicles are prepared for export at the Ford’s manufacturing plants.

Vehicles had transit protection film applied to horizontal surfaces. Transit protection film would protect the vehicle’s exterior on the journey from the plant to the US port and then throughout the ocean voyage to the distributor. During transport, large portions of the transit film lifted away from the vehicle surface and damage occurred. Dirt and debris would become trapped between the loose film and the vehicle’s finish, and the film would lash against the fresh paint and cause defects.

When the vehicles arrived at the port, the port processors had only a few options before loading the vehicles on the ocean-bound transport vessels:

1. Wash the car (which often removed even more of the film).
2. Take no action and chance that more damage would occur to the vehicle before arrival at the final destination.
3. Repair the film ? although the cost of fixing the material was often more costly than the original application.

These options may be few but they can be costly. Thus the company formed a Customer Driven 6-Sigma project team in June of 2001. The team chose two target test locations and one destination market: a Ford manufacturing facility in St. Thomas, Canada; their port processing facility in Delaware; and one destination market – the Middle East region. The reason for these choices were the extreme temperatures and difficult ocean conditions during product transport. The team thought that the journey would be a test for the company’s processes. To be able to reduce defects under these extreme conditions would render whatever improvements robust enough to create positive results in less challenging environments.

By using Design of Experiments (DOE) the team determined which were critical for explaining process variation. The team used MINITAB to understand how the factors interact and to identify areas for intervention and process improvement opportunities.

Ford compared defect rates for:

1. Vehicles covered with existing transit protection film.
2. Vehicles covered with a new protection film.
3. Vehicles without protection film.

The data showed that the new material reduced transit-film-induced defects from 289% (2.89 defects per vehicle) to 129%, as compared to the existing material. Use of the new material also resulted in a significant cost savings since the new material was less expensive.

The results indeed enables the company achieve the following improvements:

1. Using the new material reduced defects to 129%.
2. Using the new material PLUS adding increased supervision and improved training reduced defects to 103%.

The team further discovered that the etch-resistant coating applied to Ford vehicles gave sufficient protection against damage for domestic transport. No transit film was needed until the vehicle was prepared for ocean transport. The move definitely provided over 4500 square feet of manufacturing space for other operations that had been previously been dedicated to transit film installation. It was then decided that the transit film application process be used at the port processing point in Delaware and not at the manufacturing plant in Canada.

Ford Motors Six Sigma project targeted a minimum savings of $250,000. This actual project resulted in cost savings in excess of $500,000.

Ford Motor Company – Driving Down Defect Rates

Filed under: General

No Comments » |