Certifying on Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 30 November 2005 | 3:15 am

In an article in isixsigma, Charles Waxer mentioned about receiving a lot of questions regarding Six Sigma certification. Like any other scientific endeavor, certification is very important. It renders your effort valid and legitimate–a confirmation of an individual’s capabilities in specific competencies. Every company has a different set of certification requirements. The general ones are as follows:

Six Sigma certification entails learning the appropriate subject matter, passing a written proficiency test, and displaying competency in a hands-on environment. The materials can be purchased from almost any Six Sigma training and consulting company, but almost always comes bundled with classroom training.

After a quality professional has completed training, s/he must complete one or two quality projects and display competency in applying the concepts learned in the classroom training.

The next logical question might be, where to get certified. The article has this to say.

There is no single body authorized to provide certification to the quality profession. Almost every one of the tens of companies providing Six Sigma training and consulting also provide certification. Why is this? Because individuals and companies are spending a great deal of money, sometimes in excess of $30,000 per individual, to become trained, and they feel like they should have something to show for it. Hence, certification became a popular add-on service for consulting companies because it allowed them to differentiate between skills levels, as well as charge additional fees.

Six Sigma Certification

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Six Sigma at Acme

Posted by: meikah | 28 November 2005 | 11:16 pm

Acme Electric Corporation is the leading electrical and electronic power conversion technology, famous for its advanced products for the most challenging of applications. Undoubtedly, Acme has accomplished a lot in the 80 years of its existence. The company thought that it has done all its best, until it embarked on the Six Sigma journey.

In a press release, it says there that “even this cutting-edge company was surprised at what Six Sigma could do for them in just one year.” The company achieves $1 million in savings and is expecting to save more in the coming years.

Rodger Fullbright, operations manager, credits Six Sigma for this new exciting phase in the company. He felt that in the face of intense competition, Six Sigma was the next logical step for the company. Through the demand of its customer base, Acme’s management team attended a Six Sigma overview offered by the Industrial Extension Service (IES) of North Carolina State University.

Since then the company never looked back. Employees were trained for Green and Black Belts. In 2003, the following projects were launched and completed in 2004:

  1. inventory reduction
  2. reduction of product testing
  3. set-up reduction
  4. a pricing proposal
  5. a reduction in choke and reactor rework
  6. and increased inventory accuracy

All in all, the savings from these projects will total $200,000 the first year. On top of these tangible benefits are those things that improve the entire system of Acme.

Customer complaints for recurring defects are down and final test first-pass-yield has improved, resulting in less rework and scrap. People now use the objective, data-driven tools of Six Sigma to reach an objective fact-based opinion instead of a personal opinion. Assumptions and best-guesses are eliminated.

Acme Electric in Lumberton Uses Six Sigma

Filed under: Benefits and Savings

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Six Sigma Awards

Posted by: meikah | 25 November 2005 | 8:20 am

They say reward is sweet after you’ve shed a lot of sweat. It’s true. Previous entries here often stressed the hard work that comes with every Six Sigma deployment. Thanks to creative people who always come up with an award system to recognize a job well done.

The European group of Six Sigma advocates will be doing just that. Six Sigma IQ, the world’s leading provider of six sigma conferences and summits, will hold the 2006′s Six Sigma Excellence Awards to honor, recognize and celebrate Six Sigma projects that demonstrate true best practices. Awarding will be at the 7th Six Sigma Summit in London on April 25th, 2006.

For this year’s awards, Six Sigma IQ has gathered a prestigious group of Six Sigma experts and leaders, all renowned for their years of Six Sigma experience and leadership.

Among the awards to be given away are:

“Award for Best Defect Elimination in Manufacturing”
“Award for Best Defect Elimination in Service & Transaction”
“Award for Best Innovative Six Sigma Project”
“Award for Best Design for Six Sigma”

Two new categories are added in the list of awards for 2006:

“Award for Best Lean Six Sigma Project”
“Award for Best Six Sigma Project in Financial Services”

What better way to convince Management that your efforts are not in vain? Register now and be rewarded for a great job!

European Six Sigma Excellence Awards: Criteria, Rules and Regulations

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Keys to a Succesful Six Sigma Initiative: Simulation and Optimization

Posted by: meikah | 24 November 2005 | 3:25 am

Perhaps one of the life-changing inventions that boggles the mind is the airplane. For man to actually being able to fly was the desperate wish of Icarus and Daedalus to escape from their island-prison. However, it was the genius of Wilbur and Orville Wright that sent man travelling through air. These two dreams, which may seem impossible at the start, had two things in common. Daedalus and the Wright Brothers initially made something that looks real but is not real, and made it as good as possible. In other words, to simulate and optimize gives you a glimpse of how your undertaking will go.

The same principle goes for a Six Sigma project. In a Six Sigma Interview with Jim Franklin, CEO, Decisioneering Inc., Jim emphasizes the vital role of simulation and optimization in a Six Sigma initiative.

Simulation for one can be applied throughout all the phases of Six Sigma, whether it be the DMAIC or various DFSS methodologies. Jim observes that many companies use simulation within the Define Phase to analyze the business cases. Doing this is a great help in choosing a project at the front end of the process. “Simulating the financial justification and business impact of projects dramatically increases the visibility of their project portfolio, through predicting the cost and benefits of each project on a stand-alone basis,” he said.

After the team has defined, measured and analyzed the optimization of tolerances, the Improve Phase is likely the second most common application of simulation to Six Sigma projects. According to Jim, this allows companies to select the right set of business decisions, avoiding assumptions and removing common politics, and to be able to proceed to the next step of the process improvement. Actually, a Six Sigma team can do simulation and optimization at any point where forecasting (for feasibility or success rate of the project) being carried out. As a result, the team can be ready for effects of variation and uncertainty.

Simulation and optimization are being done now by many countries all over the world: starting with the manufacturing and engineering markets in the US, followed by Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim, and not far behind are India and South Korea. Among the other industries that are going into it are services business, such as call centers, healthcare industries, and government associations.

Filed under: Tools/Toolkits

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The Impact of Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 23 November 2005 | 8:32 am

Inspired by the widespread interest in Six Sigma, Quality Digest surveyed 4,300 of its 75,000 readers, nearly all quality professionals, and asked them about their perceptions of Six Sigma and their experience with it. The survey also involved about 200 readers who were directly involved in Six Sigma programs.

The results of the survey are:

1. Of the 280 respondents, only 73 have a Six Sigma program in place. Nearly 90% of those, work for divisions of larger organizations, with 60% being part of organizations with more than 10,000 employees. Big companies therefore are more prone to go into Six Sigma initiatives.

2. Almost 62% of the surveyed companies that have been using Six Sigma have been doing so for less than two years.

3. Of the 48 respondents who answered the question, “Is it worth it?”– 38 reported that they have improved their processes and experienced savings; the other 10 either hadn’t completed projects, had programs that were floundering because they lacked management support, or didn’t have figures yet.

4. For the respondents whose companies have a Six Sigma program in place,
a. 71% agree that Six Sigma has significantly improved their organization’s profitability.
b. 49% agree that Six Sigma has significantly improved job satisfaction at their organization.
c. 59% agree that Six Sigma has significantly improved customer satisfaction at my organization.

The survey shows that done properly, Six Sigma does generate amazing results. One just have to really get down to business and avoid being carried away by the hype.

The Six Sigma Survey

Filed under: Benefits and Savings

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Six Sigma Is Changing Lilly

Posted by: meikah | 22 November 2005 | 4:07 am

Lilly and Company is a leading pharmaceutical company whose products address the most urgent medical needs. It is known for manufacturing the best-in-class and first-in-class medicines for depression, schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, osteoporosis, among others.

When it adopted Six Sigma methodoloy early this year, the company changed the way its employees work. By the company’s history, this could be the most expensive endeavor so far. Yet it is not relenting. Last March, the company had trained 200 employees into Black Belts. By the end of the year, Lilly hopes to to achieve cost savings equal to 2%-3% of annual revenue. “That represents anywhere from $280 million to $420 million in cost cuts, with the higher estimate equivalent to annual sales of Lilly’s ninth- best-selling drug,” the report says.

Thus far, Lilly’s Six Sigma teams have finished about 60 projects out of several hundred that have been launched. The company assigned more than half its black belts to projects in sales and in research and development. Among the completed projects are:

1. Making the Lilly Cares drug discount program for low- income patients easier to use. One change: reducing by half the number of questions a patient must answer on the application.
2. Streamlining the manufacturing line for a product sold by the Elanco animal health division to allow production to be increased without a major capital investment.
3. Decreasing by about 40 percent the time Lilly sales representatives in Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Japan spent on administrative tasks. A similar project is aimed at the U.S. sales force.
4. Saving $1 million a year by restructuring the neuroscience products customer call center. The changes let Lilly reduce its costly use of a contract call center.

Lilly Breaks Out the Black Belts

Filed under: Manufacturing

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Contacting with Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 21 November 2005 | 3:16 am

In a Contact Center, there are no products that are readily available for inspection unlike in manufacturing that’s why to measure defects is a bit challenging. Yet the serious business of improving quality service in contact centers is fundamental to improving customer service and maintaining a competitive edge. Successful contact companies strive to reduce the average length of calls, maximize the productivity of agents (and perhaps reduce head count), encourage the use of self-service channels and otherwise reduce expenses. In other words, they also try to improve or change their processes.

In so doing, they can turn to Six Sigma for answers. One basic task of Six Sigma principle is to examine defects across the complete process chain and then to make changes until defects fall within an acceptable range. Two obstacles to achieving this exist in the contact center.

First, far from being process-oriented, contact centers often rely heavily on the individual initiative of agents to deal with customer contacts.

Second, it is difficult to examine the end-to-end processes involved, both within the center and across the enterprise. The magnitude of the challenge is revealed through a glance at the amount of repetitive questioning and information collection that occurs when a call is handed from one agent to another—a common situation that is one of the greatest sources of customer frustration.

With Six Sigma methodology this can be overcome. Ventana Research recommends an approach based on three steps: Understand, Optimize and Align.

Understand involves two elements: identify the organization’s strategic objectives for contact management and measure how the contact center is performing today, that is looking at people, business process and technology aspects, and what is working and not working. These are the defects.

Optimize reviews processes and technology and sets a program for change that will improve the way the processes and people are working and improve their use of technology.

Align carries out the program, transforming the processes, educating people and improving or changing the supporting technologies.

Six Sigma in the Contact Center

Filed under: Services

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Six Sigma in Human Resource

Posted by: meikah | 18 November 2005 | 8:38 am

We know by now that Six Sigma methodology is not only for process chains but for every system that works for improving its processes. Human resource, a crucial yet often neglected process in an organization, can very well use Six Sigma.

Six Sigma’s use in human resource (HR) started when DuPont discovered that it took them six months to grant long-term disability benefits to their employees. Management turned to Six Sigma to improve the process. Not only can human resource benefit Six Sigma, it can also take on a major role in deploying the initiative. When Dow Chemical decided to go for Six Sigma, it engaged its human resource department to create a curriculum design team to develop Six Sigma courses. Also it incorporated conflict resolution and conflict management so that employees will be prepared to take on the leading and coaching roles during the projects. Not only that HR leaders are also using Six Sigma to improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs in everyday HR functions.

In another instance, a Colorado manufacturer was having trouble recruiting for a 24/7 operation where local unemployment was 2%. As a result, the company was paying excessive overtime to experienced workers. A common solution would be to raise the entry-level salary to be more competitive. But this is not the way to go. The answer was to apply Six Sigma quality tools to the process.

The common practice in hiring is stretch the hiring process, that is apply one week, test the next, interview the next, undergo a blood test, then receive an offer. Most likely, motivated applicants would find jobs elsewhere. By mapping the process, the procedure becomes clearer thereby removing delays. The company is then able to reduce hiring time from six weeks to one. These days, an applicant is tested, interviewed and gets an offer, contingent on the blood test. The company saves the money it would have paid in higher salaries and overtime.

Six Sigma in Sight

Filed under: Human Resource

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Six Sigma for Small and Medium-sized Businesses

Posted by: meikah | 17 November 2005 | 2:19 am

We all know by now that Six Sigma can reap a lot of savings and benefits for the company. But we are also aware that to embark on a Six Sigma initiative can be costly. The trainings alone command a high price. Because of this, people think that Six Sigma are only for big companies. This is not the case however.

In fact, small and medium-sized organizations need to go into Six Sigma. Six Sigma tools can provide major opportunities for cost savings. According to an article in the Quality Digest,

Smaller enterprises typically have ad hoc business processes. Error rates often hover in the 20- to 30-percent range, and opportunities for performance improvement are proportionately high. Moreover, because of its manageable size and relatively few entrenched “silos,” a smaller business environment is generally more conducive to new business process thinking than a large corporate setting.

Because many small to medium-sized enterprises operate their business processes at the 2 to 3 sigma level, an improvement of even 1 sigma represents a huge step in improving customer satisfaction and reducing costs. Through a better understanding of their core processes, smaller businesses can make significant improvements rapidly.

The article went on to encourage small and medium-sized businesses. Six Sigma is doable and achievable if you focus your efforts on it. The following are just some of the elements needed for success:

1. Visible management commitment
2. Keen sense of urgency
3. Clear definition of customer requirements
4. Shared understanding of core processes and key customers
5. Honesty in measuring current performance
6. Discipline in prioritizing the critical few improvement projects
7. Communicating success stories and proving that the approach works
8. Rewarding and recognizing the performers
9. Institutionalizing the approach

Six Sigma for the Rest of Us

Filed under: General

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Banking with Lean Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 16 November 2005 | 9:38 am

Among the many critical transactions in a bank is managing checking accounts. What was customary was to send the depositor copies of their actual issued checks. This system involves people, transportation, and postage costs. With the onset of e-commerce, naturally banks began offering online services and check imaging is one of them.

Check imaging is supplying customers with electronic images of canceled checks instead of returning the actual checks. It has improved the banking system therefore improved customer service, transaction speed and fraud prevention. But providing poor check imaging service can significantly affect a bank in three broad areas: customer retention, cost, and legal ramifications. It can result in the following:

*Unhappy customers because of image mismatching, which happens when a customer’s check is incorrectly matched to another customer’s account.
*Higher costs are incurred as the high degree of mismatching was requiring the efforts of an entire full-time team to rectify the issues.
*Potential lawsuits in which The Privacy Act and the Patriot Act have increased the need for information to be accurately stored and appropriately communicated. Violating the Privacy Act leaves financial institutions open to lawsuits from those individuals and corporations whose information went astray.

Banks therefore wouldn’t want any of these to happen. That is why they turn to Lean Six Sigma. First they identified three key areas from which defects can arise, namely images are available; images received are correct; and images are legible. Using the Pareto diagram, they are able to examine the distribution of possible defects and get down to business.

The first action was to implement a Critical to Customer safeguard, ensuring the errors did not pile up at the customers’ doors. By implementing a tracking number checkpoint, mismatches would be caught before they reached the customer. The second action was to implement improved training and sorter operator incentives so as to ensure proper recovery procedures at the time of malfunction.

The team also built a Value Stream Map of the process. The Value Stream Map included key performance data such as wait times, setup times, rework loops and processing times. Creating the map highlighted wasted time and effort that usually isn’t apparent, even to people embedded in the process. Each step was categorized into value-add or non-value-add, and the team was able to identify and eliminate significant waste and dramatically decrease cycle time by removing non-value-add steps in the process. The result: the team was able to cut the cycle time by 50 percent, raising productivity levels and driving out $500,000 in cost.

Check Imaging

Filed under: Lean Six Sigma

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