Putting Six Sigma in the Brainbox(es)

Posted by: meikah | 29 December 2005 | 7:25 am

Brainboxes, a rapidly growing company specializing in the design and the manufacture of PC add-on cards for mission-critical applications, turns to Six Sigma for excellence in business practice by reducing wastes and costs.

Dave Ritchie, former Brainboxes’ Hardware Team Leader, completed an intensive Six Sigma Black Belt training. He now works full time on Six Sigma-based improvement projects throughout the company.Ritchie is being helped by another Brainboxes employee, Xiaolong Shi, a Six Sigma Green belter.

The company expects to implement a six-year plan that will see between 20 and 30% of its staff trained to Green Belt or Black Belt level in Six Sigma methods.

Eammon Walsh, Managing Director of Brainboxes said, “The methodologies of Six Sigma are leading to improvements and developments in our products and services that are setting new standards of performance, value and quality for Brainboxes. News of this has certainly impressed some of our existing customers. Our success to date with Six Sigma, and our commitment to it, has proven that such process enhancements can work just as well in a company our size, as they do in large multinationals.”

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Bellwether Logistics Services Certified Lean Six Sigma Practitioner

Posted by: meikah | 28 December 2005 | 6:51 am

Bellwether Logistics Services, one of America’s leading business membership organizations whose primary objective is to help the national minority supplier development council, has been certified as practicing the principles of the Lean Six Sigma.

Bellwether, headquartered in Stockbridge, GA, with large & small business affiliates throughout Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, is dedicated to providing effective lean six sigma and global supply chain solutions to aerospace, automotive suppliers, beverage, call centers, chemical, consumer products, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, exporters, food, importers, telecommunications, transportation and warehousing companies.

Bellwether Logistics Services was founded as Consult Quality, LLC in 2001. Bellwether expanded its service offerings to include lean six sigma and global supply chain consulting in October 2004. Bellwether Logistics Services, a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB), Service Disabled Veteran Owned Enterprise (SDVOB), and 8(a) enterprise is an international consulting firm which specializes in applying the six sigma methodology in challenging public and private sectors. Interested parties may view more bellwether logistics services details at Bellwether Services.

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Six Sigma in 2006!

Posted by: meikah | 27 December 2005 | 6:23 am

Organizations are gearing up for improved processes in the coming year. As early as today, two conferences will be held at The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas: The Fourth Annual Six Sigma in Healthcare Conference and the The Fourth Annual Six Sigma in Healthcare Conference on March 29, 2006 and The Global Six Sigma Awards on June 27, 2006.

Based on the enormous success of WCBF’s Six Sigma event series to date, it is expected that this will be the largest senior-level conference to focus on Six Sigma in Healthcare. Nowhere else will you find such an exceptional array of speakers and organizations willing to share their experience with you. The 3rd Annual Six Sigma in Healthcare conference held in New Orleans in March 2005, had over 200 senior-level attendees. It was the largest Senior-Level Six Sigma in Healthcare conference within the industry. This 4th Annual Six Sigma in Healthcare conference is expected to be even larger. Read more

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Using Technology for Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 23 December 2005 | 9:12 am

Data collection is very important in a Six Sigma deployment. And many executives can attest to this.

Working as senior vice president of U.S. operations for Howmet International Corp., a $1.3 billion maker of investment castings used in jet aircraft and gas turbine engine components in Greenwich, Conn. is right about this observation. After all, data is the essence of comparing one process to an idealized standard to determine variation, which is the heart of Six Sigma improvements.

Jim Jubelirer, a senior consultant at Burke Customer Satisfaction Associates in Chapel Hill, N.C., has observed that many Six Sigma initiatives failed because of a faultyinformation technology (IT) structure. He said, “I have unlimited horror stories about companies’ lousy computer systems. Say all I need is customer records. Many companies don’t have those records. Or there is one system that keeps purchase and accounting data and another system for name and address, and you can’t merge the two.”

An effective IT structure is very crucial especially for big organizations and those that have merged. What happens is that each organization bring in their own computer platforms. Integrating disparate computer platfroms often causes technology failure. Another factor is the absence of a software program that goes across a variety of computing platforms to collect data for Six Sigma analysis.

Chuck Ellidge, Howmet CIO, apty puts it, “The IT infrastructure could make or break the Six Sigma effort. Data gathering is the key.”

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Branding Through the Six Sigma Thinking

Posted by: meikah | 22 December 2005 | 10:40 am

Marketing today has gone really aggressive. And one of the strategies the industry is adopting the Six Sigma methodology in its operations and logistics.

In the past, finance organizations had been expected to drive results. Marketing has always been viewed just as an important ingredient but not a critical one to achieving profitability. Recently, however, demand for accountability has been the focus of many organizations. BusinessWeek, for example, reported that companies in every segment of American business [are] obsessed with honing the science of measuring marketing performance. And according to Professor Phil Kotler of Northwestern’s Kellogg School, 90% of CMOs surveyed consider marketing performance measurement a significant priority. An Association of National Advertisers survey in 2004 showed that measuring marketing effectiveness was the second most important priority of its members, falling just behind building and maintaining their brands.

This critical look at marketing led organizations to turn to Six Sigma. They are struck by the Six Sigma principle, which is grounded on careful measurement and scientific data analysis to determine why a process is not working as well as it should and the meticulously-managed steps, guided by the data, to fix the problem permanently. They further believe that…

Six Sigma marketing is a call to abide by this code of conduct and develop and launch extraordinary marketing programs that deliver performance well above the disappointing average most programs return these days. A Six Sigma approach to developing the components of marketing strategy, most importantly targeting and positioning, will have a transformational effect on performance.

For marketing to go into a Six Sigma deployment, it needs to perform the following:

Targeting: Consider all possible market drivers: category involvement; buyer motivations; media habits; sociographics, psychographics; lifestyles; lifestage; attitudes; values; database variables; and more. Test all the potential variables to determine which ones are related to current and potential profitability to determine a customer’s (whether an individual or a company) economic value in the market place using several proxies for profitability, such as decision making power, openness to your brand, personal influence, cost to reach and impact, and, importantly, price insensitivity. Finally, take the 10 to 25 most predictive variables to create segments and pick your target.

Positioning: Great positionings, like great products, are often addressed to buyer problems. The bigger the problem your brand can solve for the optimal target—not everyone and anyone, but the specific group of people you’ve determined will be the most profitable—the bigger the market response.

Consider that the typical advertising campaign with average targeting and positioning and its effects on new product market share. For the standard new consumer packaged good, about 2000 GRPs will earn you just short of an 8% share. Meanwhile, a campaign with even just Three Sigma targeting and positioning will earn the same share with a mere 850 GRPs. Two thousand prime time GRPs cost $27 million, while 850 GRPs cost about $12 million. A Three Sigma campaign saves you 55% of your original investment! Add to this that, once you have a Six Sigma targeting and positioning in hand, all the other strategic decisions—product/service configuration, advertising creative, media, customer service—fall into place, saving even more.

With Six Sigma, your brand marketing will definitely take the successful path.

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Have a Six Sigma Finish

Posted by: meikah | 21 December 2005 | 9:41 am

Matthew Little, Editorial Director of Products Finishing Online magazine talked one time to Joseph De Feo, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Juran Institute about the effect of Six Sigma on the surface finishing industry.

This industry takes care of your car finishes. If you’re one of those who love cars like your kids or even partners, then you will want to have a sleek, shiny car. You might be surprised that there are many who complain about car finishes. Your car may look well-painted but for those with sharp eyes, they can tell.

I purchased a new RX330 a few months ago. Last week I discovered a spot of bird dropping on the passenger door. I washed the vehicle two times but the stain remained. I waxed the spot with Turtle wax but the blemish remained. Upon closer inspection I discovered the paint finish was pitted with a number of small holes. The dealer service tech said they will not repair the spot but suggested I speak to the service manager, who was not available at that time. I have owned many cars over the years. They have been subjected to wind, rain, snow, ice, road salt and alot of bird droppings. Many times it remained on the cars for weeks but came clean with washing. The paint was never penetrated and pitted the finish. I believe the paint finish on my vehicle to be flawed or defective. I’m asking if anyone has had a similar problem and what was done about it.

I’m sure you don’t want to experience the same experience. Well, here’s good news for you. The surface finishing industry is going into the Six Sigma methodology. De Feo, one of the world’s most experienced consultants and executive trainers in areas such as Strategic Deployment, Six Sigma Breakthrough and Designs for World-Class Quality, was then set to give a talk on Lean Six Sigma Imperative at the SUR/FIN 2005

According to De Feo, a customer who may be looking for a car or a refrigerator, sees a product’s finish first. “Customers have become more educated about finishes and their functional and aesthetic importance, they’re becoming increasingly demanding about quality… so much so that the tools used to meet those demands need to be revisited. The industry has always produced high-quality finishes, but the impact of peeling paint or providing the wrong color coating is more deadly today than it ever was.”

Little rejoined by saying that quality is the way to both meet customer expectations and minimize internal defect rate. To which De Feo agreed.

Every bit. After defining the voice of the customer, you need to find a way to measure it the same way they do. Six Sigma – translated literally – means 3.4 defective parts per million. That’s one measure of quality, meaning the absence of defect. We can always assume we want absence of defect. What we don’t know is do we want absence of defect in terms of speed, mileage, reliability, etc…. What are the most important things to the customer? And what are we doing to meet those needs? Essentially, there are two aspects of quality that an organization needs to understand. The defect rate – the deficiencies or failures – and the characteristics or features that meet the customer’s wants and needs.

When we talk of quality being a subjective term, it is the features side where you find the significant variations in opinion. For instance, what is a higher quality car, a Mercedes or Volkswagen?

You want to know the answer and more? Continue Reading

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Toward a Lean Army

Posted by: meikah | 20 December 2005 | 9:40 am

An article in the FCW.Com cited that Feds are now working toward improving their ranks. To do that, the Command launched a program called Navsea Lean, which integrated several management techniques, including Six Sigma.

For example, the Naval Sea Systems Command is responsible for maintaining naval ships and weapons. By the nature of its job, a streamlined system will definitely give a lot of benefits and savings to the organization. So last year, the organization went into Six Sigma and introduced Lean Six Sigma programs to 30 of its organizations. During the first year, Jim Brice, director of Navsea’s Task Force Lean, said that already the organization was able to realize total savings of $200 million on 500 projects.

Another department is the Army depot in Anniston, Alabama. It adopted Six Sigma by hiring a contractor to offer the 80-hour training program to about 10 managers. According to Patti Sparks, Anniston’s continuous improvement manager, the training is expensive but she hopes that it will pay off when the time comes for them to use Six Sigma concepts in industrial projects later on.

These are just some of the Fed’s initial projects, but Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute, said that a full Six Sigma organization can happen if the Office of Management and Budget provides guidance for redesigning projects according to Six Sigma principles.

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Practicing Six Sigma Best

Posted by: meikah | 19 December 2005 | 10:57 am

The book Six Sigma for Dummies cites the nine practices and characteristics common in successful Six Sigma efforts.

First, you need to set stretch goals. For your Six Sigma initiative to succeed, you need to set aggressive goals. In other words, a stretch goal represents a 70 percent improvement over current performance.

For example, if your company’s profit margin is seven percent, you want to aim for 11.9 percent (a 70 percent increase). Or if a certain process or product is producing ten defects per 100 units, you want to reduce that number to three defects per 100 units (a 70 percent improvement).

You can also aim for a stretch target, which is to benchmark yourself against your competition. When you do benchmarking, you evaluate your performance in the same level of performance achieved by the best organizations in your industry.

Toyota, for example, is a company that is benchmarked for the time it takes them to introduce a brand-new vehicle design. Most companies take 36 to 48 months to bring a new vehicle to market; Toyota did it in about 24 for its hybrid car, the Prius, which also presented a technical challenge far beyond those of traditional gasoline-only cars.

Second is to target tangible results. Financial savings and benefits are some of these critical tangibles. Six Sigma projects therefore must be tied to a tangible financial measure of return: dollars saved, new revenue gained, specific costs avoided, and so on. These measured financial returns must be formally measured, tracked, and rolled up. If you fail to do this, your Six Sigma efforts will lose their financial potential.

Third is to determine outcomes. You actively adjust and control the inputs so that you reach your desired outcomes with certainty and consistency.

Fourth, you think before you act. Six Sigma’s DMAIC methodology makes you treat a problem into several steps: defining, measuring, and planning a solution. You then will have a detailed, in-depth definition of the problem and potential solutions. After this, you develop extensive measurements to evaluate current performance of you process or system. Then you analyze the inputs, outputs, conditions, and causes-and-effects. You are now ready to try an improvement solution. The result: the DMAIC approach solves the problem more quickly and with better, more consistent results than other approaches.

Fifth is to put your faith in data. Data allows you to objectively identify and select the truly best ideas and solutions from among the many alternatives.

Sixth, you minimize variation. You have to keep in mind that variation even around low averages or single numbers can often cause more damage than their level itself.

For example, having a high average number of orders is great. But if the day-to-day number of orders varies widely, it requires the company to have excess equipment and staff always on hand, just in case. When the number of orders varies to the low side, equipment and staff sit idle. The company would actually come out ahead if its average number of orders were lower but its day-to-day variation were smaller. That way equipment and staff needs would be steady and costs would be reduced.

Seventh, align projects with key goals.

Eighth is to celebrate success. Small or big successes should be appreciated.

Success is contagious. When the first, small victories are showcased and lauded — with recognition, rewards, praise, and publicity — people develop real interest. They build confidence and trust. They begin to believe in the power and potential of the method. Each successive victory becomes that much easier.

Ninth, involve the owner.

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Adopting Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 16 December 2005 | 12:16 pm

Uwe H. Kaufmann, assistant vice president with Rath & Strong Management Consultants (a division of Aon Consulting based in Lexington, Massachusetts) and former quality manager with GE Capital, Germany, said in his article that most companies implementing Six Sigma go through four phases.

At phase one, management hopeful of increased income and huge savings decides whether to go for Six Sigma or not. If management goes for it, they test the waters so to speak by undergoing some training and a few improvement projects. With their first projects, they either assign business-related projects within the leadership team or delegate the tasks to their Black Belts or a quality team.

At phase two, management set up a steering committee—often called a “quality council.” The council decides on projects, especially about incorporating them to business strategy and customer needs, implementing improvements, reward and recognition. This is the time also that results are communicated to the entire company. It’s critical to sell Six Sigma internally, otherwise, the company won’t be ready for the next phase.

As projects get pretty underway during the first and second phase, it is now time to come up with some measures to track results and ensure that the improvement lasts. Successful companies add these measures to their internal dashboard and customer loyalty tracking system. Some companies even share those results with their customers, which builds trust. Customer satisfaction measures are key for project selection.

For phase four to really run its full course, all deparments in the organization must be involved. Six Sigma includes a powerful tool set that helps improve all key business processes in the company. More importantly, there are a few key departments that must support the Six Sigma initiative. For instance, finance should track costs and benefits; marketing and sales should gather voice- of-the-customer data and track customer satisfaction levels; and human resources must support communication, Black Belt and Green Belt selection and development, reward and recognition, and employee satisfaction tracking and analysis.

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Six Sigma in Software Engineering

Posted by: meikah | 15 December 2005 | 4:20 am

PS&J Software Six Sigma, a software management improvement provider, recently launched the Software Six Sigma. The software is designed to speed up integration and test, allow delivery of very high quality product, improve the repeatability and predictability of the entire software development process.

Software Six Sigma uses the Statistical Process Control (SPC) and related techniques that are known collectively as the Six Sigma tool kit.

Software Six Sigma’s attributes are:

* trustworthy metric data
* accurate planning based on historical data
* use of statistical tools for real time analysis and decision support
* quantifiable Software Process Improvement cost and benefits
* predictably high product quality (very few latent defects)

Undeniably, Six Sigma deployments these days are being executed through a more developed software. Many have developed such software but very few have successfully applied the program to software engineering itself. That is because software development is different in many ways. For one, in programming, no two modules are alike so process performance always includes an intrinsic degree of variability. Also, skills and experience from one developer to another can vary.

However, there are factors in software development that make Six Sigma easy to apply.

  1. Software development is measurable and controllable.
  2. Software development processes can be fully characterized by three simple measurements: the time required to perform a task; the size of the work product produced; and the number and type of defects, removal time, point of injection and point of removal (i.e. defects).
  3. Software measurements can be influenced by statistical control provided that data is complete, consistent, and accurate, and data from individuals with widely varying skill levels is not mixed.

Using Six Sigma techniques in a software development organization normally requires changes in both the software development process and in the project management process. An organization needs to have a software process in place and this process should reflect what the developers actually do, not what management desires.

Six Sigma techniques work best with lightweight, incremental processes that have been instrumented to produce high quality metric data. Processes like Team Software Process (TSP) and Extreme Programming can both make good platforms for Six Sigma. But whatever the process platform is, it needs to include a basic software measurement framework.

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