Design for Six Sigma: Revisited

Posted by: meikah | 28 April 2006 | 1:01 am

Delphi Corp.’s winning the Best Design for Six Sigma Project should tell you something about the roadmap that you use. Six Sigma methodology is executed by different roadmaps that are suited to your organization’s needs. There is a specific roadmap for every process improvement that you want to undertake.

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS), for example, is a roadmap you use when you are designing products and services as well as enabling processes that are of Six Sigma-quality, and that they meet customer expectations.

I’m guessing that because DFSS addresses customer expectations, it was made the DFSS 2006:renewed focus of the recently concluded 7th Annual Six Sigma Summit.

DFSS is the application of Six Sigma principles to the design of products and their manufacturing and support processes. Its focus is really on the development of new, robust products.

General Electric defines the principles of DFSS as the following:

1. Disciplined CTQ flowdown
2. Controlled design parameters
3. Product performance modeled and simulated
4. Designed for robust performance and producibility
5. Functionally integrated product development
6. Quality “designed in”

Kenneth Crow, president of DRM Associates, wrote about the specific list of elements of the DFSS framework: understand real customer needs through voice of the customer (VOC) analysis; use quality function deployment (QFD) to translate customer needs into critical technical characteristics of the product and ultimately into critical to quality (CTQ) characteristics of the product and process. Continue reading…

Aside from GE and Delphi Corp., Jaguar Cars is also using DFSS for improved processes.

Often the acronym DMADV is used synonymously with Design for Six Sigma. If you’re interested, there are agencies that are offering DFSS Trainings. Or you can read books on Design For Six Sigma.

Source: Design for Six Sigma

Filed under: Tools/Toolkits

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Improving Processes, the Wiki Way

Posted by: meikah | 27 April 2006 | 12:50 am

Today, I wrote about the “wiki” way to do business on Global Business Watch. Read it here: Going About the Business The Wiki Way

Also, I am a guest blogger on CustomersAreAlways. Read my entry: Always a Customer.

Filed under: General

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Delphi Corporation, Steering Division: Best Design for Six Sigma Project

Posted by: meikah | 26 April 2006 | 2:26 am

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the manufacturing industry these days are busier than ever. Almost every day (or should I say, every hour?), a new product is launched. The high-tech gadget you’re holding right now is most likely going to be obsolete tomorrow, or even hours later.

In this fast-changing world, product cycles are expected to last for just a few months. To meet these demanding requirements, you must develop products in the shortest amount of time that are safe, reliable, and competitive.

The question now is, will you rise to the challenge? Do you have the methodology? presents a standardized Design for Six Sigma roadmap for developers. This roadmap displays the sequential use of tools for the development of robust products, keeping in mind these two types of quality:

Type 1: Customer Quality – The features that customers want.
Type 2: Engineered Quality – The problems customers do not want.

Read more about this here.

I’m guessing this same roadmap is the basis of Delphi Corporation’s Steering Division, which earned them the Best Design for Six Sigma Project in the 7th Annual Six Sigma Summit in Miami. Sponsored by Sigma Breakthrough Technologies, Inc. (SBTI), Delphi Corp, Steering Division successfully executed its Manual R&P Gear Rack Rattle Elimination project.

Almost three years ago, Delphi Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Delphi Corp., made a bold statement of single-handedly going to redefine CAD/CAM design for manufacturers. It announced two new structured CAD/CAM methodologies for manufacturing companies – Horizontal Modeling (HM) and Digital Process Design (DPD).

According to Delphi, these methodologies can be performed using existing CAD systems, and together, Horizontal Modeling and Digital Process Design can provide a:

  • 20 percent reduction in time to create models
  • 90 percent reduction in time to edit models and process sheets
  • 75 percent reduction in total project time

Using these new technologies, Delphi took off from Six Sigma and lean manufacturing. Mike Richardson, Director of Engineering at Delphi Steering claimed, “As Six Sigma and lean manufacturing have illustrated for years, disciplined product delivery methodologies can have a tremendous impact on manufacturing efficiencies. While Six Sigma and lean concentrate on what’s occurring ‘downstream,’ Delphi’s structured methodologies go ‘upstream’ to provide substantial cost savings and increased productivity throughout the design-to-manufacturing cycle.”

The result:

Designers are more productive – they can complete projects faster. They can easily share their work with colleagues on a global basis and understand each other’s design intent. Design/change cycles are accelerated, lead times are reduced, and quality is improved. Design re-use is increased, waste is reduced and the team enjoys a higher level of flexibility in their project staffing. Products get to market faster and zero-defect launches have become a reality. These benefits resulted from developing a standardized product delivery methodology. Read more…

Design fo Six Sigma Roadmap
Delphi Makes A Huge Statement And A Bold Claim
Embracing Change in a Customer-Driven World

Filed under: Awards

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Six Sigma and Daily Management

Posted by: meikah | 24 April 2006 | 12:42 am

One of the basic values of Six Sigma is its ability to link financial gains to projects undertaken. Another value is that a methodological approach, advanced statistics, and resources together can save large amounts of money. We have proof of this because the financial benefits claimed by GE, Allied Signal, and others through their Six Sigma efforts have been well publicized.

There is however a growing concern that Six Sigma’s success does not really lie on Six Sigma as a methodology alone. Other quality strategies and management systems also come into play. I believe this is true. Many of the companies who went into Six Sigma started their quality initiative with ISO, Kaizen, or Lean. And whatever initial strategy they used, helped them a lot in making their Six Sigma initiative successful. Nevertheless, there is also the danger of alienating people in the organization who are not directly involved in quality concerns. Thus, the challenge now is how to involve all of your employees in your Six Sigma initiative.

I chanced upon an interesting study that talks about how Six Sigma can be incorporated into the day-to-day activities of a company, or what you call daily management.

The study defines Daily Management as: “a system that provides the ability to manage departments, functions, and processes, wherein processes are defined, standardized, controlled, and improved by the process owners.”

It implies some team effort to do the job. A company continuously needs to improve its strategic position in the market it chooses to serve. To be successful, therefore, a company must have the right strategy, the right products and services at the right price, and sound execution of the basics. The “basics” are the company’s infrastructure and how well it carries out its day-to-day business. It is these fundamentals that reflect the internal health of the organization.

A well-designed daily management system therefore is crucial and will enhance any Six Sigma effort. Click this to see how the two support each other.

When an issue is identified through the Daily Control system a Reaction Plan is executed to stop the occurrence and, if necessary, to contain or quarantine the output at risk. If this is not a chronic problem, the local resources will deploy to fix the problem and record the occurrence for longer-term planning. If it were a chronic problem, the Project Management Team (PTM) would address it at their weekly meeting. If only local resources are needed to fix the problem, it would enter the Daily Work Improvement system and be prioritized against all the other potential improvements. If it requires more than the local resources and/or involves more than the local department (for example an output from a previous operation is suboptimizing the process), then the PMT would recommend that the problem be assigned to the Cross-Functional Management Team. If the problem goes beyond that which can be addressed via cross-functional management (for example, a major strategic effort like installing a new production line), the PMT would recommend that the project be added to the list of company focal points for policy deployment. Either policy deployment or cross-functional management projects can be run as Black Belt projects. If it is determined that a Black Belt project would be most efficient, the appropriate Champion or Master Black Belt would then prioritize, select, and assign resources for the project.

The other way that Six Sigma projects interact with daily management is when a Black Belt completes a project in an area. Without a firm daily management system in place, the Black Belt will not be able to hand off the countermeasures that came out of the project. Without daily management to track and maintain them, the countermeasures will eventually be dropped or forgotten when the next crises comes along – or even continue to be maintained in the absence of the conditions which led to the original problem.

Read more: Daily Management and Six Sigma: Maximizing Your Returns

Filed under: Six Sigma Organizations

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What is Your Process Sigma?

Posted by: meikah | 21 April 2006 | 2:51 am

When companies hear about Six Sigma methodology, they can’t help calculating their process sigma. Calculating your process sigma will tell you how close (to) or far your process is from Six Sigma, that is 3.4 defects per million opportunities or 99.9%.

Just to illustrate the the concept of defect, let’s take an electric company as an example. The performance of a power company is measured in terms of uptime of available power to its grid. In the eyes of the customer, every minute of potential uptime (power is available) is an opportunity, every minute of downtime (power is not available) is a defect.

Calculating process sigma is necessary only when your company is pursuing full implementation of the Six Sigma quality methodology across the organization, otherwise it is only an option.

Let’s say you are interested in calculating your process sigma and have these assumptions: the standard sigma shift of 1.5 is appropriate (a process sigma calculator allows you to specify another value), the data is normally distributed, and the process is stable. In addition, the calculations are made with using one-tail values of the normal distribution. With the assumptions, an article on recommends the following steps:

Step 1: Define Your Opportunities. The concept of opportunity differs from one company to another, depending on their product/service output. For the electric company example, an opportunity was defined as a minute of uptime. That was the lowest (shortest) time period that was noticeable by a customer. For some manufacturing companies like Motorola, there are more than one opportunity of going wrong. It’s safe to say that an opportunity is an instance that you can satisfy your customers.

Step 2: Define Your Defects. Doing this is not an internal company activity alone. You need to communicate—through surveys, focus groups, and other VOC tools)—with your customers who can tell you what went wrong. Again, for an electric company, a defect is one minute of no power. To Motorola pager customers, for example, a defect is a pager that did not function properly.

Step 3: Measure Your Opportunities and Defects. Once you have identified the opportunities and defects, you are now ready to measure them. Six Sigma tools can give you measurement strategies for that. The article suggests that you read up on the Building a Data Collection Plan for starters.

Going back to our power company example, here is the data collected:

  • Opportunities (last year): 525,600 minutes
  • Defects (last year): 500 minutes

Step 4: Calculate Your Yield. You calculate your process yield by subtracting the total number of defects from the total number of opportunities, dividing by the total number of opportunities, and finally multiplying the result by 100.

For the electric company, the process yield is calculated as:

  • ((525,600 – 500) / 525,600) * 100 = 99.90%

You may also use Process Six Sigma Calculator for this.

Step 5: Look Up Process Sigma
If you are not using (iSixSigma) Process Sigma Calculator, you look up your sigma on a sigma conversion table, using your process yield calculated in Step 4.

Source: Should You Calculate Your Process Sigma?

Filed under: Tools/Toolkits

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Use of Six Sigma in Corporate Turnarounds

Posted by: meikah | 19 April 2006 | 9:21 pm

Despite economic growth and healthy business environment in some areas, for various reasons some companies become unviable financially and thus need to liquidate. When companies do liquidations, they have said to reach the peak of a financial difficulty because a liquidation is normally the last resort.

Liquidations often lead to distress sale of assets, and potentially large losses to the creditors. Thus, if companies cannot avoid them, they try out various business rescue procedures to improve the overall money recovered for the creditors.

Sadly, this situation is never isolated. In the U.K. for example, the number of companies becoming insolvent have ranged from a high of 25,000 liquidations in 1992 to around 14,000 liquidations in 2003. This is also the time when turnaround specialists gain increasing importance. These are “professionals who turn around companies in distress (normally before the company goes into liquidation) to recover as much money as possible for the creditors and try to put the company back on a path of sustainable existence.” In the U.K. they group and call themselves the Society of Turnaround Practitioners (STP). STP has about 145 members in the UK.

An article in explored the possibility of using Six Sigma in STP’s operations. Mani Venkatesh, author of the article, interviewed members of STP and asked if they knew about Six Sigma tools and techniques, and had the opportunity to use them.

While all of the respondents believe that process improvement tools are critical to their job, results of the survey show a low perceived utility as well as low awareness and knowledge of many commonly used Six Sigma tools and techniques. Specifically,

  • While identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) & appropriate targeting is considered critical, the knowledge and use of Measurement System Analysis and Gauge Repeatability & Reproducibility to ensure integrity of these numbers is limited
  • While detailed analysis and running of financial numbers and break even is deemed important, the knowledge and ability to use process data and do appropriate hypothesis tests to isolate relevant factors or control charts to detect trends is limited.
  • While improvements are deemed critical, knowledge of scientifically testing robustness of new processes and gaps in existing processes using Failure Mode and Effects Analysis techniques seem limited.
  • Further, 53% of respondents had heard of Six Sigma but were not familiar with it while only 12% felt they were familiar with it – so an opportunity to train the community in six-sigma techniques may exist.

Venkatesh then posed the following concerns to Six Sigma professionals:

  • Do we value this opportunity of expanding usage of Six Sigma into the corporate turnaround industry, and do similar opportunities exist on a global basis.
  • What strategy do we adopt to expand usage in this case and to other such cases –do we arrange association to association interactions, do we advocate usage of specific tools or the entire DMAIC approach in all cases etc.
  • What are the key issues and perceptions we need to be cognizant of and tackle – time to implement, complexity, availability of talent etc.
  • Are there best practices we can borrow from the turnaround industry – stakeholder management, identifying and delivering quick wins, cash flow management and managing to very tight timelines.

Source: Six Sigma and Corporate Turnarounds

Filed under: Tools/Toolkits

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Six Sigma @ SunChemical

Posted by: meikah | 17 April 2006 | 1:16 am

Sun Chemical Corporation is the world’s largest producer of printing inks, organic pigments, colorants and coatings. With years of continuous improvement and research, it is able to provide high quality supplies and services for a wide range of operations.

Through the years, it operates on the promise of delivering the right solution at the right time. Every time.

How do you think the company is able to achieve that? Through Six Sigma, of course.

The company’s Six Sigma deployment was not without challenges—naturally. Because of its 300 sites around the world and products sold in every country, first, it had to contend with a highly decentralized organization. It also had to introduce Six Sigma in local languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and Czech. When the company decided to launch the initiative, its budget had already been approved. There were many other internal challenges, too.

Still the company persevered. One of its guiding principles was “the process must be owned to be sustained.” True enough, it launched a breakthrough strategy involving the following:

  • senior management commitment and support
  • leadership training and alignment with Business
  • strategy and their goals
  • Bblack Belts dedicated full time
  • renewal every six to nine months
  • strive for entitlement and set stretch goals
  • share best practices
  • benchmark the best
  • finance and business leaders report savings

SunChemical’s roadmap to winning has Six Sigma at the center surrounded by safety, customer value system, productivity, and people development. This roadmap resulted in the following:


  • Deliver Targeted Savings
  • Identify/Train Master Blackbelts
  • Train 75 Blackbelts and 200 Greenbelts, DfSS in Europe
  • Reenergize with Visual Workplace & CIR Deployment
  • Develop Metric Maps for All Major Processes
  • Every Employee Minimum 4 hours Six Sigma Training


  • Delivered 65% of Targeted Savings in 2003
  • Common Language and Foundation for Productivity
  • 9 Master Black Belts, 60 Black Belts, 289 Green Belts and 34 DfSS Black Belts; 85% Black Belt certified by 2004
  • Deployed Visual Workplace & CIRs
  • Continued Communications and Celebrations
  • Six Sigma Goals built into Business Unit Plan in 2004
  • MBBs Aligned with Business Unit Leaders in 2004
  • Deployed Product Quality & Fitness for Use in 2004
  • Lean Sigma Piloted and Rollout in 2005

At the bottom of all these is creating a system to understand and meet customer requirements. As if this is not enough, SunChemicals went on to combine Lean with Six Sigma. By 2006, the company will be totally transformed by maximing its Six Sigma investment.

Read more: Reviewing, Measuring and Maintaining the Effectiveness of your Six Sigma Deployment

Filed under: Six Sigma Organizations

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Subjecting RFID Tags to Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 12 April 2006 | 1:59 am

For big stores like Wal-Mart or any other agency that involves large number of people and requires maximum security, how they monitor the goings and comings of every product or person makes for a very interesting study.

Good thing someone invented the bar codes. Since every merchandise has a bar code on it, shoplifting has been avoided, if not minimized. Airports and car-rental companies and even NASA rely on bar codes for easy tracking and monitoring.

These kinds of codes however have flaws—line-of-sight requirements and the inability to write additional data to a bar code. Probably seeing this limitation, Harry Stockman invented the RFID tag.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tag is a small object that can be attached to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person. RFID tags contain silicon chips and antennas for them to receive and respond to radio-frequency queries from an RFID transceiver.

The key feature of the technology is the ability of an RFID-tagged object to be tracked instantly from anywhere in the world, provided that a reader is in range. The main application for this today is tracking products along a supply chain. Everyone in the RFID-enabled supply chain, from the manufacturers at the factory to the inventory trackers at the retail location, has the ability to instantly call up the location, condition, and supply of a particular product. (Read more: The Future Is Here: A Beginner’s Guide to RFID)

Knowing the extent of the use of RFID, it’s only proper that Six Sigma be utilized to ensure 100% of use. Simply put, when we receive a data read, it must have Six Sigma reliability.

RFID reading can be unrealiable for two reasons: the interrogator’s RF field is not uniform and is even distorted by the mere object in the field (environment) and nearby. Because of these, if you introduce the same tags over and over again, you will run the risk of missing one of them at any given time. If multiple tags are in the field and you read them, you cannot be certain you actually read all of the tags.

To solve this problem, you must know how to read one tag reliably. What are the limits—in terms of speed, distance, attenuation, orientation, interference, etc., of your ability to read a single tag? Once you have answered that question, you have the raw material for a successful implementation of a Six Sigma RFID system and can look forward to automation with assurance and confidence of high reliability.

Below is a sample case study.

Case Study 1: A number of items (with tags) are on a shelf, and you want to do an inventory.

If you merely want to scan the goods as a bulk audit, then you can sweep the reader in the area of the products and record the tags. This method is good only for a general information record. You have no certainty that you have read all tags and should not assume you have. To read the items reliably, you must assure that the RF field includes only the number of items you know to be in the field (be careful, though—if you cannot see a field and merely aim it at a tag does not preclude reading its neighbor). In this case, you may sweep the tags at full power so the interrogator can get a general idea, and then at a lower power, operating closer to the items of tags, so that the interrogator can read them individually.

So why is this better than bar codes? Time-and-motion studies will show it to be significantly faster because you do not actually need to find the tag and observe it visually.

Read more: Six Sigma and the Single Tag

Filed under: Benefits and Savings

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Six Sigma @ US Fuels

Posted by: meikah | 10 April 2006 | 2:38 am

US Fuels launches Six Sigma to maintain its customer-focused stretegy by providing at least 96.9-percent invoice accuracy.

A US-based affialiate of BP, one of the world’s largest energy companies, US fuels takes care of the wholesale fuels operations. It supplies branded gasoline to company-owned gas stations and branded fuel jobbers, and diesel fuel to commercial accounts such as railroads, trucking companies, transit authorities and truck stops. The company also sells some unbranded gasoline to hypermarkets and grocers (“big box” retailers with gasoline offerings) and high volume retailers.

The company’s motto is “Invoice our customers right the first time!” When it began failing to achieve the 96.9%, management knew they had to launch a process improvement initiative—Six Sigma. Based on external benchmarking (e.g. customer service leadership), an accuracy target of 99.1% was set.

The project creates a team to look at root causes, validate assumptions, collect data, and suggest interventions. Data was then pulled to further identify setup issues and process breakdowns. Interventions were measured to assure compliance and progress. With the help of BP, they developed a standard process and a set of automated tools to capture and categorize invoice errors, measure accuracy, and report results consistently. To identify problems in the invoicing, the team uses work-out sessions.

The results are just amazing.

Invoice accuracy of certain key business segments increased from 77.4% in June of 2004 to 98.5% in April of 2005. For other segments, the company realized a 72-percent reduction in pricing errors. In addition, reducing by 72,000 the number of defective invoices produced and printed annually is saving 144 reams of paper, or about five trees.

Customer satisfaction is up by 10%, based upon recent survey data. Overall invoice accuracy is now at 98.5%. Two Work-Out sessions identified opportunities that lowered days sales outstanding by 0.5 days and reduced working capital.

Work-Out was extremely successful in identifying gaps in current performance and then determining accountability and corrective actions.

Read more:
US Fuels Improves Invoicing Accuracy Using Work-Out

Filed under: Six Sigma Organizations

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Six Sigma in Europe

Posted by: meikah | 7 April 2006 | 4:14 am

Undeniably, Six Sigma though began in the US with Motorola has reached Europe and making good impact.

onesixsigma published its exclusive interview with Mark Lansley, Managing Director of BMG Europe and Master Black Belt, who gave insights about Six Sigma performnace in Europe.

Lansley said that …

“…as a “product” in a “life cycle” I think Six Sigma in Europe is now in its third evolutionary phase here – it is maturing. This is exciting because this the phase that tends to deliver most benefits.

In the first phase in the 1990s a lot of people were trained in top-down deployments without companies taking a disciplined approach to delivering results. In the second phase the pendulum swung to a stronger European approach with more bottom-up deployments that ended up with many Black Belts as “lonely riders” in organizations, doing their best but often without real CEO level support.

I think Six Sigma is now in a third phase which is more productive. Many companies have now internalized Six Sigma well into their operating systems and are gaining good value from it’s use. Companies with poor deployments are reaching out to ask experts why this is happening. New Deployments are nowadays being increasingly led top-down by CEOs who can see how Six Sigma can help them achieve their business goals, coupled with the European-style evidence-driven approach and more discipline in the results delivery and tracking areas.

A fourth phase is also emerging whereby Six Sigma is changing into something new, something more holistic and integrated and useful, something more attuned to the pressures Europe is starting to face in terms of global competition.”

Below are some European companies that claim to be benefitted by Six Sigma.

Barco, world leader in professional markets offering display and visualization solutions, deployed Six Sigma sometime in 2003 to help their customers become successful by realizing their Key Performance Indicators.

Ernst & Young, one of the world’s leading professional services organizations helping companies identify and capitalize on business opportunities, deployed Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing to improve supply chain effectiveness.

SKF, leading global supplier of products, customer solutions, and services in rolling bearings and seals, deployed Six Sigma to achieve excellence in all new and existing processes for continuous improvement.

Filed under: Deployment

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