The Six Sigma Concept

Posted by: meikah | 29 April 2007 | 7:22 am

Stiff competition pushes companies to do better and work their way to the customers’ heart to gain that competitive edge.

To achieve that edge, companies need to meet customers expectations such as high quality, competitive prices, and exceptional customer service.

Many companies have turned to Six Sigma help them meet customer requirements by eliminating defects.

AssociatedContent (AC), puts out four points that justify the need for Six Sigma.

  1. Understanding the customer’s expectations and translating the same into quantifiable measurements. Simply stated, what are your customer’s needs? If you are a credit card company, perhaps your customers want payments posted faster. A Six Sigma Practitioner would seek to define faster in terms of days, hours, or minutes by identifying and contacting the customer base.
  2. Using data to understand if the current process performance is capable of meeting the customer’s expectations. Once customers are identified and expectations defined, it is time to determine if the current process is capable of meeting the customer’s expectations 99.999966% of the time or at Six Sigma. If the process is not capable of performing at Six Sigma, subject matter experts and process participants are assembled in a team to understand “why.”
  3. Validating the root causes that hinder a process from performing as expected. After root causes have been identified, either current process data or historical data is collected and analyzed to determine true root causes. In the credit card example above, the team may have identified that posting delays occur as a result of payments being sent to the wrong processing center. Data would then be collected to verify if this is correct.
  4. Implementing solutions and establish control measurements. Customer don’t experience the average, they only feel the variation. Therefore, after validating actual root causes, solutions are identified and implemented that reduce or eliminate process variation. To complete the DMAIC process, controls are then put in place to sustain the improvements.

    Read more…


(AC), “The Buzz about Six Sigma” link provided by Six Sigma Zone.

Filed under: Processes, Six Sigma Organizations

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Innovation of the Week: The Office in Your Pocket

Posted by: meikah | 27 April 2007 | 12:30 am

Interesting, isnt’ it? Although wi-fi has made us do business with our laptops anywhere and anytime, this concept of having your office in your pocket is something else.

BT has introduced this innovation called Office Anywhere, a new service that gives users the functions of a Windows PC, but in a smartphone small enough to fit in the pocket.

What’s different about BT’s Office Anywhere smartphone, the HTC’s S620, is that it comes with VoIP. This enables users to make substantial savings on calls including capped calls made from from BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK and Ireland, from home and office networks, or from around the globe wherever users have access to a compatible wireless network. The smartphone has has a QWERTY keyboard to make inputting text easy and a large 2.4-inch screen colour display. It is quad-band with wi-fi and Bluetooth and has a 1.3 megapixel camera for taking photos and video clips.

Continue reading…

Filed under: BT, Innovation Update, Technology, Telecommunications

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Reducing Pressure Ulcers Through Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 25 April 2007 | 11:57 pm

At Thibodaux Regional Medical Center (TRMC) in Louisiana, an increase in pressure ulcers rate in the last quarter of 2003 and the second quarter of 2004. Having started with the Six Sigma initiatives since 2001, the center knew that they could reduce the rate using Six Sigma.

Thus in 2004, a Six Sigma project team was formed to address this problem. The project team included a Black Belt, enterostomal therapy registered nurse (ETRN), medical surgical RN, ICU RN, rehab RN and RN educator. Their vision was to be the “Skin Savers” by resolving issues leading to the development of nosocomial pressure ulcers. Read more…

What TRMC did to improve its pressure ulcers rate showed the importance of verifying underlying causes using valid data. According to Sheri Eschete, Black Belt and leader of the pressure ulcer project at TRMC:

“Six Sigma provided us with the tools to get to the real problem so that we could make the right improvements. There had been a perception that not turning the patients often enough was the issue, but the data revealed that it was really the frequency of the Braden Scale. Leveraging the data helped us to convince others and implement appropriate changes.”

iSixSigma, “Using Six Sigma to Reduce Pressure Ulcers at a Hospital”

Filed under: Benefits and Savings, Data Analysis, Deployment, Healthcare, Processes, Team Dynamics

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Six Sigma News Round-up

Posted by: meikah | 24 April 2007 | 11:21 pm

Here’s your dose of Six Sigma news from iSixSigma and YouTube.

Lean Six Sigma Cleans Up TARDEC Shop by restructuring the Design, Advanced Materials and Rapid Prototyping Center in July 2006 after identifying several types of waste: delay of locating materials, duplication and re-orders due to disorganization and ruined materials, errors in unidentified material, lost opportunity due to lack of space and incorrect inventory. To quickly correct this problem the team developed and implemented an identification system and material handling procedure that would significantly reduce waste and cost to TARDEC.

Harsco Reaffirms Company’s Continuing Growth Outlook at Annual Stockholders Meeting, Continues Six Sigma. The Annual Meeting follows one day after Harsco’s announcement of record results for the first quarter of 2007, in which the Company posted sales of $840 million, up 23 percent over the prior year, and a 39 percent increase in diluted earnings per share from continuing operations. The strong results mark Harsco’s 14th consecutive quarter of year-over-year increases in both sales and diluted earnings per share.

Linetec Named Manufacturer of Year, Six Sigma Contributes. Company president Rick Marshall thanked Linetec’s employees and also highlighted the company’s adoption of the Six Sigma philosophy to drive continuous improvement and quality. More than 50 employees have completed advanced training to lead Six Sigma projects, including collaborative projects with customers, to reduce waste, shorten lead times and yield financial savings.

Let me end this round-up with a video on YouTube:

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Filed under: Benefits and Savings, Deployment, DMAIC, iSixSigma, Lean Six Sigma, Processes, Sales, Services, Tools/Toolkits, YouTube

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Six Sigma and the Zero Defect Concept

Posted by: meikah | 24 April 2007 | 12:17 am

I visited Got Boondoggle? yesterday and found a link to shmula blog. It’s a good find because I found a mountain of information there. Now, I have another good reading in hand.

One of the posts there is rather interesting. Pete Abila of shmula wrote about Zero Defects and it being statistically impossible. He says:

The “Zero Defects” movement has an implicit assumption that all defects are equal. This is not true. In fact, for most firms and products, defects must be identified and prioritized, and attacked and treated from most important to least important. For the defects at the bottom of that prioritized list, it might even make sense to move on and not eliminate or reduce those. The point here is an attitude toward perfection, but fully understanding that perfection is not possible. The attitude and efforts are valuable and the customer will feel and appreciate it. Shareholders will benefit, and the firm will be better for it.

Read more…

A long time ago, back when TQM was the order of the day, I read an article—which I photocopied but forgot to write down the source—about the Zero Defect Concept. Since the discussion came with real-life examples, it somehow drove an important point. The article highlights the importance of working toward a Zero Defects situation:

The concept of Zero Defects plays an significant role in this analogy. Peole are conditioned to believe that error is inevitable; thus they do not only accept error, they anticipate it. It does not bother us to make a few errors in our work, whether we are writing memos, setting up a machine, tagging bags, typing letters, or giving information…

If we do not maintain some standards, we should expect to be shortchanged every now and then when we cash our paycheck; we should expect our nanny to drop the newborn baby a constant percentage of the time; and would allow doctors to prescribe the wrong medicine…

Most human errors are caused by lack of attention rather than lack of knowledge… If we consider our tasks carefully, and pledge to make a constant conscious effort to do our jobs right the first time, we will take a giant step toward eliminating the waste of rework, scrap, and repair that increases costs and reduces individual opportunity…

ZD is a performance standard with the theme “do it right the first time.”

Both observations above raise valid points. I tend to believe that statistically ZD is not achievable. On the other hand, I also believe that when we consciously do things right the first time then we avoid making mistakes.

What is your take on this?

*Photo from Stock.Xchng

Filed under: Benefits and Savings, Six Sigma References, Zero Defects

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Looking at Lean Manufacturing

Posted by: meikah | 22 April 2007 | 9:25 pm

Many companies these days can claim that putting lean on any process improvements speeds up the improvement. This means more benefits, more savings, and most importantly better customer satisfaction.

The road however to Lean is not always paved and smooth because it means looking at processes more closely and evaluating them. Despite this challenge, companies continue to explore the concept of Lean or Lean Manufacturing and apply it to their improvement initiatives.

Today, let’s learn from Kevin Maddy, president, RVSI Inspection LLC, and his take Lean Manufacturing. He writes over at Surface Mount Technology (SMT), and his article is aptly titled, Driving Changes with Lean Manufacturing. He emphasizes the need to go Lean and how to start it.

Maddy outlines nine success factors required within the leadership component to achieve a successful transition:

  1. Address the 5%. Fortunately, 95% of employees are committed to the company. If provided with a plausible explanation of why change is needed, as well as a solid plan and training, most will support it. However, there are the few who do not have the capacity, ability, desire, or need to be supportive. The noise, disruption, and harm to the leadership team’s credibility are not needed. Taking the appropriate steps sends a strong message to everyone that management is committed.
  2. Invest in employee training. Allocate 40-50 hours per employee for training. Everyone needs to understand what they are being asked to do, why they are being asked this, and what to expect in the near future. Topics vary depending on the specific situation, but may include quality systems, accountability, customer expectations, dynamics of change resiliency, fundamental awareness lean principals, coaching and mentoring leadership, gage training, standard work, or process mapping. The payoff on this investment will be significant. Much of the training can be accomplished on the job during work hours.
  3. Management must walk the talk. Managers often forget where the money is made – on the floor. Those on the floor know how to do the job efficiently and need management’s support. As the leader, this means getting out of the office and walking around to see what can be done to help make the employees’ jobs easier.
  4. Accountability and discipline. By nature, people need rules and enforcement. They need to know what is expected from them, and the consequences for not doing what is expected. Rules must be fair and consistently applied. This covers the entire gambit from attendance to how many parts are expected to be produced hourly on a machine. It is management’s responsibility to ensure everyone is trained in the application of a rule and then enforce it. Many facilities have rules but, for some reason, management does not choose to enforce them. They believe enforcement will cause labor unrest, but it actually increase it. Not addressing the enforcement issue causes confusion and results in noise and disruption. Along with accountability and discipline comes sense of urgency. It is the leadership’s responsibility to maintain a sense of urgency in a people-oriented manner. This attitude breeds an organization that continually improves.

Continue reading…

Filed under: Benefits and Savings, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Six Sigma, Manufacturing, Six Sigma Organizations

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Innovation of the Week: Printing Your Own House

Posted by: meikah | 20 April 2007 | 1:31 am

UK researchers say that hammering, sawing, drilling and bricklaying could one day be replaced with printing.

They are building a room-size machine that will use rapid prototyping techniques to print walls, complete with brick, plaster, windows, insulation and conduits for wires and pipes.

The technique could make walls stronger and more functional, the researchers say.

Meanwhile it could reduce construction waste, minimising the amount of labour needed and liberating the building’s form.

Continue reading…

Source: ABC Online, “Print your own house”

Filed under: Building/Construction, Innovation Update

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Improving Call Centers Operations Through Lean Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 18 April 2007 | 11:23 pm

Call center operations hurdle such issues as expected response time and resolution from different clients every day. When crunch time comes when clients are ready to pull out because they are not happy with the service, most companies do two things: layoff the unproductive ones and hire new people, or hire more people to manage the calls.

More often than not, these solutions, albeit commonly practiced, do not really dig into the root cause of the problem. They just work around the variable that clients are unhappy because of response and resoluton time, thus they are quick to conclude that they need to increase their workforce.

There is however a more effective way to improve call-center operations. An iSixSigma article discusses how Lean Six Sigma can do the trick.


In the course of doing a basic process analysis, the Lean Six Sigma expert discovered:

  • The majority of calls that could not be resolved on the first call required some research by the service representatives.
  • The service representatives were primarily judged on whether they were available to answer. This limited the time they could devote to research open issues. As a result, many calls that could not be resolved right away were often never resolved.
  • Customers whose inquiries were not answered within a few days would call back. This increased the call volume, inflated the numbers of calls that could not be resolved on the first call, and led to multiple entries in the computer system for the same problem.

… Baseline data showed that the company was falling far short of its goal, achieving only a 50 percent first-call resolution rate and 62 percent five-day resolution rate.

Continue reading to see how this analysis was addressed…

Related Story: iSixSigma Blogosphere, “Contact Center Process Owner v. HQ Process Owner”

*Photo from Stock.Xchng

Filed under: Call Center/BPO, Data Analysis, Deployment, iSixSigma, Lean Six Sigma, Processes, Services, Technology, Tools/Toolkits

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Six Sigma Reference Feature: 36-Hour Six Sigma Course

Posted by: meikah | 17 April 2007 | 7:22 pm

Time and again, we are told that training plays a vital role in Six Sigma deployment. There are many books that can guide us what goes into a Six Sigma training, and one of those good books is Greg Brue and Rod Howes’s book, The McGraw Hill 36 Hour Six SIGMA Course.

Express Computer Online shared excerpts of the book. It highlights how the training of executives, Champions, and Black Belts should go.

For executives, this group should include the finance, which determine the dollar impact of the projects and create a system to track the tangible results. Human resources should also get involved as it is responsible for the reward and recognition systems, and plot the career paths of the champions, master black belts, and green belts. Then the IT people who develop computer systems to collect measurement data from the projects and provide technological support for improvements.

The Champions’ training should touch on

  • Project selection methods
  • Basic statistics
  • Capability analysis
  • Measurement systems analysis
  • Process mapping
  • XY matrix
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Design of experiments

A typical Black Belt training should involve the following:

  • Measure (week one)—Black belts are introduced to Six Sigma. They are assigned projects, and they are taught process mapping, FMEA matrices, statistics, capability studies, measurement systems, and project application. They are also assigned regular homework.
  • Analyse (week two)—Black belts learn how to analyse distributions, graphically plot data, analyses, do hypothesis testing, and plan project applications while completing regular homework assignments.
  • Improve (week three)—Black belts learn the design of experiments method, understand correlation studies, conduct full factorial experiments, and continue to plan and execute project plans.
  • Control (week four)—Digging into all the control tools, black belts now review the methodology, learn how to implement statistical methods of control and mistake proofing, and finalise their project work.

Six Sigma training may be expensive, and takes away people from their regular job, but the fruits of such training will more than compensate the cost.

Filed under: Deployment, Finance, Human Resource, Six Sigma References, Training

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GE Money and Six Sigma

Posted by: meikah | 16 April 2007 | 9:38 pm

General Electric, with Jack Welch, and Lean/Six Sigma make a perfect pair as the former strives for perfection and continuous self-improvement, and the latter showing the way how to achieve just that.

The partnership of Lean/Six Sigma, or LSS, and GE has been so good that it is only natural that GE Money, the consumer and small business financial services unit of GE, will also adopt LSS. highlights the benefits of LSS to GE Money, which used it for financial-services operation, such as loan or credit-card application processing. In just three years since GE Money adopted LSS workouts, it was able to do the following:

  • In a GE operation in Thailand, where after an LSS workout session, the company was able to cut the processing time for auto loans by 40 percent.
  • Reduce the number of fields on an application form for credit cards to make it quicker for the applicant, and work to reduce its application process from 30 days to 2 days.
  • Shuffle desks around in the underwriting unit so that there are fewer handoffs.
  • More importantly, through LSS workouts, they are able to compile a big dashboard that shows which processes were unnecessary, thereby reducing wastes.

Source:, Six Sigma in Shenzhen

Filed under: Benefits and Savings, Deployment, Finance, GE, GE Money, Lean Six Sigma, Processes, Services, Six Sigma Organizations, Team Dynamics

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