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Many people, including students and business professionals, may not have heard of ‘Six Sigma’, and those that have may not fully understand it. Simply put, Six Sigma is a method for ensuring quality.

Its’ aim is to help improve products or services and is a method used by a number of different industries such as manufacturing, production and financial services.

Six Sigma is a method used to gauge the performance of any business process. Performance is described statistically, where a report will produce a number of defects per a certain number of opportunities or products. (Defects in this context can be anything outside of the specifications.)

This process is gaining popularity and is being used by various businesses and industries worldwide, this includes the armed forces, government departments, prisons, banks, and hospitals. Organisations have now been set up to provide Six Sigma Training.

The Six Sigma methodology dates back to 1855 when the statistical ‘sigma’ designation was first introduced by Carl Frederick Gauss as a concept of a curve (mathematicians and engineers use the term too). It is used as a symbol of the measuring unit for the quality of a product.

In the 1970s, Motorola engineers adapted it as an informal term for a method of reducing defects in production. In the same year, Motorola extended the method to processes. Eventually Six Sigma became a formal method for performance improvement for other businesses and industries.

To produce high quality products and processes, teams and team leaders are given defined roles and duties. These include Executive Leadership; Champions; Master Black Belts; Black Belts; and Green Belts.

Different forms of Six Sigma

There are two forms of the methodology, DMAIC and DFSS.

  • The DMAIC Process (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control) is used for improving any business’ current products or processes, which may be failing to satisfy customer requirements.
  • DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) or DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyse, Design, Verify) is solely used to make new products or a process that meets customer requirements. Compared to DMAIC, which is applicable on any business procedure, DFSS concepts and systems are more specialised and additional certification may be required.

DFSS – New product or service implementation

These processes differ from company to company dependent on the basic features of a product or procedure. Therefore, DFSS might be implemented to enhance the work culture or help implement other Six Sigma ideas to keep up with competitors.

The DFSS aims to reduce defects to less than 3.4 per million opportunities. Moreover, maintaining such high level of quality from the onset will require Six Sigma specialists to have a high degree of understanding about customer wants and specifications, before any completion or implementation of a design. This is done through market research and data collection.

DFSS has a number of variations, such as DMADV, which means define, measure, analyse, design, and verify.

Initially, the needs of the customer are defined based on market research and other collected data. These needs are then scaled, and bench marked, based on competitors or industries that are already meeting such needs.

The next step scrutinises of the available process options against the client requirements. The most appropriate procedure is then picked but note that cost will also play a part in this decision.

In the final stage, the performance of the selected practice is verified using the client requirements. However, DMADV has its own variation, known as DMADOV (define, measure, analyse, design, optimize, verify). Adding an optimisation stage helps to ensure product or process efficiency.

Another modification of DFSS is DCCDI (Define, Customer, Concept, Design, Implement). It is very similar to DMADV but focuses more on the commercialisation of the product or service.

About the Author

  • About Alastair Majury: Alastair became a senior business analyst through his expertise in systems. He has since worked in private wealth, retail and Investment banking.

Alastair Majury

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