Six Sigma brings together several tools and methods aimed at improving business processes. It is one of the top methodologies used by leading organizations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes. Besides developing an environment of constant process improvement, Six Sigma, in addition, offers solutions that decrease variance, eliminate defects, and help organizations identify underlying causes of faults, which lead to the creation of improved products and services that enhance customer experiences.
Although restricted to big companies for quite some time, the six sigma process, these days, is also being increasingly adopted by small businesses to increase revenues and lower costs through accurate anticipation of quality challenges in processes, products, or services. Six sigma process steps, if properly implemented, can allow both large and small companies to predict and lower the likelihood of deviations in business processes, improving quality standards.
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Let us now begin by learning about what the six sigma process is.
What is the Six Sigma Process? Six Sigma Explained
Six Sigma practitioners use project management, financial analysis, and statistics to achieve improvements in business functionalities. Emphasizing on cycle-time betterment, the data-driven six sigma process seeks to limit business process errors up to a maximum of 3.4 instances per million events. In short, this means that a business process error will occur only if there is a six-standard-deviation.
Many people wrongly assume that the six sigma process solely applies to the manufacturing sector. In fact, any company, regardless of its business area, can deploy six sigma process steps to improve products and services, meet customer demands, and boost customer retention. Advocating a qualitative assessment of success, Six Sigma enables organizations to optimize and speed up their business processes with fewer errors.
What is Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma is a fusion of Six Sigma methodologies and Lean Management framework. Sermin Vanderbilt, the President of the American Quality Institute and the Founder of Lean and Six Sigma World Conference, says: "Six Sigma is getting it right every time or most of the time, 99.9 percent of the time. Almost every organization does need Six Sigma. Six Sigma is about accuracy. Lean is about cutting the costs, cutting time, so they go hand in hand." Healthcare, IT, finance, and manufacturing are the major sectors that use Lean Six Sigma. Businesses usually implement lean to augment efficiency, and then they apply Six Sigma methodologies to fix errors in processes.
The Etymology of Six Sigma Process
In the 1980s, Motorola was facing an existential crisis because of stiff competition from Japanese companies. To overcome the competition, Bob Galvin, the CEO of Motorola, planned a ten-fold performance improvement program over five years. To achieve this, he strongly emphasized global benchmarking and extensive employee training.
Meanwhile, Motorola's veteran engineer Bill Smith published a research paper on product quality, which revealed that products with few non-conformities could meet customer expectations. The main challenge for the organization, however, was finding the right solutions to address process errors, which would help develop high-performing products.
Bill started working with Mikel Harry, a doctorate from the University of Arizona, and they designed a unique four-step approach to problem-solving - Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Within a few years, CEO Galvin introduced Bill and Harry's four-phase quality program in Motorola, and termed it "The Six Sigma Quality Program." Six Sigma proved to be an instant success, and soon, companies such as Xerox, BAE Systems, Amazon, Atos, Allied Signal, Texas Instruments, and others began implementing it.
What are the Six Sigma Principles?
The success of the Six Sigma model is deeply rooted in the five, six sigma principles, which include:
- Identifying the root causes of problems
- Maximizing customer value
- Continuous process improvement
- Collaboration and coordination with teams and management
- Agility and versatility
Six Sigma Methodologies
The five core principles of Six Sigma shape the two main Six Sigma methodologies, which are DMADV and DMAIC. Below is a breakdown of the acronyms.
- D: Define company and customer goals
- M: Measure the characteristics Critical To Quality (CTQ)
- A: Analyze measurement data
- D: Design new processes in line with the analysis
- V: Verify new processes
- D: Define project goals and customer requirements
- M: Measure key aspects of current processes
- A: Analyze the data
- I: Improve processes
- C: Control process implementations to make sure there are no errors
Implementing Six Sigma
As the six sigma process will impact the entire organization, it is necessary to notify everyone about the implementation, starting from senior-level executives to entry-level employees.
Effective planning of the six sigma process steps is vital, so before implementing Six Sigma, organizations must prepare a list of items that require attention. This will also provide all members with a clear picture of what is happening.
No matter which six sigma methodology you plan to adopt, you will need skilled professionals to make the implementation a success. Organizations should ideally have — Six Sigma Green Belts — within departments to manage the six sigma process steps.
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Six Sigma Levels
Six Sigma levels are certifications that indicate a person's ability to work with projects that use Six Sigma quality management methods. Here's a quick overview of Six Sigma Levels that will give you insight into the skills you need to develop to help your organization and move up the career ladder.
White Belt Level
The Six Sigma White Belt is a grass-root-level certification program that provides basic knowledge about the Six Sigma concepts. White Belt employees usually assist higher-level professionals in managing process changes.
Yellow Belt Level
Yellow Belts are familiar with the aspects of Six Sigma methodologies. Yellow Belt professionals lead limited process improvement projects or are part of teams working on advanced improvement projects.
Green Belt Level
Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Training not only trains candidates in various tools used by project teams, but it also teaches the candidates how to apply DMADV and DMAIC to Six Sigma projects. A Green Belt certification from a top-class institution like Simplilearn will ready you to take charge of projects straightaway.
Simplilearn's Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Training, offering 100% money-back guarantee, includes 56 hours of high-quality blended learning, four simulation test papers, and four real-life projects, allowing you to gain critical skills such as identifying process issues, measuring current performance, and developing solutions that ensure growth.
Check out the Simplilearn's video on the Six Sigma process: