The Role of Six Sigma in Manufacturing
The basics of Six Sigma were actually designed to improve the performance in the manufacturing industry, originally developed as a kind of quality control especially for large scale manufacturing companies. The main purpose of this quality control system was to improve the manufacturing processes along with eliminating the number of defects found in them. Later, the Six Sigma methodology was extended to other types of industries all over the world. Let’s dive into what Six Sigma is, and what we mean when we say Six Sigma manufacturing.
Introduction to Six Sigma
The concept of Six Sigma was developed in 1986 by Motorola as a set of tools and techniques to improve their manufacturing processes. In 1995 this concept was used by Jack Welch as the main concept of the business strategy of General Electric—now used by a number of industrial sectors. Almost half of the Fortune 500 companies had adopted this process for their organizations by the end of twentieth century.
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Six Sigma identifies and removes defect-causing elements along with reducing the changeability of the business and manufacturing processes to improve the quality of outputs from a manufacturing process. In this methodology, an organization follows a defined set of steps to quantify the targeted value of the project. An application of Six Sigma in manufacturing can help an organization reduce pollution, reduce time cycle of one or more processes, and reduce cost of production for increasing profits and satisfaction level of its customers.
Motorola reported some astonishing facts about the benefits Six Sigma had for its organization after registering its service mark: they disclosed they had saved more than $17 billion by the end of 2006 with the help of quality improvement processes offered by this unique system.
How Six Sigma works
In 1980s when the methodology of Six Sigma was originated, Motorola recognized an association between decrease in production costs along with increase in product quality. Until then, common thinking was that higher quality increases the cost of production. It turned out that isn’t true.
According to the basics of the doctrine of Six Sigma, the success of a company vitally depends on continuous efforts for achieving stable manufacturing processes. The factors of these processes are also important to be measured statistically so that they can be improved by analyzing them.
Organizations that use Six Sigma set up their systems and processes to include measurable metrics in manufacturing, service, financial processes, etc. They use this approach to determine the projects that best fit their business goals. Once a project or goal is defined, the organization follows the disciplined Six Sigma process that’s defined by four phases:
Measure - In this step, the organization measures existing systems to learn what can be considered a baseline or benchmark, among other things.
Analyze - This step focuses on analyzing the system to identify ways to eliminate defects. This can be done in a variety of ways, including statistical analysis to determine the root cause of an issue.
Improve - During this step, project teams seek optimal solutions, then develop and test the plan of action for improving a process or goal.
Control - The Control step can be ongoing—an organization may modify operating instructions, policies, or procedures to help prevent future defects.
Six Sigma Features and Goals
The main features of Six Sigma for improvement in the manufacturing industry include a clear focus on quantifying and measuring the financial returns of any project. All these features allow an organization to clearly define the responsibilities and role of every individual within the team for improving the manufacturing process of the organization.
The prime goal of Six Sigma production is to ensure the manufacturing process has minimum defects. The occurrence of 3.4 defects per million chances is the ultimate goal of this system. This may seem to be an unachievable task—but most manufacturing companies achieve this final goal by adopting this technique to produce quality products.
Six Sigma Certification
Availability of various levels of training and certification is another hallmark of Six Sigma. Certificate holders are organized into different “belt” levels, similar to many martial arts systems—for example, the first Six Sigma certification is a Six Sigma Green Belt. Masters attain a Six Sigma Black Belt.
Professionals with any Six Sigma certification—even a Six Sigma Green Belt—are highly valued because they can prove they have the knowledge to identify, measure, analyze, improve, and control projects. And although Six Sigma originated as a manufacturing methodology, its spread across industries benefits certificate holders—they can apply their skills in organizations worldwide.
In large organizations where clear communication channels and extensive management infrastructure is available, Six Sigma shows effective results. Most of the companies which have adopted this quality control system for improving their products and services are among the most successful ventures of the world.
The comments of these companies reveal the fact that by embracing Six Sigma they have saved lots of money than earlier. But before adopting this system for your manufacturing company it is recommended that you should spend some time learning about Six Sigma. You can become a Lean Six Sigma Expert by enrolling in Simplilearn’s Lean Six Sigma Masters Program—start with the basics and ultimately earn your Black Belt!
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