In the late 1980s, and through the 1990s, businesses enjoyed a sudden boost in the efficiency of their processes. This started in manufacturing, where from 1986 companies such as Motorola increased their production efficiency and decreased their number of faulty products to 3.4 faults in every 1 million processes. This revolutionary system was called Six Sigma and has since been applied to almost every industry imaginable. It can be tailored to improve almost any business process, and, if executed correctly, is almost guaranteed to increase efficiency, saving you and your company money.
What Exactly is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is a management philosophy based on the observation that you can measure a process and statistically discover areas to improve. Executing Six Sigma techniques requires an analytical, statistical capability and is favored in the discipline of project management. From Motorola’s case study, it assumes that only when a business process produces fewer than 3.4 defects per 1 million processes can it be efficient.
Defects are easy to imagine in the manufacturing industry, but more confusing when considering the slightly more abstract processes involved in, for example, marketing. Defects can then hence be defined as anything that does not satisfy the consumer, or potentially the manager. In the five steps of Six Sigma these defects can be reduced to the extent that the business process can be thought of as efficient.
Six Sigma tools have been so impactful in the business world that training needs to be highly specialized. Practitioners of Six Sigma are recommended to achieve certification belt levels, as an indicator of skill and experience in executing Six Sigma. Humorously, these follow the martial arts belt system, going from white belt to master black belt. Often businesses send their employees on training programs, but recently websites like https://www.6sigma.us/six-sigma-yellow-belt.php have started to offer online courses even in the more complex Six Sigma Yellow, Green and Black Belt certifications.
Which Steps are Undertaken?
Many companies have their own take on the Six Sigma steps, but traditionally they follow the DMAIC pattern, standing for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.
- The first step is to work out which process you think is not working efficiently while keeping in mind the company’s short and long term goals. After this, the problem is defined by outlining the issue, the goals and then the ways that you will measure efficiency.
- Then, all potential variables that could impact the initial process performance are measured statistically.
- All these variables are isolated and tested; the reason for inefficiency is calculated.
- A Six Sigma team then improves the performance of this process by fixing the fault.
- Controls are added so the fault does not return and reduce the efficiency.
Six Sigma can save you a lot of money, and the beauty of the model is that it can be applied to almost anything. Take a look at Venture County in California, which used a special type of Six Sigma methodology called Lean Six Sigma to save them $43 million dollars. Maybe it can help your company in a similar way.
James Daniels is a freelance writer, business enthusiast, a bit of a tech buff, and an overall geek. He is also an avid reader, who can while away hours reading and knowing about the latest gadgets and tech, whilst offering views and opinions on these topics.