Six Sigma Quality Management
Six Sigma quality management is a business management strategy, originally developed by Motorola. Six Sigma became well known after being the central focus of the business strategy at General Electric in 1995 and today it is widely used in almost all the sectors of IT industry.
Six Sigma at many organizations simply means a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.
Six sigma emphasizes identifying and avoiding variation. The six sigma strategy involves a series of steps that are specifically designed to lead the organization through the various layers of process improvement.
There are three major components to Six Sigma:
• The environment of the organization as established by the top level team members in the organization
• The quality improvements tools such as SPC, process mapping, data display and analysis, problem-solving, and root cause analysis
• The integrated infrastructure which includes systems that support the use of the tools.
Six sigma quality assurance relies on a five-step process called DMAIC, which stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. By employing each of these steps, projects can move toward better and more systematic quality achievements.
The DMAIC project methodology has five phases:
• Define the problem, the voice of the customer, and the project goals, specifically.
• Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
• Analyze the data to investigate and verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are, and attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered. Seek out root cause of the defect under investigation.
• Improve or optimize the current process based upon data analysis using techniques such as design of experiments, poka yoke or mistake proofing, and standard work to create a new, future state process. Set up pilot runs to establish process capability.
• Control the future state process to ensure that any deviations from target are corrected before they result in defects. Implement control systems such as statistical process control, production boards, visual workplaces, and continuously monitor the process.
Six Sigma Quality Management
While Six Sigma uses conventional methods, its application is very modern and in-line with the current technology. Six Sigma in all industries today, defines a clear road map to achieve Total Quality:
1. Management Commitment: Top management initiates Six Sigma deployment and plays a pivotal and active role in the whole deployment cycle. Six Sigma starts by providing senior leadership with training in the principles and tools it needs to direct the development of a management infrastructure to support Six Sigma. This involves reducing the levels of organizational hierarchy and removing procedural barriers to constant experimentation and continuous change.
2. Customer Focus: Systems are developed for establishing close communications with direct customers, end-users, suppliers, regulatory bodies, etc. and with employees. From upstream suppliers to ultimate end-users, Six Sigma eliminates the opportunities for defects and ensures quality from beginning.
3. Strategic Deployment: Six Sigma ensures that the company’s resources – right support, right people, right project, and right tools, focus on identifying and improving performance metric that relate to bottom-line success.
4. Integrated Infrastructure: The Team leaders define and review project progress. The Champion acts as a project head and removes the barriers for the project team. The Six Sigma Master Black Belt acts as a technical tutor and provides in-depth knowledge of quality tools. The Black Belt controls the project while the Green Belt supports the Black Belt – together they form the Six Sigma Project Teams.
5. Disciplined Framework: Six Sigma projects are Implemented using the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control disciplined road map. This DMAIC discipline sets up a clear protocol to facilitate internal communication. Overall, Six Sigma forms a framework for continuous business improvement.
6. Education and Training: Six Sigma believes quality is driven by true understanding & knowledge. It intensively utilizes quality and statistical tools to transform a practical problem to a practical solution. Hence, a complete training is conducted in Six Sigma methodology and system improvement techniques for all levels.
Six Sigma & Total Quality Management (TQM)
In conclusion, Six Sigma’s approach and deployment makes it distinguishable from other quality methodologies and initiatives. The Six Sigma approach involves the use of statistical tools within a structured methodology for gaining the knowledge needed to achieve better, faster, and less expensive products and services. Influenced by the bottom line improvement, top management will continuously be committed to the process, customers will definitely be satisfied, and Total Quality will ultimately be achieved.
Author: Kshama Rangan, IT Trainer & Project Management Consultant