I recently met with a new colleague who is an expert in Six Sigma, which gave me the opportunity to get educated on this topic. I found this discussion helpful so thought it worthwhile on incorporating as a new blog post. We discussed the concepts of Lean and optimized manufacturing, and the multitude of colored belts denoting levels of expertise, ranging from Orange to Green and ultimately to being a Black Belt or even a Champion, who knows the business inside and out. We discussed the concepts of process standardization and optimization according to Six Sigma, resulting in the reorganization of my personal office and the process by which I communicate to others at work.
From a historical perspective, Six Sigma’s roots came from a goal originated by Motorola for its manufacturing operations. The goal was for their management and engineering practices to use it as a strategy for continuous process improvement by removing variability in how processes are executed. Six Sigma has contributed to transforming manufacturing operations so as to better produce defect-free products, which is absolutely crucial for industries such as Aerospace and Defense, Automotive and Medical Device manufacturing where the daily lives of millions of people are at stake if a product’s quality should deviate even just a little bit.
Six Sigma essentially became its own brand for quality. Those following its set of practices designed to improve manufacturing processes and eliminate defects by reducing variability tended to experience the highest product quality. These concepts were then extended to other business processes as the discipline matured. However, Six Sigma represents more than merely ensuring defect-free product quality and seamless manufacturing operations processes. Ultimately, it is all about achieving business goals and objectives. Each Six Sigma project that is carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps, which includes predefined and quantified business targets, such as a percentage cost improvement and / or profit increase.
Six Sigma significantly impacts how manufacturing processes are executed on the shop floor. Global manufacturers embrace Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing as a corporate philosophy knowing that manufacturing processes have to be steadily improved to gain efficiency, improve quality, cut waste and enhance the value stream. Achieving visibility and control to evaluate, measure and improve these processes can be a challenge, especially when spread across distributed production sites.
One can’t help but notice that today there are competing forces now surrounding Six Sigma. Today’s global manufacturers must perform frequent process changes in order to remain agile and adaptable to market changes, yet the primary focus of Six Sigma is to remove process variability. In order to ease tracking, management and synchronization of material flows, business processes spanning beyond production to warehouse, quality, maintenance and other operations must simultaneously be consistently and continuously improved.
This objective is best completed when Six Sigma is combined with modern-day manufacturing software solutions capable of handling this complexity in order to realize multiple synergies through the combination of Six Sigma experts and manufacturing operations. This strategy helps to bridge the gap between different company functions to ensure seamless manufacturing processes and work-flows, thereby also improving the bottom line.
The next time when you hear a Six Sigma discussion, I challenge you to think across divisions, processes and technology. How can you expand your business objectives by implementing your next process improvement with the use of modern day manufacturing execution technologies? This approach will help to ensure that your company stays competitive, and that your business goals and objectives can be reached to the benefit of all stakeholders. In the end, your company’s brand will continuously be perceived in an innovative and positive light.