Six Sigma is a quality control management system that was originally designed by Motorola for its manufacturing process. It is data-driven to identify and eliminate variables that cause defects during production. Although the system has since been adapted to a number of different industries, it still seems most beneficial for its original purpose: manufacturing.
Six Sigma manufacturing firms are some of the heaviest producers of products. The use of Six Sigma has steadily been growing in popularity throughout the years as more and more companies see the positive results. Six Sigma helps manufacturing companies to decrease their waste, improve upon customer satisfaction, and to lower costs associated with production.
Why Manufacturers Should Use Six Sigma?
Probably the first reason to use Six Sigma in your manufacturing is because the system is popular and so many other companies have successful track records in using it. Statistics have shown that when used properly, companies can save money overall.
Another reason to use Six Sigma is that there are plenty of resources available such as training. From business schools to universities to private companies, there is a plethora of institutes that offer certified training for company employees.
Along with the training, the market is full of potential employees who are all Six Sigma qualified at various levels. Although some companies offer to train their employees, many job seekers have already had the training which is an asset on any resume. Hiring workers who are already certified saves a company money.
Software companies offer dozens of software packages with Six Sigma tools. These tools provide support for any Six Sigma manager or team leader. Having a computer do all the thinking makes the management process easier.
The Six Sigma method has created a new industry of companies that can come in and set up the system for you. While this can be costly and time consuming, it also provides a support platform of experts that manufacturing companies can turn to when they have a problem.
Six Sigma can help companies save money by reducing manufacturing costs. The methods set up by Six Sigma are designed to reduce waste associated with defects. Waste uses more resources which costs money. So if fewer resources are used on defects, then the more money companies save.
And probably the most important aspect of using Six Sigma is that with the reduction of defects, companies can expect to manufacture higher quality products. Higher quality in turn leads to better customer satisfaction.
How Do You Switch To Six Sigma?
Manufacturing companies that already have a quality management system installed can always switch to Six Sigma. There are several steps you can take to achieve this, some more expensive than others.
The first step for manufacturing companies switching over to Six Sigma is to make sure that management is on board with the idea. Six Sigma relies heavily on management positions to provide support to lower level employees. Management, particularly upper management, must supervise the implementation of Six Sigma completely or the system will not be as effective. Also, management needs to be thoroughly trained so that they understand the principles of Six Sigma.
The next step is to rebuild the company’s infrastructure to accommodate Six Sigma. This infrastructure should include important decisions such as who will take on the roles of Black Belts, Green Belts, and Master Black Belts, all of which come with their own responsibility. Rebuilding the infrastructure must be done before training can commence.
Lastly, training of all employees in the Six Sigma methods is a must. It doesn’t do any good to set up the system if no one knows how to use it. As most manufacturing companies will hire a third party to set up Six Sigma, it will be they who are in charge of training company employees. They will set up the company hierarchy according to Six Sigma guidelines, develop a training program, and act as additional support.
What Is Lean Six Sigma Manufacturing?
Lean manufacturing is another management system in charge of production. It is designed to speed up the production process in manufacturing as well as to minimize production resources such as inventory. When coupled with Six Sigma, you get a much more efficient system as one compliments the other. For instance, Six Sigma uses data to help reduce defects but does not necessarily speed up a process. Lean manufacturing can do that but does not take into account statistics and variables. When the two systems are used together, you get Lean Six Sigma Manufacturing.
What Are Some Lean Six Sigma Manufacturing Techniques?
Lean Six Sigma manufacturing focuses on continuous improvements and a steady workflow. It is designed to meet high demand with high quality. The combined method uses several techniques to achieve these goals.
The first technique for Lean Six Sigma is to define and measure the problem. This step helps manufacturers to understand where they should start and whether they should use Lean techniques or Six Sigma techniques.
The next technique to utilize is analysis. If there is a problem you have to analyze it to know what it is and what causes it to occur. This involves doing a statistical analysis involving a flowchart. The flowchart helps to see which steps are needed to identify and correct the problem.
While most analysis is done utilizing Six Sigma techniques, you can also apply some principles of lean manufacturing. Some of these include zero inventory, zero waiting time, more effective scheduling, line processing improvement, and turn-around time.
Another Lean Six Sigma manufacturing technique is the generation of ideas. This technique involves coming up with different ways to improve a process using both lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. While coming up with ideas, manufacturers may need to do test runs to see if the ideas are effective.
After ideas have been generated, manufacturers can modify them and implement the changes into the manufacturing process. Once the changes have gone into effect, constant control must be maintained in order to achieve continued quality.
What Are Some Benefits of Lean Six Sigma In Manufacturing?
When manufacturers use Lean Six Sigma in manufacturing, they reap the benefits from both management systems. Some of the benefits include:
- Cost efficiency by using lean methods to reduce production costs.
- Reduced inventory a cost because with less stock, less space is taken up, less capital is invested, and less handling of the stock. Too much inventory also slows down the production process.
- Cycle times are shortened because with less waste, companies are able to produce products quicker.
- By using both Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, a company becomes more flexible. This means that a company does not invest in only one product. It can move resources around at will to areas where they need it most. This increases response time and allows companies to meet customer demand.