With the era of digital transformation well underway, the fourth industrial revolution has kicked into overdrive. Artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and smart applications are steadily becoming the norm in 21st-century life. But, the introduction and implementation of any new industry 4.0 technologies will initially face a period of trial and error.
New technologies and processes – as absolute as we might think – are prone to upgrading and improvement. That’s where Six Sigma comes in. Despite the digitization of major supply chains allowing for greater autonomy over advanced industrial control systems, the best way to mitigate system redundancies in the research and development stage (R&D) of a product or service is by aligning with the Six Sigma principles.
What is Six Sigma?
If you’re not familiar, Six Sigma is a statistical framework that employs the rule of continuous improvement to enhance the quality of a product or service. This method is specifically intended to mitigate variables and defects within a production process using analytical data. There are two six sigma methods, DMAIC and DMADV – the latter is used for new design procedures, whereas the former is used to refine existing processes and is more widely adopted. The five steps of the DMAIC improvement cycle are: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.
The Five Core Rules of Six Sigma
Before we share the six benefits of Six Sigma, we first need to know the rules of methodology at the heart of this standard. The five core rules of Six Sigma are:
- Customer Focus
Six Sigma is all about quality control and who’s opinion on “quality” means more to businesses than those buying from them – the consumer. In order to continuously improve a product or service, businesses must study and determine the standards and expectations of their customers to identify what needs to change. Customer focus is essential to the evolution of products and is one of Six Sigma’s core principles.
- Use Data
Businesses utilize comprehensive data to study and measure the production process, using that data to minimize variations and help to determine the root cause of a problem. This can be achieved through defining clear objectives for data acquisition, guaranteeing measurements are concise, and establishing what to do and how to secure critical information.
- Continuous Improvement
This next step aims to eliminate variations and perfect the production process through the identification of root causes. This is achieved by assuming a proactive position that seeks errors and variables before they arise. Intersecting with lean management, the goal is to eliminate waste through deducting steps that add no value to the customer.
- Be Thorough & Flexible
When pursuing the Six Sigma method, flexibility is a requirement that will cultivate an environment where change is more readily welcomed. A business’s management system must welcome positive changes that help eliminate variations. Communicating the importance and benefits of Six Sigma to the team will encourage rapid growth and an acceptance of change.
- Participation of People
Teamwork is another critical factor in successfully executing the Six Sigma method. An effective team will comprise individuals skilled in Six Sigma processes, usually with one or more members ranking on the Six Sigma Belt Levels. Acute communication skills are another requirement of a successful Six Sigma plan, as coordination between co-workers is pivotal in pinpointing variation.
The Six Benefits of Six Sigma
With a little understanding of Six Sigma and all its components, the ability to truly realize and understand the gains of the methodology becomes possible. So in case you weren’t already sold, here are six benefits of Six Sigma.
6. You Can Minimise Waste
Six Sigma is specifically designed to remedy risk and remove variations in the production process, making it the optimal tool for decreasing waste and supplementing profits. The methodology aims to create a seamless flow between processes while identifying Lean Six Sigma categorizes eight types of “waste” to eliminate:
- Non Utilized talent
5. Increase Profits
Following the Six Sigma method can help a business increase profits and boost productivity by streamlining processes to create consistent quality products faster and more efficiently. Through trial and error and refining the production process, innovations and new data can be discovered – which can then be patented and find their way onto the market. The consistent high-quality of services and products can also increase long-term sales. By delivering reliable and trusted products, customers are incentivized to stay loyal and end up making repeat purchases.
4. Improve Customer Service
The reputation of a business leans on how successfully they interact with their customers. Dissatisfied customers aren’t likely to return if their experience or communication with the business is mediocre. Employing Six Sigma can identify variables in customer interactions and provide solutions on how to eliminate them. Six Sigma ensures products are trialed and tested routinely, accounting for every variable until the highest quality product is achieved – this also breeds customer loyalty for a consumer seeking consistency in a business. There’s no limit to Six Sigma’s capabilities, customer service can be improved on all levels using this method.
3. Reduce Operational Costs
Six Sigma has proven effective at reducing operational costs, saving businesses a ton of money lost to poor quality control. Companies that don’t recognize or adhere to quality-assured standards will ultimately lose the business money. Time and money are often lost to inspection and reproduction costs, which enables an environment where error is normalized. Creating advanced processes that improve detectability and prevent defects before a product or service is produced is Six Sigma’s core objective. If done so successfully, operational costs will be saved through preventative action.
2. Improve Accuracy and Controls
The six sigma method minimizes instances of anomaly by decreasing defects-per-million-opportunities to no more than 3.4 per million – accounting for faults in every probable instance by systematically measuring baseline and aiming for procedural accuracy. The stability of statistical process control tools (SPC) can be observed via Six Sigma, which routinely tracks and oversees the stability of SPCs.
Supported by statistical data and comprehensive analysis, Six Sigma enhances process accuracy, so deploying this method will result in maximal value and minimal waste. And to guarantee business activities and processes are in line with service level agreements (SLA), Six Sigma resources ensure compliance by monitoring financial income, assessing future objectives, and detecting divergent patterns within the system.
- Improve Efficiency and Save Time
Six Sigma at its core is designed to improve efficiency and save time by eliminating unnecessary and inefficient steps in the product delivery process. This can boost productivity and allow for a faster turnaround. By collecting data specific to your industry and identifying defects for analysis, you can deploy Six Sigma to optimize and navigate process pain areas. When embarking on a new project, businesses can lose valuable time tending to unforeseen variables of the project. Assemble a specialized team versed in Six Sigma to observe and identify critical issues before they arise, this will save time otherwise spent troubleshooting project defects and anomalies. By deploying the Six Sigma method, you can reduce the period of the project lifecycle by 35%.
What is Lean Six Sigma?
Familiar with the term Lean Sigma Six? The Lean approach pays particular focus on reducing waste and increasing workflow performance and has been used ever since it was first coined to describe Toyota’s 1980’s “Muda” philosophy. Meaning “Wasteful” in Japanese, “Muda ” lays the conceptual foundation for Lean manufacturing and management. When combined, Lean Six Sigma becomes an evolved version of Six Sigma that helps innovate design with maximum efficiency.
Digital transformation continues to reinvent and redefine the way we interact with technology every day, pioneering new and emerging processes that accelerate not only industry 4.0 but also economic and cultural change. If impactful enough, products of digital transformation can create a ripple effect resonating out across both the business and public sector.
In particular, digital transformation is changing the way business is done forever, harnessing data and automating systems to improve and perfect products and services for all. This is often done using the Six Sigma methodology. That’s why Apple products (or any product for that matter) are always in a state of upgrade. Imperfections are removed, functions are refined and designs become more efficient. Time and innovation are required to reinvent and improve any service or product, that’s why Six Sigma is a trusted and tried method.