Six sigma is “business management strategy used by many different industries in an effort to improve the quality of products or services produced by the business through the removal of defects and errors” (Business Dictionary, 2014, online).
The primary commercial objectives of Six Sigma programs is associated with application of strategy based on measurements in order to improve wide range of processes and sub-processes with positive implications on quality of products and services.
Application of Six Sigma philosophy is not exclusive to manufacturing processes, and the framework can be applied to a wide range of organisational practices and processes such as IT, administration, quality assurance, design, purchasing etc.
Some of the leading companies operating diverse sectors such as General Electric, Motorola, Pepsico and even Amazon.com have been able to reduce the levels of operational costs and achieve greater levels of customer satisfaction through successful implementation of Six Sigma principles.
Six Sigma philosophy integrates the principles of strategic planning, benchmarking, supply-chain management, organisational learning into a single approach in a synergistic manner, thus successful application of Six Sigma can benefit from advantages associated with each of these individual management principles.
Along with its numerous advantages discussed above Six Sigma has certain disadvantages that include necessity for employees to undergo formal Six Sigma training programs before implementation of its principles. Moreover, positive implications of Six Sigma programs may not be evident in short-term perspective, and period of time of at least several months is required before Six Sigma programs make positive contribution to the levels of revenues after their implementation.
Nevertheless, substantial advantages of Six Sigma outweigh its few disadvantages, and therefore application of Six Sigma in an appropriate manner makes a good business sense.
DMAIC abbreviation stands for define, measure, analyse, improve and control, and each of these words represent consequent stages within Six Sigma implementation roadmap.
1. Defining problem an unambiguous manner constitutes the first stage in Six Sigma implementation. Once problems are defined relevant goals need to be specified according to SMART principle, where the acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
2. Measuring stage in Six Sigma implementation involves data collection from primary and secondary sources.
3. Analysis of data involves the application of specific techniques depending on the nature of the problem taking into account a wide range of industry-specific variables.
4. Improvement of relevant aspects of quality management is associated with implementing change initiatives on the basis of analysis conducted during the previous stage.
5. Controlling as the last stage of Six Sigma implementation involves ensuring that introduced changes are maintained permanently or specific period of time and evaluating financial implications of changes.
It is important to note that DMAIC model can be applied outside of Six Sigma programs as well in order to introduce systematic changes in a wide range of organisational processes.
FMEA acronym stands for failure mode and effects analysis and this tool is used to assess potential problems with the implementation of Six Sigma before the actual implementation.
FMEA advantages include possibilities to implement changes in an effective manner through minimising the chances of future problems with positive cost implications.
However, FMEA model may have some disadvantages as well such as high levels of complexity of its implementation and high levels of subjectivity in determining problem areas. Additionally, importance of FMEA may not be appreciated by members of team assigned with Six Sigma implementation and FMEA may be perceived by them merely as a catalogue of failures with little implications.
Six Sigma (2014) Business Dictionary, Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/Six-Sigma.html