Integrating Lean and Six Sigma for Breakthrough Process Improvement
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Integrating Lean and Six Sigma

Integrating Lean and Six Sigma for Breakthrough Process Improvement

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What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a term developed by Motorola to describe their management process for achieving breakthrough levels of quality improvement. Six Sigma Quality refers to processes that produce less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Improving quality performance from parts per hundred defective to parts per million defective is possible only through a company-wide effort based upon the use of data and statistical analysis tools. At Motorola this effort evolved into a formal organization of highly trained and dedicated professionals known as Six Sigma Black Belts. Six Sigma Black Belts plan, organize and improve process performance through repetition of a five phase improvement methodology known by its acronym: D.M.A.I.C. The acronym stands for: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

Each of these five phases of the Six Sigma quality improvement process is completed through application of quality management and quality engineering techniques such as: Process Mapping, Process Failure Mode & Effects Analysis, Statistical Process Control and Process Capability Analysis, Design of Experiments, Statistical Problem Solving and Mistake Proofing. These techniques are used by the Six Sigma Black Belts, working with cross-functional improvement teams, to define, measure, analyze, improve and control product and process variation (one of the measures of effectiveness required by ISO 9001 and TS 16949:2002).

Improving process and product quality from three or four sigma to six sigma results in significant reductions in the cost of poor quality which can be as much as 20 to 30% of total sales revenue for a three to four sigma company. The cost of poor quality can be reduced to less than 10% of total sales when process quality is improved to six sigma levels. Motorola, General Electric, Allied Signal and others, have reported saving billions of dollars per year from their Six Sigma efforts.

Types Of Improvement Expected

ISO 9001:2008 item 8.5.1, continual improvement, states that; "organizations shall continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system." In the sector specific requirements of TS 16949:2002, item 8.5.1.2, manufacturing process improvement, states that; "manufacturing process improvement shall continually focus upon control and reduction of variation in product characteristics and manufacturing process parameters."

Improvements In Customer Satisfaction

There are three types of improvement indicated by these specifications. First, the organization is expected to develop a process to continually monitor and evaluate their quality management system to verify and maintain on-going compliance with International Standards, Technical Specifications and company-specific quality system standards (evaluated through internal and third party quality audits). Second, the organization must develop a process to measure, monitor and continually improve customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is a measure of the customers' perceptions regarding the ability of the products and services delivered to meet or exceed the customer's expectations (evaluated by customer satisfaction surveys and reports). And third, the organization must develop a process to measure, monitor and continually reduce process and product variation (evaluated by process sigma levels).

Productivity Improvement

In addition to methods for evaluating process effectiveness, organizations are also required to develop processes to measure, monitor, evaluate and improve process efficiency. This requirement is found in item 5.1.1 of ISO/TS 16949:2009.

The Ford Motor Company's Q1 Quality System Standard provides direction to organizations for measuring monitoring and improving process efficiency. Ford suggests that organizations use Lean metrics such as: % value-added, dock-to-dock leadtime and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), to measure, monitor and improve process efficiency.

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