Four score and seven…
No no, wait. Let’s make that six.
Four score and SIX Sigma ago, we were all introduced to a phenomenal new way of business management strategy called Six Sigma. The concept of Six Sigma is based on statistical methods and many of the Six Sigma ideas are similar to our day-to-day planning in our own personal lives at home. For example, how many times have we all found ourselves looking through dozens of reviews about a beautiful new hotel on the beach before we are brave enough to finally book the room?
Why do we care about how many other vacationers stayed at a hotel first? We care so much because, similar to the Six Sigma’s use of statistics, even when we think of a hotel, we still feel the need to see the EXACT NUMBER and we need statistics of the many people who were happy there. No one wants to purchase anything unless there’s a high chance of happiness and customer satisfaction. If a hotel has terrible ratings and reviews, who wants to risk spending tons on a room that they may hate?
Reviews are like statistics. They make us feel more confident about choosing a product or service.
Using statistics and percentages based on either good or bad risk-taking is common for us all. We all need hard numbers sometimes to push us over that line of indecisiveness before we can move forward. This mindset is also common on the production side of business, not just the thinking that we all have as product consumers.
Six Sigma was created from that overall concept.
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is defined in the British dictionary as “A Trademark. A business management strategy that uses statistical methods to identify defects and improve performance”. So just imagine how terrifying it would be to own and operate a business that did NOT use statistical methods to help it run more efficiently, to identify its flaws and to make the work teams perform better everyday?
Without a system like Six Sigma, a business would probably be full of faulty products due to defects and the company morale would most likely not the greatest. So Six Sigma is a method that helps businesses improve, stops defects and makes sure that their overall work performance only improves along the way over an extended period of time.
What are the basic principles of Six Sigma?
Six Sigma has a wonderful checks and balances group of principles that makes sure that everyone is being held accountable for each other’s work and productivity in creating high quality products. Like a symphony orchestra, there are many players that all work together in shaping the perfect composition. What concert would be complete without all of the players and the instruments all in tune?
- The customer is the main focus. What business can survive without having customers or clients to purchase the product or service? That golden statement “The customer is always right” comes from this main principle in customer service excellence.
- Take note of how the work is getting done. Paying attention to the work process will ensure less problems and defects found later when the finished product reaches the consumer.
- Make sure that the work flow is properly managed. Employers should always have adequate supervision in the work areas to avoid human error and production delays. When the boss is away, aren’t we tempted to play?
- Eliminate any non-value steps in the process that will lead to waste. Any points in production that don’t make or SAVE a company money should all be removed from the production process. If it doesn’t make money it doesn’t make sense, right?
- Facts should be used to remove product variation. Consistency in product production is directly associated with following facts to make sure that there’s no defects or mix n match results.
- Ensure that the employees are properly equipped. Everyone in the production process should always have all the working tools, protective uniforms, machinery and equipment needed to complete their tasks in creating high quality products.
- Consistently oversee the improvements that keep production moving smoothly. Even the best of systems and products can always be improved.
What are the Six Sigma steps and what is 6S?
The magical mystery is about to be solved: Where did he SIX come from in the system, Six Sigma? Let’s first dive in and define 6S Steps:
The 6S Steps is a group of quality management tools used in the Six Sigma process. Basically, businesses use these important stages to keep the ball rolling in production. They are all very effective in overall product quality control.
First there were only 5:
Ironically, the 6S steps were originally broken down as only 5 steps called 5S however, a sixth step was added as the 6th. The original 5S terms were derived from 5 Japanese words. Here are the 6 different steps:
- Seiri — Translated to English from the Japanese dictionary, Seiri means “sorting, arrangement, organization, putting in order, adjustment, regulation”. This is the step all about cleaning up and keeping things orderly in the production process. Imagine working in a messy, unorganized garment factory and putting beautiful fabric onto a messy, cluttered area to sew on expensive beading. The finished product will most likely come out exactly like the workplace environment: Messy and probably damaged. This would be a huge waste of time, money and resources. 5S Seiri is all about keeping the area neat and organized.
- Seiton — “Straighten, simplify, set in order, or configure” is the definition of the Japanese word, Seiton. This step is similar to 5S Seri since it’s directly connected to organization like 5S Seiri is as well. However, with 5S Seiton, it’s more about “Things all being put away in their appropriate places”. When things are not in order, it causes stress in the work environment and more unnecessary physical movement. This stage is about less lifting, bending and looking around for things. Everything should have a specific place that’s easy to locate and that can be effortlessly accessible within reach of employees.
- Seiso — Translated to English from the Japanese dictionary, Seiso means “cleaning, tidy, clean-up, garbage collection, scavenging”. This step is the next level of the first 2 stages mentioned because there’s no use in everything being organized and neatly arranged if the work area is still not clean, right? When this stage is done effectively, it can show it several ways. The outside environment can be clean so potential customers want to shop there. It can also be a focus on the machines, equipment and tools remaining clean to make sure that the products are also clean. This can also be a preventive stage since keeping certain areas clean can reduce a need for repair on equipment, the work area and the products being created.
- Seiketsu — “Standardize or configure” is the definition in English of the Japanese word, Seiketsu. Collectively the other 3 steps of 6S lead us to this stage. 5S Seiketsu leads employees to passing codes and compliance by making sure that they kept the work areas, equipment, machinery, supplies and products clean, neat and organized.
- Shitsuke — “Discipline” is the short and sweet definition in English of the Japanese word, Shitsuke. Similar to the step 5S Seiketsu, this step 5S Shitsuki is a consolidated use of a few stages. It takes discipline to keep the work area, equipment and products clean, organized and in their designated areas and to follow the steps to ensure that they meet code and compliance regulation. It’s not always easy to stay in routine so this type of discipline is one of the most important steps.
The 6th “S” – This brings us to the final step which is also the only non-Japanese originated concept.
- Safety — Avoiding a dangerous or hazardous work environment can dodge several bullets in the production process. From the possibilities of causing employee physical injury to the liabilities of passing on dangers to customers who purchase the product, keeping the work area safe is VITAL in the 6S system.
Let’s go back to the original question “What is 6S”? The answer: the 6th tool stands for ‘safety’.
How do you calculate Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is calculated by the customer’s product defect percentage and then broken down into a Six Sigma category number on a scale 1-7 with the highest numbers being the best results. So if there’s 1,000,000 pink robes produced and only 2 robes had a defect, the Six Sigma calculation would be 0.0003% putting it at a 6 on the scale. This would be a great rating. However, if 1,000 robes had a defect out of the 1,000,000 produced, this would be a much lower rating and a much lower category number, 4 at .10%. It’s all based on the chances of a defect. The category table is called a Process Sigma Table. The Six Sigma rating should have a yield of 99.99966%. The term ‘yield’ defines all of the products that did not have a defect. So the reason that the best yield number on the slippers was 0.0003% was because 99.9997% of the slippers were without defect. The main parts of these calculations are defect, opportunity and defect rate.
|Sigma 1||Defective 69%||Defects per Million 691,462|
|Sigma 2||Defective 31%||Defects per Million 308,538|
|Sigma 3||Defective 66.8%||Defects per Million 66,807|
|Sigma 4||Defective 0.62%||Defects per Million 6,210|
|Sigma 5||Defective 0.023%||Defects per Million 233|
|Sigma 6||Defective 0.00034%||Defects per Million 3.4|
|Sigma 7||Defective 0.0000019%||Defects per Million 0.019|
What are Six Sigma belts? How long does it take to get Six Sigma Certified?
Six Sigma has different types of color coded special certifications called Six Sigma Black Belt that recipients can study, take their exam and be given their certification withinin 1-3 months. The time period varies by which belt they apply for and which organization that they use. The Six Sigma Black Belt color coded certifications are: Yellow, Green, Master Black, White and Black Belt. Champion and executives serve as organizational support. The belt certifications can be summarized as:
- Black Belt — Lead larger projects with big problem solving issues.
- Green Belt — Data collection specialty team leaders
- Master Black Belt — Train black and green belt teams and work on high level of Six Sigma strategy and consulting
- Yellow Belt — Team support member
- White Belt — Support for local teams and projects however, never on a Six Sigma project team.
What is LEAN Six Sigma?
The ‘Lean’ philosophy is to minimize waste in the production process to maintain and add value. It’s often used in the manufacturing industry and it’s referred to as lean manufacturing. Since many of the principles and stages of Six Sigma are similar to the lean concept, they two are combined and referred to as Lean Six Sigma. The Six Sigma Black Belt certifications are applied to the Lean Six Sigma industry for maximum productivity and minimal waste.,
It’s not always easy to run a successful business and to minimize losses, waste and defects along the way. However, like most things in life, with a little organization, planning and discipline, a business can go a long way by using Six Sigma principles, certifications and steps to excel and produce wonderful products for many happy customers. Six Sigma is a celebrated philosophy in the lean manufacturing world. Imagine how useful the Six Sigma principles would ALSO be in other areas of our lives where we need to reduce waste and improve our productivity.
How can digital signage improve Six Sigma?
Digital signage communicates real-time, weekly, monthly and quarterly KPIs (key performance indicators). For example, it can display defects per millions, or percentage of on-time delivery. Digital signage helps train employees so that they understand how Six Sigma works and what the priorities are. Digital signage can deliver newsletters and management messages to reinforce company culture and improve internal communication and employee engagement.
- British Dictionary — http://www.dictionary.com/browse/six-sigma?s=t
- Lean Six Sigma Business Transformation For Dummies [Book] Authors: Roger Burghall, Vince Grant, John Morgan
- Six Sigma For Dummies, 2nd Edition Authors: Craig Gygi, Bruce Williams, Stephen R. Covey (Foreword by) with Neil DeCarlo
- Japanese Dictionary — https://jisho.org/search/seiri
- MSI Certified — https://www.msicertified.com/black-belt-how-long.html
- ASQ.org — http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/six-sigma/overview/belts-executives-champions.html
- Lean Manufacturing Tools — http://leanmanufacturingtools.org/210/lean-6s-5s-safety/
- Lean.org — https://www.lean.org/WhatsLean/