Six Sigma is a quality methodology that indicates the effectiveness of a process. Of course, quality control/improvement programs are nothing new. Companies have always implemented systems and methodologies to ensure top quality. At least, the good ones have.
To earn Six Sigma status, your process must return fewer than 3.4 defects per 1 million chances. Let’s say you’re a shipping company. That means that, for every 1 million pieces delivered, you have fewer than 3.4 misdelivered items.
Six Sigma’s two sub-methodologies are DMAIC and DMADV.
What Is DMAIC?
DMAIC applies to existing processes and stands for:
- Define: This includes definitions for the system, your customers’ needs/requirements, and the goals of your project.
- Measure: This includes the measurement and collection of data in your current process and calculating your as-is capabilities.
- Analyze: This includes looking at the cause and effect relationships in your data, ensuring you consider each factor and determine the cause of any defects.
- Improve: This involves optimizing processes after completing data analyses.
- Control: This includes the implementation of control systems to detect issues before they become defects.
What Is DMADV?
DMADV applies to new processes and stands for:
- Define: This requires determining goals to meet customer demands.
- Measure: This includes capabilities (product and production) and risks.
- Analyze: Use analysis to determine alternatives.
- Design: You develop this alternative based on analysis.
- Verify: Verify that your design, modeling, and implementation meet requirements.
Six Sigma Benefit: Increased Productivity and Efficiency
Proper implementation of Six Sigma allows you to gauge where your employees spend their time, both on tasks directly related to production and tasks indirectly related to production. For example, you may discover that you have a training issue rather than insufficient staffing. In other words, Six Sigma helps you determine the cause behind productivity and efficiency issues.
Let’s say you have ample sales staff but only one person working in sales support. If you’re regularly hitting 80-90 percent of goal, the instinct is to bulk up sales staff. After all, they’re the people bringing in new revenues. What happens, though, when your sales people spend half of their time completing paperwork and entering sales orders? It’s obvious that they’re not out there selling. For a third of the price of a single sales person, you can bring on a full-time support member, immediately increasing the efficiency and productivity of your sales force.
Six Sigma Benefit: Lower Costs and Higher Revenue
Inefficiencies are expensive. The core benefit of Six Sigma is identifying issues and designing improvements. Time spent fixing deficiencies is time not spent making money and satisfying your customers. Satisfied customers come back for more, whereas all it takes is a single error to lose a client forever, and even damage your reputation.
Combine this with the first item, looking at where your employees spend their time to see where costs can really drop. Let’s look again at the value of adding sales support instead of another rep (although you can do both, of course). Not only did you save cash on salary, you also likely just improved the numbers of each of your reps, increasing your revenues even if you didn’t hire a single extra rep.
Six Sigma Benefit: Sharpen Your Competitive Edge
The best companies attract the best customers, as well as the best employees. Improve your performance in both metrics with Six Sigma.
Identifying, and then implementing, the improvements necessary to hit that 96.6666 percent success rate leads to happy, loyal customers. Standardizing those processes ensures consistent delivery of those results, earning you a reputation for reliability.
Six Sigma applies to every process, not just your production or lead generation. Develop clearly defined roles and procedures for your team, as well as for HR-related functions. Design a system that determines the hidden talents and strengths of your team, and then ride those for all they’re worth. Employees working to their strengths, who feel that they’re providing a real contribution, are happy employees.
Is Six Sigma Only for Big Business?
A lot of the time, when we hear about quality control initiatives, it seems like they’re for large enterprises with multiple facilities across the country, or around the world. While these big organizations benefit from Six Sigma, they aren’t the only beneficiaries.
Small and medium sized businesses may benefit even more. While larger companies experience larger losses, smaller companies have less ability to absorb their losses. Improvements in efficiencies have a substantial impact on the profitability on organizations of any size.
Implementing Six Sigma requires a long-term focus. Yes, you want revenue growth and a strong bottom line. The real goal, though, is making this methodology a core component of your organization. Consistent implementation brings the longed-for revenue growth with it.