How to implement six sigma methodology in small and middle-sized companies

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Ever since the continuous quality improvement became the buzzword, there started to appear several quality improvement initiatives, for example, TQC, TQM, etc. A limitation witnessed in them is that these approaches did not orient themselves towards specific goals on how companies can attain zero defective manufacturing. To a great extent, this deficiency has overcome with the introduction of the Six Sigma approach. Motorola is credited with its implementation for the first time during the 1980s. Later GE followed suit not only by adopting it but also playing a role in propagating its salient features.   Six-Sigma occupies a unique place in the bastion of manufacturing. As a longest surviving one for a reason, it has withstood the test of times by being the most effective business strategy for achieving a quantum leap in business performance. In this article, we would discuss what Six Sigma is about and how it can implement in small and medium-sized businesses.

Six Sigma offers the global benchmark for realizing excellence in manufacturing. It does so by influencing five core areas of business operations, VIZ,

  • Products
  • Processes,
  • Customers,
  • Suppliers
  • Results

It enables organizations to achieve superior quality at affordable costs.  It is of common knowledge that with its systematic application, manufacturing defects rate could be brought down to as low as 3.4 parts per million of them.

Implementing Six Sigma in small and middle-sized companies

There usually are two methodologies, otherwise called as two pillars, which are known by the acronyms DMAIC and belt-based training programs, which applied in Six Sigma. Out of the two, DMAIC is the one that is known to benefit small and medium-sized companies. We would elaborate more about it only following the objective of this article.

DMAIC stands for:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Improve
  • Control

It can be best explained with a specific manufacturing operation as that would provide a practical perspective to this article. For this purpose, we have taken an example of an ‘x’ midsized company manufacturing forged components by deploying ‘radical forging’ method.

At the define stage, it identifies the occurrence of ‘residual stress’ is the cause for affecting the outcome ‘desired dimensions’ and ‘surface quality,’ causing the defectiveness in the product. At the measure and analyze stages, It found out that the ‘inlet angle’ and ‘friction coefficients’ were the causes for the residual stress. During the improve phase, the results obtained from the conduct of previous periods improved by applying ‘Response Surface Methodology’ (RSM).  It emerged the values of the parameters that define ‘inlet angle,’ ‘die land area’ and ‘corner fillet’ would minimize the residual stresses. The control recommendations were like the user documentation and charts, to apply towards which supervisory activities were designed and implemented, to achieve the desired results.

There is a need to popularize the DMAIC approach to the small and medium-sized companies, which face economic hurdles and hardships. This article has done that, and its significance further lies that it has demonstrated small and medium businesses. It can achieve quality in their manufacturing by applying Six Sigma without investing in a belt-based training infrastructure. Stated otherwise, ‘zero defect’ manufacturing is still within reach of small and medium-sized companies by using this Six Sigma method. It can bring enormous benefits for them to achieve viability and profitability.



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