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Six Sigma Overview

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This information is brought to you by Resource Engineering, Inc. developers of the Six Sigma Start-Up to support Six Sigma improvement efforts. 

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a business initiative, not a quality initiative.  Six Sigma is an umbrella term for a philosophy and way of running a business that improves quality and productivity and increases profits.  There are three major components to Six Sigma:

  • The environment or culture of the organization as established by the senior leaders in the organization
  • The improvements tools such as SPC, design of experiments, process mapping, data display and analysis, problem-solving, and root cause analysis, and 
  • The infrastructure which includes systems that support the use of the tools.


Why do companies implement Six Sigma?

How can Six Sigma help companies improve quality and productivity?

How does Six Sigma work?

What are some mistakes companies make when they use Six Sigma?

How can my company get started using Six Sigma?

What is the best way to teach people how to use Six Sigma?

Why do companies implement Six Sigma?

The reason that companies should use Six Sigma is to increase profitability.  Sometimes however, the impetus to get started on a Six Sigma process is brought on by customer demands.  

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How can Six Sigma help companies improve quality and productivity?

Six Sigma as a philosophy will create a heightened awareness of the need for on-going and everlasting quality improvement efforts.  Six Sigma as a process will provide employees with the tools and skills they need to embrace the Six Sigma philosophy.  By striving to achieve a six sigma level of quality, companies reduce costs related to scrap, rework, inspection, and customer dissatisfaction.  

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How does Six Sigma work?

Six Sigma starts at the top of an organization and requires constant attention by senior managers who are responsible for establishing the Six Sigma culture.  In addition, senior management must enable the creation of an infrastructure to support Six Sigma improvement projects.  

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What are some mistakes companies make when they implement Six Sigma?

Here are the top reasons why Six Sigma does not work:

  1. Thinking that six sigma is just using the tools and ignoring the improvement cultural component. 

  2. Seeing Six Sigma as a temporary activity rather than a way of on-going business operations. 

  3. Not understanding the power and importance of data and statistics. 

  4. Assigning responsibilities to implement Six Sigma without giving the authority and training necessary to carry through on Six Sigma efforts.

  5. Not measuring processes or ignoring the story the measurers are telling.

  6. Not linking compensation to six sigma performance.

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How can my company get started implementing Six Sigma?

The first step in implementing Six Sigma is learning how it works and buying into the philosophy.  While there are many resource available to satisfy this need, one of the best references is a book called Six Sigma:  The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World's Top Corporations by Mikel Harry.  

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What is the best way to teach people how to use Six Sigma?

Six Sigma covers a broad range of topics beginning with a general overview of what six sigma is and then going into specific detailed topics related to the environment, tools, and infrastructure of six sigma.  Resource Engineering has developed computer-based training programs to support Six Sigma efforts including the Six Sigma Start-Up.  One of the foundations of the Six Sigma philosophy is statistics and statistical process control.  SPC Workout is a computer-based training program on the use and application of SPC in manufacturing.  Another cornerstone of the Six Sigma philosophy is preventing problems from occurring rather than waiting for them to occur and then having to detect them and eliminate them.  Mistake-Proofing is a Six Sigma tool that helps teams identify and implement solutions that make it impossible to make mistakes.  Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a natural precursor to Mistake-Proofing as it provides a means for analyzing failure potential and prioritizing potential failures based on severity, chance of occurrence, and ability to detect the failure before it occurs.  Resource Engineering has computer-based training programs on both Mistake-Proofing and FMEA.  Accurate measurements and a reliable measurement system is also a critical part of the Six Sigma formula.  Gage Mentor teaches people how to use and manage gages and other measuring equipment.  

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