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Re-engineering Your Business Processes with Six Sigma

Apr 2, 2008
Although the program has proven wildly successful in many different cases, other companies have tried to implement the Six Sigma system with results that can best be described as mixed. A large part of the "mixed" (and you can read that as "negative"!) results can be attributed to an improper implementation of the Six Sigma process.

In many cases, the implementation of the process will mean a complete re-engineering of the company. Let's take a look at some of the crucial areas to the Six Sigma process.

Is Six Sigma The Right Choice For Your Business?

Right away, we need to make it clear that the Six Sigma process will not work to increase the profitability of every business. One key area is in the retail sector. It's pretty easy to see how the Six Sigma system would work within a manufacturing context, and this is proven even more by the different companies that experienced success under the system (Motorola, Caterpillar, General Electric, even Merrill Lynch). All of these companies focused on shifting a product for their profit, thus the elimination of variation within the process was key to ensuring that the product was quality every time.

When it comes to retail, only about half of the business is dependent upon the manufacturing process. It is of course desirable to sell goods with no defects and ensuring that the saleable materials are without defect will save money. However, the principles that work so well for Six Sigma when it comes to manufacturing do not necessarily translate well when it comes to the people side, an incredibly important part of retail. Simply put, Six Sigma is meant to deal with defects; it's meant for a cookie cutter product that is the same every time. Obviously this can't work for people, because we are already produced and as a result different people will relate to each other differently.

This isn't to say that people are without defects, but in order to address issues within a retail business there needs to be additional components outside of the Six Sigma process.

The Elimination of Variation

If there's anything that can make the Six Sigma philosophy clear to anyone, it's that the goal of the program is to eliminate variation in the production of product. No variation means that there are no defects, and that is the goal of the system in order to successfully realize better profit.

The elimination of variation takes place at almost all levels of employment within the company, from upper management Master Black Belts down to Yellow Belts, who have received some training within the Six Sigma philosophy but who have not completed a program of their own. One way to maintain a continuance within the implementation of Six Sigma is to ensure that all persons who hold vital roles are Six Sigma certified.

Because of this extra training of personnel, implementation of Six Sigma will mean re-engineering of a business at both the production and the personnel levels. It's important to understand in which industries the principles will work and which will not so that principles that are meant to apply to products are not applied to people. In addition, the people put in place to implement the system need to understand how it relates to the product.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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