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The Six Sigma Audit Process

Aug 17, 2007
Six Sigma techniques and methodologies are quite different from other quality improvement techniques because they are not self-sustaining in nature. Goals and objectives that can be derived through Six Sigma depend on a number of variable factors and inputs such as the quality of deployment and the existing organizational culture.

The Process

The Six Sigma audit process is similar to the assessment process employed during the deployment stage because only qualitative checks are conducted during the audit. The audit process involves the use of questionnaires and checklists that allow auditors to assess the existing status of business processes, which is then compared with predetermined standards or desired results. The standards are very specific and are clearly defined at the commencement of the deployment phase.

The Six Sigma audit process is also similar to the quality audit conducted by an ISO 9000 certified company. In the past, many companies have successfully developed and implemented Six Sigma audit procedures based on the audit platform provided by ISO 9000. Many companies have even gone beyond and included VOC factors (voice of customer) while carrying out the audit. It is now become quite commonplace to find Six Sigma companies employing ISO 9000 audit procedures developed by Malcolm Baldrige.

Checklists And Charts For Six Sigma Audits

By using descriptive charts prepared in the form of checklists, the auditors are able to ensure that proper checks are conducted on every aspect of the project. These checklists are prepared at the initial stages of the project deployment process. Each individual checklist is specifically prepared for assessing the status of a particular business process or activity. For example, a production checklist will cater to production processes whereas an inventory checklist will cater to inventory related processes.

The process checklists are based on SOP's (standard operating procedures), which is determined at the beginning of the project implementations. These checklists contain questions that help auditors in determining whether a particular process is being followed or not. It also helps in assessing how well a particular process has been implemented. Depending on the answers, all the numerous processes are then rated on the fact sheet based a predetermined scale.

The actual answers are also summarized and recorded on the sheet itself. For example, while auditing business processes related to the dispatch system, the process variations that are recorded in the operator's log are revealed during the audit. The variations are then compared to standard deviation for determining the full extent of the problem. The data representing the deviations can be utilized for finding out the exact causes that lead to the deviation.

Limited Scope

Although the Six Sigma audit is very effective in checking the progress of Six Sigma implementation projects, its scope is limited to existing business goals and objectives. This means that the audits cannot be utilized for improving upon the level of quality that has already been achieved by the organization.

All it can do is to gauge customer reactions and analyze them in the context of changes that have been effected during the implementations. If the customer reactions and the effected changes show a positive correlation, the existing processes are maintained whereas if there is negative correlation, the process is scraped or referred for further improvements.

The scope of Six Sigma audits may be limited but they do help in ensuring the success of implementation projects. Implementing Six Sigma projects without utilizing standard audit procedures could be a risky venture and should be avoided.
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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