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Should Six Sigma Metrics Be Different From Other Industry Metrics?

Aug 17, 2007
The above question 'should six sigma metrics be different from other industry metrics' arises from surprising sources. If you look at any quality management tool, be it ISO, Lean Management Techniques or even cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice, the industry standard for pharmaceutical and healthcare product manufacturers), what meets the eye is the parity of all these tools. The foundation of any quality tool, in its simplest form, is total customer satisfaction.

Six Sigma Versus cGMP

No one can over emphasize the importance of adhering to quality manufacturing procedures when it comes to the manufacturing of sterile medicinal products (medicines manufactured in sterile conditions for admission directly into the blood stream). The implication of this is that nothing short of the best is accepted in terms of quality.

cGMP stresses standardization and compliance to processes verified through qualitative and analytical metrics. The analytical tools are scientifically evolved and are validated through market regulators which are also statutory bodies in their respective countries. Unlike Six Sigma, quantitative tools such as the ones provided by statistics don't find much application here. Even customer concerns are reflected by directives set by regulatory bodies.

If Six Sigma is any different, it is only in how it deals with various aspects of doing business. It does not vary in the goal or end result. Fundamental metrics like DPMO speak to customer satisfaction levels. In the pharmaceutical industry, as opposed to other manufacturing industries, a totally different set of metrics is used. Product efficacies are measured by curative qualities, absence offside effects.

The Big Question

Should metrics be different for different industries? To a certain extent, yes - in certain areas you can accept different metrics. As far as the minimizing of process variation is concerned, the goal should guide the tools. But having said that, is there still a need for different metrics?

Using The Wisdom; The Best Judge

As a wise man said, 'the end result justifies the means', it should not bother anyone who wants to use a specific set tools for measuring certain process criteria. Six Sigma does not restrict the use of differing implementation procedures. As it is evolved specifically to each project with different criteria being used, measurement tools invariably vary within the framework of defined goals. Moreover, choosing a specific metric from among the available choices is an act akin to adopting an outside metric.

General Rules That Govern the Choice of Metrics

Metrics are chosen specifically for each activity or processes based on various considerations. However, here are a set of general rules that applies to choice of metrics.

1. Decision making processes critically depend on the choice of metric

2. Contribution to reduction in errors

3. Value addition through ability to categorize measurement for easy interpretation

4. Contribution of each individual and a set of metrics geared towards aligning customer requirements and management vision with processes.

Is it the metric or the end result that you should be more concerned with? It is how you use a tool that is important rather than what you use.
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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