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How To Recognize Bottlenecks In Six Sigma Implementation

Aug 17, 2007
Identifying Six Sigma roadblocks and bottlenecks is essential for eliminating them for effective deployment and to reap the benefits of applying advanced versions of Six Sigma for higher productivity. Of late, Six Sigma professionals are increasingly identifying bottlenecks. The dawning of the reality that the voice of the customer is a 'moving target' has posed challenges in the face of growing competition. But this is not to say that there are no bottlenecks on the implementation side.

Six Sigma Bottlenecks

One major bottleneck in Six Sigma deployment can be attributed to errors in decision making which invariably leads to higher COPQ. The bottlenecks are critically different for small and companies from large corporations because of their contextual differences. Further, they may result from any or all phases of the deployment process.

Bottlenecks In Low Cost Deployments: Often, small and medium sized companies take to Six Sigma circles with limited resources and as a consequence, expose themselves to additional limitations.

* Owing to resource limitations, human and financial, more personnel are often found working overtime
* Difficulty in hiring the Belts on a full-time basis due to reasons other than financial; for example, uncertainties including the commitment to deployment
* Question of survival of the business owing to lack of innovativeness in product or service development and introduction to the market
* Procrastinating over decision-making on capital expenditures even against justified ROI projections

The above roadblocks result in problems such as:

* Non-availability of methods and tools required for efficient and timely Six Sigma deployment
* Risk of generating outdated, irrelevant and incompetent solutions for re/design and development of product or service
* Prolongation of project cycle time
* Expensive errors at the early stages triggering a series of multiple errors

Overview of Bottlenecks Arising From Deployment Phases

Poor selection of projects is often found to be the biggest stumbling block. Let's take a critical look at this:

Define Phase
o Lack of options for potential changes or innovation
o Underestimation of subsequent secondary problems
o Lack of failure analysis
o Unclear definition of alternative causes and effects
o Failures due to wrong direction and narrowing of scope

Measure Phase
o Variability of measurement or lack of measurement systems
o Time lost in data collection

Improvement or Design Phase
o Shortcomings in innovative design improvement ideas
o Unjustified consumption of DOE by labor and time

Control or Verification Phase

Failure to simulate design and prototype against the 'voice of customer' resulting in poor and non-exhaustive failure projections and profiles can be mostly expected in this phase.

What immediately gets affected by the bottlenecks are not just time losses but a newfound increase of COPQ. Other pitfalls include repetitive idea and data collection, never-ending discussions and meetings and examining alternatives that significantly hamper the outcome. All of these factors sometimes push the Six Sigma methodology to the threat of losing support for future deployment plans. Error removal, even if not routine, must be practiced inherently.
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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