Objectives of the Study
The research study mainly focuses on finding out the different aspects of Six Sigma in the quality management process. A thorough grasp of the subject is proposed to be attained through this study. Through this research, the efficiency and effectiveness of Six Sigma for controlling the quality of process and operations at the optimum level are analyzed together with its limitations.
Six Sigma refers to the measure of the quality of a process or operation which strives for near perfection. It involves specification for eliminating defects attached to each step of a particular process in order to ensure maximum perfection to the output. It is applicable to any process in both manufacturing and transactional industries and to both product and service. In Six Sigma quality, the process is subjected to a maximum defect of only 3.4 defects per million opportunities. The number six in the Six Sigma refers to six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit. A Six Sigma defect indicates anything outside the customer specifications. Due to the specification of the accuracy of the results at its maximum level, the Six Sigma methodology in quality control is capable of avoiding or reducing variation in the process. Thus optimum process performance can be ensured. (Six Sigma: What is Six Sigma).
“Tomkins (1997) defines that Six Sigma is a program aimed at the near-elimination of defects from every product, process, and transaction.” (Park, 1).
Six Sigma was firstly introduced by Motorola as a management philosophy in which extremely high objectives are targeted in process performance. To reduce the defects in products and services at the maximum level, data are collected and analyzed to a fine degree. Sigma indicates variation from the standard. It is based on the concept that the defects in the process can be avoided through identifying the expected defects and the application of controlling measures over them. (Six Sigma). “The term “Six Sigma” is a statistical term that refers to 3.4 defects per million opportunities or 99.99966 percent accuracy developed in the 1980s by Motorola.” (Six Sigma and Quality Management Solutions).
Through the application of Six Sigma in problem-solving and business process improvement in an organization, it can ensure incredible high-level performance with maximum profitability in operations. Statistical symbols are used in Six Sigma in order to represent the process variation. The Sigma scale of measure indicates the defects per unit with the probability of faults. In 1999, the General Electric Company attained great success in business operation through the application of Six Sigma in its quality control functions. (Six Sigma & Quality Management).
Applications of Six Sigma
Motorola adopted the Six Sigma strategy in 1987 through a series of experiments related to its performance improvement. The objective of establishing the Six Sigma strategy is to reduce the process variation and cost savings. Through the application of Six Sigma in the industry, the company attained US$ 13 billion cost savings and a 204% increase in labor productivity during the period of 1987-1997. The great operational success achieved by Motorola inspirited other electronic companies such as IBM, DEC, Texas Instruments, etc to implement the Six Sigma initiatives for their operational process control. The introduction of Six Sigma in the non-electronic industries started by GE and Allied Sigma adopted Six Sigma as strategic initiatives. Samsung and LG adopted Six Sigma in their organizations and it resulted in achieving great operational efficiency improvement. In Samsung, the recorded cost savings as a result of the Six Sigma strategy was an amount of US $ 150 million.
The companies adopting the Six Sigma Strategy are showing greater enhancement in quality, process control, and cost savings. The number of companies adopting the strategy is also increasing rapidly due to its possibilities in the process control and cost-saving mechanism. Managerial theorists explain Six Sigma as “a new strategic paradigm of management innovation for a company to survive in the 21st century.” (Park, 1).
In Six Sigma strategy there exist three components such as statistical measurement, management strategy, and quality culture. Statistical measurement implies the quality and goodness of the products, services, and processes in statistical terms. Six Sigma is an organizational approach adaptable for the top management for insisting the quality innovation and total customer satisfaction in the operational process. It will help to create a quality culture in the organization. The philosophy of Six Sigma is doing the right things at the beginning itself through the adoption of data information for the improvement of operational performance. Through team efforts in the Six Sigma approach, many CTO (critical-to-quality) problems in the operation can be easily solved.
Advantages of Six Sigma Strategy
Six Sigma can be used in place of other management strategies, such as total quality control, total quality management strategy, quality circles, etc. In this strategy, management innovation is carried out by the combination of four fundamentals such as customer, process, manpower, and strategy. Six Sigma presents a scientific and statistical approach towards quality control in processes by measuring the quality level in statistical terms. Through this approach, the comparative performance of the process quality with regard to the standard can be measured. The top management can be better informed about the requirements in-process quality improvement through process innovation in order to ensure customer satisfaction.
Six Sigma facilitates efficient utilization of the manpower resources of the organization through individual performance appraisal. In this approach, a belt system is employed for indicating the performance level of the individuals in the organization. There exist green belt, black belt, master black belt, and champion. An individual with a black belt is the leader of the project team. There are several green belts involved in an operation process that support the black belt to perform the function of the project team. Well-established international companies which adopted Six Sigma as a managerial approach achieved great success in their operational performance improvement. (Park).
“Six sigma as a business process is now allowing organizations to improve their bottom line by designing and monitoring business activities in a way that minimizes wastes and resources without, however, compromising with customer satisfaction.” (Bhattacharya).
Successful implementation of Six Sigma involves the following steps:
- Setting up of the Six Sigma team and formation of long-term Six Sigma management vision.
- Providing Six Sigma educations to the organizational personnel starting from champions.
- Setting up of infrastructure for Six Sigma, such as statistical process control, knowledge management, etc.
The vision of the Six Sigma team should be based on the change, customer, and competition for quality. (Park).
Importance of Six Sigma strategies
In other quality control techniques such as TQM and quality circles, detection and correction of errors are mainly focused rather than restriction of its further occurrence. Whereas in Six Sigma, in order to restrict the further occurrence of the defects the process is completely revised or re-engineered. Broadly speaking, Six Sigma is based on the statistical version of Total Quality Management to ensure quality improvement and finally customer satisfaction. The quality of the output process is ensured by ensuring the quality of the input as well as the transformation process. More than a defect reduction strategy, Six Sigma accentuates the enhancement of business process efficiency in general, involving “cost reduction, cycle time improvement, increased customer satisfaction and any other metric important to the company. Six Sigma can now imply a whole culture of strategic tools and statistical methodologies to improve the bottom-line of companies.” (Bhattacharya).
Six Sigma is intended to basically modify the way of doing business operations. It focuses on a long-term forward initiative. It facilitates companies to increase profitability through streamlining of operations and improving the quality, and removing defects and mistakes in the company operations. It encompasses the quality control of the operation process in a broader way. Adequate and specific methods are provided by Six Sigma to re-create the process itself. This helps to ensure the restriction of further occurrence of the defects in the business operations. It is a long-term approach towards performance improvement capable of generating improvements in the profitability of business also. (Kotelnikov).
Engineering Management and Six Sigma Quality
Engineering Management refers to the implementation of management principles, methods, and techniques in the day-to-day management of engineering projects and employees related to these projects. Engineering management can be done effectively with the help of the six sigma model. Six sigma models can be implemented in different areas of engineering management like designing, manufacturing, development…etc, and achieve some standards like a black belt and green belt. The scope of engineering management changed from the traditional model and now activities are shared among the team members better than earlier with the help of the six sigma application. (Bendell, 1114-1116).
The Six Sigma quality management system with the help of a methodology namely DMAIC (Define opportunities, Measure performance, Analyze opportunity, Improve performance, and Control performance) improves the quality of current business operation. (Definition of Six Sigma, Six Sigma Definition, What is Six Sigma).
According to DMAIC methodology, the company has to define a problem or an opportunity and the process performance should be evaluated. Then an analysis should be done in order to find out the main reasons for performance being below standard. And after that, corrective measures should be taken to improve the performance thereby attaining the standard and retaining it. It is not compulsory to apply the six sigma model throughout the organization; it can be applied in some departments like the production department or human resource department. With the help of six sigma standard, it is possible to reduce the defects and wastages in the production or manufacturing which are the main area that is being covered by the engineering management. If the Six Sigma model is applied in the management of the workforce, it improves the efficiency of the workforce.
Limitations of Six Sigma strategy
The successful implementation of the strategy depends on the availability of quality data. Another critical factor for the effectiveness of the Six Sigma strategy is a selection of appropriate projects. The selection of projects is mainly based on pure subjective judgment and it is subjected to limitations. The availability of powerful tools for project selection is limited. The concept of defects in Six Sigma seems to be illogical in nature. (Antony).
This is an era of competition and it is common everywhere. Therefore, all the businesses try to eliminate wastages and defects and to become the industry leader. There is no substitute for quality. So there should be some standard quality in the work done which helps the company to achieve the Six Sigma quality. Attaining the Six Sigma quality means achieving some set of standards in business operation which is measured and analyzed with the help of some statistical tools. If there is better engineering management in an organization the process of manufacturing can be made easy and thereby the organizational goals can be achieved. When the company achieves some standards in the production or manufacturing and also in workforce management, it will result in the overall improvement of the organization. The significance of strong leadership and the unification of human elements and process elements in this strategy provide maximum improvement resulting in organizational performance. The limitations of the strategy with regard to project selection tools and availability of quality data also have to be considered while adopting the Six Sigma strategy as the quality management tool for the organization.
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