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Suresh Jayaram

What is Six Sigma, DMAIC Methodology?

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Six Sigma is a powerful methodology that can be used to improve business processes. It is a structured approach to problem-solving that can be applied to any process - manufacturing, sales, marketing, IT, BPO, accounting, purchasing, you name it. All processes have variation. Variation is the cause of all evil - it leads to defects and customer dissatisfaction. Six Sigma methodology can be used to reduce variation from any source and thus improve costs, quality, and hence customer satisfaction.

The standard methodology that is used to improve existing processes is called DMAIC. The acronym DMAIC stands for Define - Measure - Analyze - Improve - Control. If you think about it - this methodology is common sense. Before we start working on a problem, we need to have a good definition of what is the problem, why we are working on it, where is the pain area, what is in the scope of the project etc. All of these are accomplished in the Define phase. Secondly, in the Measure phase, we are interested in ensuring that the data used for further analysis is free of measurement errors. Six Sigma is about making decisions based on facts & data. If the data is inaccurate, we would end up making the wrong decisions. Hence, the measured phase ensures good data. Before making any improvements, it is also important to establish a baseline so that we can clearly communicate the benefits obtained from our project to other key stakeholders. The next phase, Analyze, is all about making the hypothesis and using data to either prove or disprove our hypothesis. We make the hypothesis about what is causing the problem and then establish the real root causes. The fourth phase, Improve, focus on getting the best possible solution to solve the root cause of the problem. The solution is optimized and any potential failure modes are resolved before the solution is deployed in the real world. The last phase, Control, is all about ensuring that the solution is sustainable in the long run. Any financial benefits obtained from the project are also quantified. Finally, the improved process is transitioned over to the process owner. As we can see from this paragraph, any problem can be addressed using this structured approach.

Here are some things that should come to your mind when people talk about Six Sigma:

  • Business Process Improvement Methodology
  • 3.4 defects per million opportunities
  • Customer focused
  • Uses facts & data
  • Quantify financial benefits
  • Structured improvement approach

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What is Six Sigma, DMAIC Methodology?

 

There are two primary methodologies in Six Sigma:

  • DMAIC
  • DFSS

 

The Six Sigma DMAIC methodology described in the post earlier is for making improvements to existing processes. The second methodology DFSS stands for Design for Six Sigma. This methodology is used for new products and services or when the improvements that can be made with DMAIC is not sufficient.

 

There are several approaches to DFSS: DMADV, IDOV, etc. The most popular approach to implementing DFSS is using DMADV (Define - Measure - Analyze - Design - Validate). More than 70% of the DFSS implementations use the DMADV approach.

 

DMAIC can be considered to be reactive in nature, in the sense that a process already exists and is making defects. DMAIC approach is used to identify the root cause of the problems and then fix it. On the other hand, DFSS is mostly a proactive approach. A process does not exist yet and DFSS is used to truly understand customer requirements and then develop a process that provides exceptional levels of quality and process performance.

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Six Sigma is a data driven approach:

It is an easily appreciable fact that decisions should be taken based on data (to the extent possible) and should not be based on the gut feel or judgment. Six Sigma provides us with information on which and what type of data should be collected, how it should be collected and how it should be analyzed. Example - In a bank, the number of employees was increased based on the gut feeling of the senior management, while the biggest competitor of this bank analyzed the trends of work flow for future projects through simulation and created flex-profiles to reach very high service levels while maintaining the same manpower count.

 

Six Sigma is a process focused methodology:

Everything that you do in the workplace has a process behind it. For bringing improvements it is always good to study the underlying process along with the results, especially if we are looking for a long lasting improvement and not a temporary quick-fix solution.

 

As Deming said - 85% of the problems are due to system and process deficiencies and not due to human errors. Behind most human errors is a weak process. Example - The chances of the wrong module being integrated into a software development can not be eliminated by just a reward or punishment mechanism.

 

Six Sigma provides a structured step by step roadmap:

If a business problem is being resolved by a cross functional team over a period of time, it pays to utilize a structured methodology (like Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) with review stages. Example - If a company wants to reduce the TAT for a maintenance process, the situation is best addressed by following a structured methodology where all problem-solving team members stay focused and can see visible progress.

 

Six Sigma uses noncommon-sense approaches:

If common sense approaches were sufficient, there would not have been any chronic (repetitive) business problems at all. Example - To improve customer satisfaction index by 25% in 4 months time, you would need not one but a series of non-common sense approaches which Six Sigma provides.

 

Six Sigma integrates the best of tried and tested management methodologies over the years:

Six Sigma has weaved various time tested management techniques in one roadmap. Also, Six Sigma is not rigid. It is an evolving methodology. New tools are being added to the Six Sigma toolkit by innovative practitioners. Recently, in a Benchmark Six Sigma Conference, speakers from Wipro, Infosys, Patni, Kanbay, Accenture, TCS, showed how Six Sigma methodology is being applied innovatively in their organizations.

 

Six Sigma improvement projects are mostly validated by financial benefits or by an impact on a KPI (Key Performance Indicator):

Whatever improvements we bring at the workplace must show in business results. People who make this possible are an important resource in any organization. Example - A Six Sigma Green Belt who was successful in 5 out of 5 projects got excellent recognition in a company. (More and more companies are now linking employee and team growth with efficiency or cost measures).

 

Six Sigma works on improvements on a project by project basis by people trained as improvement experts (called Green Belts and Black Belts):

Improvements can be brought on a project by project basis and by no other way. Unless improvement areas are converted into projects, with assigned responsibilities and authorities to correctly trained people, the problems remain what they are. Example - In one manufacturing company certified as ISO 9001, long customer wait times for repairs during warranty were identified as an improvement area during each internal audit, but no one was trained on techniques to bring improvements (and the issue was not converted into a project with accountability). When this company started practicing Six Sigma, the same improvement areas could be carried out with meaningful ROI from each improvement project.

 

In organizations of any size or complexity, Six Sigma methodology poses the following questions repeatedly:

 

  • Are we working at the best possible performance levels for our key processes?
  • If the answer is yes, is it feasible to explore new processes that can set new benchmarks and give our company a bigger competitive advantage?
  • If the answer is no, what is it that is stopping us from forming and supporting a team that can enhance the performance level in a manner that makes business sense.

 

The age-old algebraic equation says it all: Y = f (X). If Y is the effect and the Xs are the causes, then putting all the focus on the Y or guessing which X is most significant are both bad ideas.

 

One thing Six Sigma helps with is understanding these relationships statistically so work can be directed at the cause or combination of causes (Xs) most likely to change the effect (Y). This activity helps break the endless string of firefighting brought on by never really getting to the root cause of any effect. This equation is at the heart of the Six Sigma methodology and with the DMAIC and DMADV roadmaps drives a company through a logical, sequential process to efficiently find the significant Xs and act on them. This gives the highest probability of success and helps turn the tide of reactive behavior.

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Dear Suresh,

 

I do not know whether this is the right way/forum in asking you some simple questions:

  • As a layman to Six Sigma, how do I move up with Six Sigma? What are the steps to gain the MBB Certification?
  • I am currently working in Saudi Arabia (but am a resident of Navi Mumbai); can you suggest online courses and examinations that I can take?
  • I have taken certification in ISO 9001:2000 as Lead Auditor in 2007. How should I proceed with gaining Six Sigma knowledge?

 

Best Regards

Anil

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Dear Anil,

 

Thanks for your question. This group is the right place to ask questions about these programs.

 

Since you are relatively new to Six Sigma, you will have to start from the basics to get to MBB certification. First, you will need to complete the GB course, then the BB course, and finally the MBB course. Each course builds on the other. The GB course provides the overview and basic concepts that can be used to solve relatively simple projects. The BB course builds on the concepts and provides more advanced tools to solve more complex problems. Finally, the MBB course covers advanced concepts that will enable you to master the material.

 

There may be providers out there who provide online training or who just provide an examination. We at Benchmark Six Sigma believe that we cannot do justice to the material by teaching it online. A class room style teaching is essential for the participants to gain a full understanding of the concepts. This option also provides the participants to ask questions and get clarification on the concepts.

 

You may want to travel to one of the cities that offer Benchmark Training and attend the training there. We do get people from other countries who come and attend our training in different cities.

 

I would invite other members to chime in on this question too.

 

Best Regards,

SJ 

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Hi Vishy,

 

As we discuss Six Sigma DMAIC in the present scenario we can do whatever we want.

 

Think to Imagine in a company about 15 years back we actually drive and stick to six sigma. we work more than time. we have a Management guy we operate in a strict discipline with across the company. we as a whole we cut cost, time and Improvement. Today we found that the company is full of Perfectness. I would elaborate Perfectness in the sense. the product which is made is 100% Flawless.The products are made in Hand Skilled Product. We have crossed the Rubicon without our Knowledge that the products which are made now are simply superb. But you have stick on to time and then distribution and other Parameters.

Now I wonder is this Six Sigma!

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Dear Basker,

 

As per the most accepted definition, Six Sigma is a Business Improvement Methodology. If you are using the methodology, you are implementing Six Sigma.

If you are referring to Six Sigma as a measure, we check defects or probability of defects.

 

You may have a product, that is flawless and you may rate the process to be performing at Sigma Level equal to Six or more. (similar to Dabbawalas of Mumbai).

To me, you shall be considered a Six Sigma enthusiast if you embrace the methodology and benefit from it. You shall be a Six Sigma expert if you gather expertise in using the world best techniques in a wide variety of situations and generate business benefit out of them.

 

I am curious about your product. Can you elaborate about your flawless product?

 

Regards,

VK

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Hi Vishy,

 

You have asked for the Product i will come back to you, You said Six Sigma is a business tool I accept that your are right and u said it is world class and u will expertise six sigma. i think there is more to learn about six sigma. I am enthusiastic about it, as you said.

 

About the product, it is Hand Woven Shoe Uppers. It is 100% made out of hand. The leather Goat Mesh is skived into Laces and it will be weaved by hand. The laces will be weaved in the shoe last it can of multiple colours single colour. It will be excellent when the shoe appears most of the shoe is for Ladies. If u are intrested I will send a Photograph to you.

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Dear Basker,

 

If you have a flawless product that is made with care, you still have multiple opportunities to apply Six Sigma methodology. Some examples are --

  • Increasing production per day.
  • Increasing sales.
  • Reducing new product development time.
  • Reducing delivery delays
  • Eliminating packaging or labeling errors.
  • Creating designs that are accepted better by customers.
  • Enhancing buyer, dealer or end user satisfaction.
  • Enhancing repeat sales or repeat business (improving customer retention)
  • Reducing inventory thereby reducing costs.
  • Reducing variability within batch production
  • Reducing rejections
  • Reducing account receivables (pending payments)
  • Increasing tender or quote acceptance
  • Reducing turnaround time per model
  • Reducing the manufacturing cost.

And much more....

 

Hope you got an idea that the methodology focuses not just on tangible product defect reductions but many areas of business interest.

 

Regards,

VK

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Dear Suresh,

 

I would like to ask you some simple questions, just to gain some knowledge on six sigma training:

  • I am an undergraduate and I am currently active within BPO industry as a Process Associate (Operations). How should I proceed with Six Sigma training? being a UG can I go for this training?
  • I am currently located in Jaipur, Rajasthan; can you suggest some place(s) where I can take the training, What are the charges and duration of course?

 

Thanks & Best Regards,

Samar

 

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Dear Samar,

 

In order to proceed with Six Sigma training, you will have to sign up for the Green Belt class. There are several training providers out there, but if you want to learn from the best, you will have to train from Benchmark Six Sigma.

 

Benchmark Six Sigma currently does not have any public training courses in Rajasthan, so you may have to travel to one of the eight cities across India in which Benchmark Six Sigma offers training. Would that be a possibility for you? You can access the training calendar link by clicking on https://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/calendar/

 

The duration of the course is 4 days (Wednesday - Saturday) or Weekend format (Sat-Sun followed by another weekend Sat-Sun). The course fee information can be obtained by either calling one of the phone numbers listed at: http://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/contact-us

 

Hope this helps. Let me know if there is anything else.

 

Best Regards,

SJ

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Dear Suresh,

 

Thanks a lot for your reply.

 

I called the Benchmark Six Sigma Noida (NCR) center today and had a word with the Customer Representative there. That Gentleman solved most of my queries, but there is still one question awaiting in my mind...Being a UG, will six sigma methodology help me in my professional career at present? And how can I utilize it in getting a good job?

 

Currently, I am active within BPO industry as Process Associate (Operations).

 

Thanks & Best Regards,

Samar

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Dear Samar,

 

There are a lot of factors involved in getting a good job - including educational qualifications, experience, attitude, recommendations, emotional intelligence, etc. In order to get a job, you have to compete with others who are also applying for the same position. When companies don't know your skills and they have to hire you based on your resume and interview.

 

It always helps to have knowledge and skills that are valuable for the employers. Having a Six Sigma Green Belt training and certification tells an employer that the candidate understands the importance of quality and has the requisite tools to help with business process improvement. This can be a differentiator if others don't have these skills or at least it would not be negative in case you are competing with others who have these skills.

 

Regards,

SJ

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I am new to this concept bit I have read some books on this.

One thing really confuses me is one statement - "errors detectable by customer". ( 4 / million)Is this true)?

 

If it is there are many products where the customer will not know the difference or will notice after years. For example, Soft drinks are being projected as health hazards after years and tons of consumption. Will this constitute failure?

 

One more thing (I read a question on implementation of Six sigma in Microbiology and one on hand made products). Machines and human beings are different. I wonder if a human being can ever guarantee to breathe same way even 100 times ( I know I am stretching it too far).

 

Anyway, my main question is - is it to be targetted to detectable by the customer or in real?

 

Regards,

Dr Hemant

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Dear Dr. Hemant,

 

There are two concepts that relate to your question - defects and defectives. A product or service can have several defects, but when we are looking at defectives either the entire product or service is defective or it is not. Not all defects get translated into defectives. From a human point of view, the following can be considered defects a) breathing too fast or too slow, B) heart rate too fast or too slow, c) having a temperature, d) Low hemoglobin count etc. Not all of these defects get translated into defectives. A defective could be a dead person! The definition of a defective may change from person to person. Not all of the defects become defectives. While some defects if present could directly translate into being defective.

 

Defectives are something that is important to the customer, while defects are something that the doctor monitors and wants to control so that if all the defects are driven down to zero, the number of defectives will also go down.

 

In Six Sigma, we usually work with defects rather than defectives. So, when people talk about 4 / million, what they are referring to is if there were a million opportunities for making defects, how many were actually made.

 

As an illustration, if we have a doctor who sees 10000 patients in a year and in each patient there are 1000 possibilities for defects. Based on medication, the doctor may be able to control/minimize/eliminate some defects while others are still there. If there are 40 defects at the end of the year, then the overall defects per million opportunities are:

DPMO = 40*1000000/(10000*1000) = 4 (4/million)

 

Note that this may not be the same as what the customer would experience as they usually worry about defectives rather than defects.

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Dear Dr. Hemant,

It is good that you posed these questions. Although your question is already answered perfectly, I thought I shall add some more detail. (my comments are in blue)

 

Your comment - I am new to this concept but I have read some books on this. One thing really confuses me is one statement - "errors detectable by customer". ( 4 / million) Is this true?

My response - If you are at performing at Six Sigma level, it is true that errors detectable by customers shall be 3.4 per million or less. Few points worth noting here:

  • If you succeed in reaching the sigma level 6, you shall have almost zero defects. But if your process is at Sigma level 3, you shall have 6.6% defects. When a company starts working on a process with six sigma methodology, it may try to move initially from Sigma level 3 to sigma level 4 (from 6% defects to 0.6% defects). Each improvement project completed successfully takes you one step closer to perfection. It is important to note that when a company implements Six Sigma, it may not target perfection in initial projects. In a Six Sigma implementation, customers could be internal or external.  
  • If the quality supervisor of microbiology lab finds a labeling error (before the report is given to the patient), the quality supervisor shall be unhappy. The quality supervisor is the internal customer. If you calculate sigma level with internal customer perspective, the errors may be more while at patient level (external customer) the errors may be much lesser. We need to define who is being considered as the customer for our process before we start working with the six sigma project.

 

Your comment - If it is there are many products where the customer will not know the difference or will notice after years. For example, Soft drinks are being projected as health hazards after years and tons of consumption. Will this constitute failure?

My response - The definition of failure is to be finalized by the process owner (soft drink manufacturer in this example) and this can vary from company to company. Ideally, any unexpected or hazardous impact on the customer should constitute a defect. In a Six Sigma implementation, we start with VOC (voice of customer) in most projects. The company needs to understand the stated and unstated expectations of customers (in terms of cost, taste, health, and safety in soft drink example).

 

Your comment - One more thing (I read a question on implementation of Six Sigma in Microbiology and one on hand made products). Machines and human beings are different. I wonder if a human being can ever guarantee to beat same way even 100 times ( I know I am stretching it too far).

My response - For processes that have human involvement or human intervention, we can not target perfection in the same way as in machines. However, a lot of ART is being converted into SCIENCE in pursuit of perfection. Let me explain benefits with three examples of Six Sigma implementation.

  • Food outlets - Burgers and Pizzas from a single brand have become more and more similar irrespective of which part of the world you buy them (Cooking was always an ART but some have converted it into science).
  • Development - Software companies are finding ways and means of documenting and transferring knowledge to freshers so that they become effective early.
  • Health - Brain Tumor removal is getting safer and safer with the use of technology. Patient falls are less due to better stretcher design and better beds.

 

Your comment - Anyway, my main question is - is it to be targetted to detectable by the customer or in real?

My response - As a part of Six Sigma philosophy, we do not expect the customer to ever have a possibility of knowing, experiencing or detecting defects. So our objective is to ensure zero defects (either through better design or through better operations). in our own processes that lead to the customer experience. When you go deeper, you will realize that the six sigma focus is first time right every time in processes that can impact a customer. This may need hundreds of improvement projects and therefore the need to train people as green belt, black belt, etc.

We can have a good discussion if you are planning to attend a forthcoming green belt training. Dates are at https://www.benchmarksixsigma.com/calendar/

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Dear Suresh and Wishwadeep,

 

Thanks for explaination. I really misunderstood it. I thought 4 defects/ million operations( Same operation carried out 1 million times with only 4 errors). I am involved in manufacture of Biological products. Till now we have made 100 batches of 60000 units each. Each batch manufacturing involves ( if we go to hair splitting) about 700 steps. We have not failed a batch till now. Can I multiply 700 X100=70000 with Zero defects / 70000 which will take to sigma around 5?

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Dear Dr. Hemant,

 

You are right. As long as you do not find the first defect, you can say that you have reached the relevant sigma level as far as the finished product is concerned.

There is few interesting point here.

 

There are several ways of defining defects. In six sigma following elements could constitute the defect. (This is not an exhaustive list):

  • Not producing as per required production standard (efficiency) is a defect. So low productivity is a defect.
  • Failure in plant and machinery (breakdown) beyond industry standards or acceptable internal standards.
  • Not meeting an internal customers requirement is a defect. So all internal quality complaints are defects. All reworks are due to defects. All scrap is due to defects.
  • On field failure of your biological product during usage is a defect.
  • Not responding to customer complaints within a specified time frame is a defect.
  • Not resolving customer complaint within a specified time frame is a defect.
  • Loss of order due to a communication failure in marketing is a defect.
  • Invoicing errors (that lead to delay in payment) are defects.
  • Not meeting a customer requirement is a defect - So delay in delivery is a defect

I guess the point is clear. We need to define defects in the pain area (or the area where we see opportunities for improvement) and then initiate an improvement initiative.

 

Many products are defect free when they are finished goods because of 100% inspection or rigorous inspection at the end. Each failure identified in final inspection or in process inspection is a defect. Going with Six Sigma philosophy, I would say the need for all inspections is due to the possibility of defects. If you can eliminate the need for inspection at all stages and still meet customer requirements (immediate as well as long term) and grow your business simultaneously you would be truly a Six Sigma practitioner. But sadly, this not true for most industries. Six Sigma is about striving for such perfection. Automotive component manufacturers have reached close to such perfection in some cases. They do not need to inspect their products at final stage at all because they have been first time right at various stages. Six Sigma performance can not be sustained. When a company reaches truly Six Sigma performance, generally competition raises the bar (the definition of defect changes, you need faster error free production, you need quicker deliveries) and you find a need for more improvement projects. If improvement is not any more feasible, new designs (of products and processes) are possible. So you start using Six Sigma DMADV instead of Six Sigma DMAIC methodology.

 

I have tried to put in a lot in a short while. Hope this helps in getting bigger perspective about Six Sigma. smiley-undecided.gif

 

Best Regards,

VK

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Hi Viswadeep and Suresh

Here you gave  very precise and useful information on "What is Six Sigma?". You have explained various ways of defining defects other than actual defect in product. Being a Lean passionate I am sure LEAN also resolves most of them.

I believe process capability is addressed specifically by six sigma.  please comment

Vikas

 

 

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Dear Vikas,

 

I agree with you that both Lean and Six Sigma are powerful methodologies that can be used for Business Process improvements.

 

People who are passionate about Six Sigma feel that Six Sigma is the best thing out there and the same goes with the people passionate about Lean who say that Lean is the best thing out there. Both of these approaches have their own benefits & limitations. Hence, it makes sense to pursue an integrated approach and use both of these methodologies where they are best suited.

 

Six Sigma has a lot of tools that are related to variation - process capability being one of them. Process capability is an index that compares process variation (and mean) to the specification limits set by the customer. Even though Lean talks about variation (Mura), they don't have as strong a tool set to quantify and reduce variation, their primary focus is on waste (Muda) elimination.

 

Regards,

SJ

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Dear Suresh,

 

Thanks for your reply. I Know benchmark conducts training in Six sigma. What I want to ask, is it possible to get training in green and black belt together. Since I have been involved and lead lean implementation from last 3-4 years I got enough knowledge about Lean to drive implementation program but same time I would like to Update quickly about six sigma so I can use it wherever it can be best applied. As you have said in lean to tackle the variation no proper tool this will very useful to me. Also, the variation is the main cause of shifting bottlenecks. I do not want to stick to one but would like apply wherever the specific tool has a strength. TPM, SMED, TOC and Six sigma I would like use as tools where as LEAN will be an umbrella.

 

Regards,

Vikas Narkar

 

 

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Yes, Vikas detailed study of Process capability is addressed in Six Sigma very well. You can assess capability for processes of various kinds (providing normal or non-normal data) 

 

Although Lean addresses process capability with certain other terms like OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) which includes % defects as one of the parameters and ZDQ (focus on zero defect quality), one can say that Six Sigma provides more statistical rigour for process capability assessment.  

Yield (or throughput), another measure of capability is a focus area in both approaches. 

 

Regards, 

VK

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Hi Vikas,

 

I would like to add that Lean is all about eliminating wastes and six sigma is about reducing defects. Most of the cases where your process is up to 6 sigma then you can for lean to eliminate waste.

 

Thanks,

Anil Mehta

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