Six Sigma is a set of management tools and techniques designed to improve business by reducing the likelihood of error. It is a data-driven approach which uses statistical methodology for eliminating defects. The etymology is based on the Greek symbol “sigma” or “σ”, a statistical term for measuring process deviation from the process mean or target. “Six Sigma” comes from the bell curve used in statistics, where one Sigma symbolizes a single standard deviation from the mean. If the process has six Sigmas, three above and three below the mean, the defect rate is classified as “extremely low.” The graph of the normal distribution below underscores the statistical assumptions of the Six Sigma model. The higher the standard deviation, the higher is the spread of values encountered. So, processes where the mean is minimum 6σ away from the closest specification limit are aimed in Six Sigma.
The concept of Six Sigma has a simple goal – delivering near-perfect goods and services for business transformation for optimal customer satisfaction (CX). Goals are achieved through a two-pronged approach:
The two main Six Sigma methodologies are DMAIC and DMADV. Each has its own set of recommended procedures to be implemented for business transformation. DMAIC is a data-driven method, used to improve existing products or services for better customer satisfaction. It is the acronym for the five phases: D – Define, M – Measure, A – Analyse, I – Improve, C – Control. DMAIC is applied in the manufacturing of a product or delivery of a service. DMADV is a part of the Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) process, used to design or redesign different processes of product manufacturing or service delivery. The five phases of DMADV are: D – Define, M – Measure, A – Analyse, D – Design, V – Validate. DMADV is employed when existing processes do not meet customer conditions, even after optimization, or when it is required to develop new processes. It is executed by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts and under the supervision of Six Sigma Master Black Belts. We’ll get to the belts later. The two methodologies are used in different business settings, and professionals seeking to master these methods and application scenarios would do well to take an online certificate program taught by industry experts.
Although Six Sigma uses various methods to discover deviations and solve problems, the DMAIC is the standard methodology used by Six Sigma practitioners. Six Sigma uses a data-driven management process used for optimizing and improving business processes. The underlying framework is a strong customer focus and robust use of data and statistics to draw conclusions. The Six Sigma Process of the DMAIC method has five phases: Each of the above phases of business transformation has several steps:
The Six Sigma methodology also uses a mix of statistical and data analysis tools such as process mapping and design, and proven qualitative and quantitative techniques, in order to achieve the desired outcome. Key Six Sigma Techniques in use.
Brainstorming is the key process of any problem-solving method and is often utilized in the “improve” phase of the DMAIC methodology. It is a necessary process before anyone starts using any tools. Brainstorming involves bouncing ideas and generating creative ways to approach a problem through intensive freewheeling group discussions. A facilitator, who is typically the lead Black Belt or Green Belt, moderates the open session among a group of participants.
This technique helps to get to the root cause of the problems under consideration and is used in the “analyze” phase of the DMAIC cycle. In the 5 Whys technique, the question “why” is asked again and again, finally leading up to the core issue. Although “five” is the rule of thumb, the actual number of questions can be greater or fewer, whatever it takes in order to gain clarity.
This is the process used to capture the “voice of the customer” or customer feedback by either internal or external means. The technique is aimed at giving the customer the best products and services. It captures the changing needs of the customer through direct and indirect methods. The voice of the customer technique is used in the “define’ phase of the DMAIC method, usually to further define the problem to be addressed.
This technique has its roots in the Japanese principle of workplace energies. The 5S System is aimed at removing waste and eliminating bottlenecks from inefficient tools, equipment, or resources in the workplace. The five steps used are Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set In Order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize) and Shitsuke (Sustain).
The Kaizen technique is a powerful strategy that powers a continuous engine for business improvement. It is the practice continuously monitoring, identifying, and executing improvements. This is a particularly useful practice for the manufacturing sector. Collective and ongoing improvements ensure a reduction in waste, as well as immediate change whenever the smallest inefficiency is observed.
Benchmarking is the technique that employs a set standard of measurement. It involves making comparisons with other businesses in order to gain an independent appraisal of the given situation. Benchmarking may involve comparing important processes or departments within a business (internal benchmarking), comparing similar work areas or functions with industry leaders (functional benchmarking), or comparing similar products and services with that of competitors (competitive benchmarking).
This technique’s name comes from the Japanese phrase meaning “to avoid errors”, and entails preventing the chance of mistakes from occurring. In the poka-yoke technique, employees spot and remove inefficiencies and human errors during the manufacturing process.
The value stream mapping technique charts the current flow of materials and information, with the purpose of designing a future project. The objective is to remove waste and inefficiencies in the value stream and create leaner operations. It identifies seven different types of waste and three types of waste removal operations.
The Six Sigma training levels conform to specified training requirement, education criteria, job standards, and eligibilities.
This is the simplest stage, where:
Here, the participant:
This level of expertise requires the following criteria:
This level includes the following:
To reach this level, a candidate must:
Six Sigma certification is much like the certification system followed in martial arts, where a wannabe Six Sigma professional begins with the White Belt and upskills his way up to become the master of the pack with the Master Black Belt; or take an integrated certification offered by some institutes.
The five-tiered levels of Six Sigma Certification
Six Sigma is a great way to climb up the career ladder with cool job titles and matching salary prospects. Companies that routinely hire candidates to fill Sigma Six positions include: 3M, Abbott Laboratories, General Electric, The Hershey Company, IBM, Honeywell, Newell Rubbermaid, Siemens, and Wells Fargo. There are a number of career choices for Six Sigma professionals as manufacturing engineers, compliance engineers, and operating system specialists. Additionally, there are career opportunities with the following titles, although the precise nomenclature can vary from company to company:
In terms of salary, according to Glassdoor, someone Six Sigma Green Belt certified can expect an average yearly salary of $97,919. Salary gives a Six Sigma Black Belt certified professional a range from $96,500 to $118,700.