Apply Six Sigma to Process Improvement


By Richard McKenna

Every organization has work processes that are inefficient and frustratingly cumbersome. It seems every Chief Financial Officer or Operations Manager can readily point to numerous processes within the organization that never seem to get better. Many organizations seemingly have resigned themselves to the fact some things will never change.

Those who don’t accept the premise that poor processes are a permanent part of the organization have turned to the ideals and techniques of Six Sigma to improve their processes. Six Sigma is based on the idea that 99% of the time is not good enough, and that if you can control the variation of a process, then you can improve performance and productivity.

Six Sigma implementations involve an in-depth look at processes that are not controlled and effective. By a systematic and thorough examination of “what causes the problems” and a determination of the root cause of a process failure, managers can routinely eliminate non-value-added processes and eliminate most, if not all, of the process variation.

Six Sigma is as much a psychological practice as it is a business practice. All employees must subscribe to the notion that each process can be completed in an efficient and effective manner, as well as embracing the belief that we “can do things right the first time” and still be creative and responsive to the customers.

A typical Six Sigma analysis will break down a process to its fundamental elements (inputs, processes and outputs) and identify all the various reasons why the process fails. By systematically eliminating each factor that impacts the process, the entire process is improved. The reason for this in depth analysis is that for many issues, the first or second problem that is identified is only a symptom of the problem, and does not speak to the root cause of the process failure.

By applying fundamental techniques prescribed by Six Sigma, any organization can improve its business processes. The benefits will include increased productivity and efficiency, as well as reduced rework and wasted energy. 

If you would like to talk to someone about using Six Sigma to improve your work processes, please feel free to contact Schneider Downs Business Advisors

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