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Process Improvement in the Age of Smart Manufacturing

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Process improvement projects have typically been a labor-intensive and imprecise process. Labor-intensive in that capturing the as-designed vs the actual current-state process required facilitated meetings, interviews, surveys and analyzing operational data over an extended time period. Imprecise in that workers will typically act differently when they know they are being watched and measured. The Hawthorne […]

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Incorporate Lean Six Sigma in Automation Process

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Lean Six Sigma can assist organizations determine which processes are the best candidates for automation as well as make those processes more automation ready.

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Using Six Sigma DMAIC for Creating Business Strategy

Case Study: Using Six Sigma in a Non-Six Sigma Culture

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Anyone who has worked in manufacturing has probably experienced some level of finger-pointing when shipments fall short of expectations. Though there could be multiple reasons for a missed customer delivery, somehow it is always the other department’s fault. In extreme circumstances, several months of missing targets without effectively defining the root causes and addressing them […]

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The Road to Success: How KPIs Support Goal Achievement

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Key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to ensuring a project team has the performance data it needs to sustain improvements. With KPIs, a team can evaluate the success of a project against its established goals. Types of Metrics There are two types of metrics to consider when selecting KPIs for a project: outcome metrics and […]

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Process Capability – Surface Finish Example: Part 2

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In Part 2 we look at failure rates and material conditions for a surface finish example.

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six sigma

Use “Light” Lean Six Sigma When the Textbook Approach Is Not Possible

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Practitioners cannot wait to use their newly acquired knowledge after they have finished Lean Six Sigma (LSS) training. They want to immediately apply the framework to their real-life projects. But what if, for numerous reasons, it is not possible to “go by the book”? In such cases, there are ways to break LSS down into […]

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Process Capability – The Basics: Part 1

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In Part 1, we explore the concept of process capability, including how to calculate it and what to do with non-normal data.

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B2 Bomber

U.S.A.F. Uses Continuous Process Improvement on the B-2 Bomber: Part 2

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In this case study, the 509th Maintenance Group of the U.S. Air Force used an eight-step continuous improvement approach to balance its resources and meet both flying hour program requirements and aircraft availability. Part 1 focused on steps 1 through 4. Part 2 looks at continuing to make improvements with steps 5 through 8. Step […]

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CART

Use a Classification and Regression Tree (CART) for Quick Data Insights

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In the Analyze phase of a DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) Six Sigma project, potential root causes of variations and defects are identified and validated. Various data analysis tools are used for exploratory and confirmatory studies. Descriptive and graphical techniques help with understanding the nature of data and visualizing potential relationships. Statistical analysis techniques, […]

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B2 Bomber

U.S.A.F. Uses Continuous Process Improvement on the B-2 Bomber: Part 1

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In this case study, the 509th Maintenance Group of the U.S. Air Force used an eight-step continuous process improvement approach to balance its resources and meet both flying hour program requirements and aircraft availability needs. This week looks at steps 1 through 4. Part 2 looks at steps 5 through 8. Introduction The B-2 bomber […]

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Figure 1: LSS with Optimization Modeling

Project Examples from an LSS Deployment for Cultural Transformation

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My company benchmarked against other manufacturing businesses before starting its cultural transformation change. They formed a team and visited companies including Toyota, GM, Milliken, Caterpillar, John Deere, Chrysler, Du Pont and Johnson Controls. After talking to each company about their cultures and continuous improvement processes, my company started to put together a roadmap for transformation. […]

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Short-Run Statistical Process Control Techniques

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Short production runs are a necessity in high-mix, low-volume manufacturing environments. The trend in manufacturing has been toward smaller production runs, with production runs – as well as products – tailored to the individual customer’s needs. Although this minimizes inventory and improves responsiveness to the customer, it complicates the application of statistical process control (SPC). Classical […]

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Understanding Process Sigma Level

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Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to quality, aimed at reducing variation and the associated defects, wastes and risks in any process. This article explores the basics of Six Sigma process quality – definition and measurement. In a set of data, mean (μ) and standard deviation (σ) are defined as: μ = x1 + x2 […]

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Six Steps to Effectively Plan for Lean Six Sigma Efforts

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Some of the complaints commonly levied against continuous improvement deployments is that they focus on the wrong issues, and that projects take too long or require too much investment (time, training and financial) in order to achieve meaningful results. Unfortunately, these complaints are often justified – not because of some fault in the Lean Six […]

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Remember Common Cause Variation in Fight Against Process Waste

Avoid Two Common Mistakes in Measurement System Analysis

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Measurement system analysis (MSA) determines whether the measurement system is adequate and confirms that significant error is not introduced to the true value of a process characteristic. MSA is the one of the most misunderstood and underused concepts in Six Sigma. This article highlights two of the common mistakes made during the study and explains […]

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Understand the Difference Between Verification and Validation

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Many people use the terms verification and validation interchangeably without realizing the difference between the two. Not understanding that difference can lead to many models that do not truly represent a real-world process and lead to errors in forecasting or predicting of the outcomes. In this article, we will explore the meaning, importance, differences and […]

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Calculate Capability Indices with Only One Specification

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Capability analysis is an essential tool for statistical process control (SPC) and process improvement, applicable to a variety of environments from hospitals and labs to assembly and manufacturing. The formula for calculating a Cpk index is easily found:           USL, upper specification limit; LSL, lower specification limit. *Estimated sigma = average […]

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Understanding Permutations and Combinations

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In Six Sigma problem solving, it is often important to calculate the likelihood that a combination of events or an ordered combination of events will occur. Understanding some of the basic concepts of probability provides practitioners with the tools to make predictions about events or event combinations. This provides a good foundation for understanding probability […]

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Use Multiple Process Improvement Methodologies to Strengthen Results

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There are many process improvement methodologies – Six Sigma/DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), Lean, Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) and innovation to name merely a few. But with so many choices, it makes applying an improvement methodology difficult. There are questions such as: “What makes this toolset unique?” and “Which one should I be […]

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OpEx Operating Models Research Report

5 Suggestions for an OpEX Practitioner in a Digital World

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The Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Green Belt and Black Belt curriculum needs an overhaul. The original operational excellence (OpEx) Lean Six Sigma methodology developed by Motorola in the 1980s and made famous by Jack Welch at General Electric (GE) in the early 1990s is finding itself a bit long in the tooth in comparison to […]

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Case Study: 5S in Practice

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5S is a Lean tool that helps in workplace organization. The following is the list of five Japanese words and their translation in English. (Seiri) Sorting and prioritizing: Going through all the tools, materials, etc., in the work area and keeping only the essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded. (Seiton) Straighten or set […]

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A Study of Estimates of Sigma in Small Sample Sizes

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This paper looks at some of the methods of estimating standard deviation (which I will usually refer to as ‘sigma’). Additionally, I propose a new formula for estimating sigma for small sample sizes and also present a means to mathematically evaluate these competing estimates of sigma. The question was posed to me: “I have five […]

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A Macro That Writes Macros

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If you are like me, you may find yourself writing a fair number of MS Excel macros to automate repeatable tasks. One day it dawned on me, however, that several of the aspects of writing macros were repeatable tasks themselves. When writing a macro I would often start by: Creating a data structure that would […]

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Overview of Effective Survey Design

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The survey is one of the most important data collection tools in the armament of a Six Sigma practitioner. There is no lack of research literature on the principles and designs of effective surveys. While the surveys conducted by academics and certain research institutes often reflect impeccable design, there are innumerable cases in which the […]

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Case Study: Increase Revenue by Decreasing Prices

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A division of a diversified organization develops and manufactures samples of new drugs for clinical trials. This work entails different typical manufacturing problems for the following reasons: Quantity requirements can vary from a few grams to several tons from order to order. The effort of research and development (R&D) is central; new processes have to […]

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The Five Fundamental Assumptions of Six Sigma

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Some people are angry and upset about the effectiveness of Six Sigma as a problem-solving discipline. Individuals routinely call for the next new quality discipline or argue why Six Sigma will not work in this case or the other. Some of this is one-upping – this approach is better; some of this is sour grapes […]

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How Lean Six Sigma Practices Helped Amazon Web Services Achieve Operational Excellence

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In today’s highly competitive business landscape, organizations are constantly seeking ways to improve their operations and deliver exceptional value to their customers. One such company that embarked on a transformative journey is Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing arm of Amazon. Facing significant challenges, AWS turned to Lean Six Sigma practices and tools to […]

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How Lean and Six Sigma Dramatically Improved InterConnect’s Kit Manufacturing Line

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InterConnect Wiring was constantly needing to be ahead of schedule in assembling its aircraft kits, causing unneeded stress and an unbalanced workload. By utilizing Lean and Six Sigma concepts, the organization was able to make significant improvements to its processes. Despite already being a very successful organization, InterConnect Wiring was able to utilize Lean and […]

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How Lean Six Sigma Helped Grupo Bimbo Stay Relevant and Retain Global Market Share

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Established in 1945 in Mexico City, Grupo Bimbo became a global leader in the baking industry, known for its commitment to quality and innovation. As the company expanded its operations worldwide, it encountered various challenges that threatened its profitability and market position. In response, Grupo Bimbo made a strategic decision to implement Lean Six Sigma […]

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Lean Six Sigma Transformation: Harnessing DMAIC to Enhance Operational Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction at Avon

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Efficiency, Elegance, and Empowerment: Avon and Lean Six Sigma Unite In the bustling world of cosmetics, where beauty meets business, one name has stood the test of time, captivating hearts and empowering women for over a century: Avon. From its humble beginnings as a perfume company in the late 19th century to its global presence […]

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How Dr Pepper Embraced Lean and Six Sigma Methods, Creating an Economic Impact of Over 100 Million Dollars for the Company

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By employing Lean and Six Sigma techniques, Dr Pepper was able to embark on a journey that prioritized Rapid Continuous Improvement, a strategy that led to a number of savings for the organization that totaled over 100 million dollars. Dr Pepper Had a Problem Dr Pepper’s history traces all the way back to 1885 and […]

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How Value Stream Mapping Helped Increase a University’s MBA Enrollment by 70%

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The University of North Alabama had been part of the steady decline nationally in students enrolling in MBA programs. In order to turn the tide at the UNA College of Business, a team utilized Value Stream Mapping. By focusing on adding value to the student recruiting process, UNA College of Business was able to dramatically […]

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Project Sponsor vs. Deployment Champion in Six Sigma: What’s the Difference? 

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What is a Project Sponsor? A Six Sigma project sponsor plays a key role in Six Sigma methodology who provides overall support, guidance, and resources to ensure the success of a Six Sigma project. The project sponsor is typically a high-level executive or manager within the organization who has the authority to allocate resources and […]

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Black Belt vs. Master Black Belt in Six Sigma: What’s the Difference?

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What is a Black Belt (BB)? A Six Sigma Black Belt (BB) is a trained and certified professional who has achieved a high level of expertise and experience in the Six Sigma methodology. Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology and management philosophy that aims to improve the quality of processes, reduce defects, and minimize variability […]

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How Lean Six Sigma Tools and an Acceleration Technique Reduced Baggage Connection Delays by 65%

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In 2016, Kenya Airways embarked on a project to increase its baggage handling efficiency. The way that it applied tools from both Lean and Six Sigma methodologies showcases how adaptable these concepts can be and that they are applicable well beyond the industries that they are most commonly associated with. Kenya Airways was able to […]

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Six Sigma vs. Agile: What Are the Differences?

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What is Six Sigma? Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology used by organizations to improve their processes and reduce defects or errors. It was originally developed by Motorola in the 1980s and has since been adopted by numerous companies across various industries. The term “Six Sigma” refers to a statistical concept that […]

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Kienle + Spiess Tackles Welding Issues with Lean and Six Sigma Integration

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Kienle + Spiess is a German mechanical engineering company that was looking to strengthen its welding division by reducing its rework and improving its quality. To accomplish this, the organization utilized a dual approach where Six Sigma and Lean methods work in tandem. Kienle + Spiess was able to practically eliminate shoddy splatter from the […]

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Black Belt vs. Green Belt in Six Sigma: What’s the Difference? 

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What is a Black Belt (BB)? A Six Sigma Black Belt (BB) is a professional who has achieved a high level of expertise in the Six Sigma methodology. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach to process improvement that aims to eliminate defects and improve the quality and efficiency of business processes.  The Benefits of […]

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Quality Control vs. Quality Assurance: What’s the Difference? 

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What is Quality Control (QC)? Quality control (QC) is a product-oriented approach to quality to ensure that products or services meet specified quality requirements and standards. Quality control focuses on inspection and testing to verify that a product is safe and effective after production. It is often viewed as a process of detection versus prevention. […]

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Six Sigma vs. Lean: What’s the Difference?

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What is Six Sigma? Six Sigma is a quality control methodology that is utilized to improve processes through the elimination of defects. In practice, the methodology incorporates project management, analysis, and statistics to improve the functionality of a business by addressing defects in a process. The cornerstone of the Six Sigma method is the DMAIC […]

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How Abbott Utilizes Six Sigma Methodology to Enhance Business Processes

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Abbott, a global healthcare company, has successfully employed the Six Sigma methodology to improve various aspects of its business operations. By leveraging this data-driven approach, Abbott has achieved significant advancements in efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction. Abbott’s Journey to Transform Business Processes: Tackling a Critical Challenge Abbott, a leading healthcare company, has built its reputation […]

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How DMAIC Helped San Antonio Increase the On-Time Payment of Street Maintenance Contractors by Nearly 20%

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We all need payment for the work that we do. It is really that simple. If contracted out to do a job by somebody, you need to be able to count on compensation for the work done on that job within a reasonable amount of time. Contractors that worked on street maintenance projects for the […]

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How the Six Sigma Quality Improvement Process Practically Eliminated False Fire Alarms at US West

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In the early 1990s, US West was an organization that was leading the charge in telecommunications. At the time, their buildings were being plagued by disruptive false fire alarms. How it was dealt with is a great example of how to apply the Six Sigma quality improvement process, a method applicable to nearly any quality […]

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How One Company’s Investment in Employees Led to $40K in Savings

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In business, when times get tough, the knee-jerk reaction is to have layoffs. What follows is a remarkable example of one company that decided to make a further investment in its people by getting them trained toward Six Sigma Green Belt certification and having them put their focus on saving money for the organization. Even […]

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How DMAIC Led to a Nearly $950,000 Impact on RFR’s Bottom Line

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Utilizing Six Sigma tools like DMAIC saved RFR $928,000 in retained sales as well as $10,000 in cost savings and $9,000 in workplace training. RFR Metal Fabrication Was Having Growing Pains RFR Metal Fabrication began as Advanced Fabrication Technology in 1987, switching names to RFR in 1999. Throughout its history, the organization has focused on […]

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How Starting With a Six Sigma Scorecard Led to Significant Increases in On-Time Deliveries, Efficiency, and Profit Within a Year

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When many think of Six Sigma, they first think of massive corporations utilizing the methodology for quality and process improvement. They do not generally associate it with the mom-and-pop shop down the street. The truth is that plenty of smaller companies use the Six Sigma method to optimize their businesses. The only reason that most […]

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Littelfuse’s Journey to Operational Excellence: How Six Sigma Processes Improved Quality and Reduced Costs

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Littelfuse is a manufacturing company that produces electronic products for various industries. The company was facing a problem with its production process, as it was experiencing a high defect rate that was causing delays and increasing costs. Products were experiencing defects and failures, which resulted in customer complaints, rework, and repairs. These quality issues were […]

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How DMAIC and Other Six Sigma Techniques and Tools Helped B & B Ice and Water Save $21,000 on Their First Six Sigma Project

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B & B Ice and Water in Port Arthur, Texas, had been a successful company for many years. Despite their success, the organization was finding a number of problems that they could not seem to solve. By embracing Six Sigma techniques, the organization was able to address these issues, make its company stronger than before, […]

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Motorola Uses Data-Driven Six Sigma Methodology to Improve Production Process

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In the early 2000s, Motorola was struggling with defects in its products and a decline in customer satisfaction. In an effort to improve their business processes and regain their competitive edge, they turned to Six Sigma, a data-driven methodology for process improvement. The Impact of Six Sigma on Motorola’s Semiconductor Production Process Motorola is a […]

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Starting With a Six Sigma Scorecard Led One Small Company to Significant Increases in On-Time Deliveries, Efficiency, and Profit Within a Year

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When many think of Six Sigma, they first think of massive corporations utilizing the methodology for quality and process improvement. They do not generally associate it with the mom-and-pop shop down the street. The truth is that plenty of smaller companies use the Six Sigma method to optimize their businesses. The only reason that most […]

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