Six Sigma is accomplished one project at a time. The billions of dollars saved by companies around the world is the cumulative effect of properly selecting and defining business issues that can be assigned to Green Belts and Black Belts for solution. As you may have read last week, a strategic plan includes planning, adequate links between strategy and action, and effective communications. Six Sigma projects are a key action that you can take to reach your organization’s strategic goals.

The intent of this article is to present ideas for identifying issues in your organization and function. These ideas can then be evaluated and formalized into project charters which will allow you to prioritize for implementation.

Project Selection Ideas By Function

Finance/Accounting Six Sigma Project Ideas

  • Reduce the time it takes to close the accounting books (cycle time)
  • Improve the forecast accuracy
  • Control spending over time
  • Reduce balance sheet risk
  • Eliminate unstable customers and associated risks
  • Improve payment processing to vendors/suppliers
  • Improve Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) — the average time taken by a company to collect payment from its customers
  • Reduce payroll process cycle time
  • Improve cash management processes
  • Improve payment/collection processes
  • Reduce electronic financial transaction costs
  • Reduce the cycle time of reconciliation
  • Reduce the procure to pay cycle
  • Standardize the accrual and deferral processes

Human Resources Six Sigma Project Ideas

  • Reduce the time required to hire an employee
  • Reduce the time to process an insurance claim
  • Improve employee on-boarding and orientation processes
  • Reduce expenditures for recruiting firms
  • Improve timeliness and the value of employee performance reviews
  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Improve training efficiency
  • Improve employee satisfaction
  • Identify and correct retention issues

From Linda Linteau’s beneficial Six Sigma HR Forum post:

  • Adds and Deletes of Dependents to Active Employee Health Care Coverage’s
  • Advanced Degree Equity
  • Death Notification Processing
  • Defining Ergonomic Concerns to the Wayne Assembly Plant PVT
  • Dependent Level Data Reconciliation – HAP
  • Disability Overpayments – Pension
  • Disability Plan Overpayments
  • Disability Re-Engineering Process (DFSS)
  • Disability Retirees Working Outside of Ford
  • ECPL Audit Process Improvement Process @ VO and PTO
  • Effective Recovery of Recruiting Salaried Signing Bonus upon EE Termination w/1 year of Service
  • Effective Recovery of Relocation Costs Upon Voluntary Termination
  • Elimination of Overpayments to RTW from Disability Leaves
  • End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Eligibility Project
  • Ford and BCBS Medicare Enrollment
  • HR Salaried Medical Leave – MEGA project
  • HRCC Phone Tree Dissatisfaction
  • HRCC Supervisor Reporting Inefficiencies
  • Identification and Recovery of Claim Overpayments with Self-Insured Plans
  • Improve Data Integrity Between Ford and BCBS
  • Improvement In the ISE Transaction Process
  • Incentive Compensation
  • Increasing Generic Drug Substitution Rate
  • Mail Order Refill Rate for Maintenance Drugs
  • Medical Department Emergency Response Capability
  • Medical Leave Volume at Ford Financial
  • Medicare/BCBSM Coordination of Benefits
  • OSHA Record Keeping Audit Process
  • Overpayments to Terminated Salaried Employees
  • PCE Cost Reduction Project
  • Pharmaceutical Costs in Ford of Mexico Operations
  • Post Offer Salaried Medical Exam Process
  • Reducing Losses of Long Term Advances to ISE’s
  • Reducing Purchased Vacation Losses to Terminated Employees
  • Reducing Purchasing Pre-Commitments in Ford HR Organization
  • Reducing Unauthorized Search Firm Usage for GSR and LL6
  • Reducing Variation in the Independent Medical Exam Process for Workers Compensation
  • Reduction in Number of Premium Share Contributions
  • Reduction of “My Personnel Connections” (MPC) transfer and promotion
  • Reduction of Production Defects in Recruiting System
  • Reduction of Salaried EE CDSID and Outlook Exchange Cycle Time
  • Regulatory Compliance Project
  • Salaried Discipline Processes
  • Speed of Response – ER&I Primary Queue
  • Sponsored Dependent Overpayments
  • Terminated EE’s Actively Enrolled with One or More Healthcare Providers
  • Unicare COBRA Cash Pay Project
  • Urine Drug Test Cycle Time – Salaried
  • Key Perfomance Indicators for Human Resources

Sales Six Sigma Project Ideas

  • Improve cross-sell opportunities
  • Reduce time required to enter sales orders
  • Reduce errors and rework associated with sales orders
  • Reduce customer credit worthiness cycle time
  • Reduce the number of “bad deals” that are processed
  • Improve the cycle time of the entire sales order to cash process
  • Increase repeat orders/customers

Shipping/Receiving Six Sigma Project Ideas

  • Improve on-time delivery of products to customers
  • Improve on-time delivery of goods to our facility from vendors
  • Improve documentation accuracy
  • Reduce line downtime due to shipping/receiving
  • Improve inventory control/rotation
  • Improve inspection processes

Information Technology

  • Reduce network/server/application downtime
  • Improve process of logging-in to network from remote locations
  • Improve system reliability/uptime
  • Standardize computer loads for configuration and support productivity improvement

Product/Service Design Six Sigma Project Ideas

  • Reduce time required to design a product or service
  • Reduce errors in design
  • Reduce production time
  • Reduce testing time

Call Center Six Sigma Project Ideas

  • Increase/decrease (depending on your business needs) average talk time
  • Reduce abandon calls
  • Improve employee knowledge
  • Reduce number of times customer is put on hold

Obvious Areas For Improvement

External Defects

  • Audits (customer, regulatory or internal) discovering non-compliance issues
  • Any out of specification (customer, regulatory or internal) output
  • Any inspection process in your organization
  • Anything you cover for by having a guy in the customer’s plant, office or facility

Internal Defects

  • Any scrap produced by your processes
  • Any item reworked in a process (sales contracts, invoices, surgeries, software, etc.)
  • Any process with high variation in the product output
  • Any process with high variation in the material consumption
  • Any process with many “hand-offs” between individuals or business groups

Efficiency/Capacity Issues

  • Processes producing less than expected
  • Processes requiring overtime not requested by a customer
  • Processes requiring cycle times in excess of expectations
  • Processes with computer/machine downtime
  • Processes requiring expedited shipping and associated costs due to delayed output production
  • Any process that has added labor to make the required cycle

Understanding Process Variation

  • How much variation is there in your incoming materials and/or process parameters and how does this affect your output?
  • Where do you need the input controlled to always have a good output?
  • Can you scientifically adjust your process to compensate for changing material, weather, etc.?
  • Can your Black Belt help your supplier do a project to control the incoming product where you need it?
  • Does understanding your inputs allow you to produce a good part using less material?

General Six Sigma Project Ideas

  • Reduce expenses at…
  • Reduce scrap…
  • Reduce downtimes… or increase uptimes…
  • Reduce rework…
  • Increase throughput at…
  • Reduce quality defects…

General Guidelines for Project Selection

  • Any project should have identifiable process inputs and outputs.
  • A good six sigma project should never have a pre-determined solution.
  • If you already know the answer, then just go fix it!
  • For projects that have operator or operator training as an input, focus on ways to reduce operator variation, thereby making your process more robust to different or untrained operators.
  • All projects need to be approached from the perspective of understanding the variation in process inputs, controlling them, and eliminating the defects.
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