Six Sigma, only for the big boys?

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    Martin van den Berg

    After having bought books, surfed many sites and read a lot of articles about six sigma, it seems to me that six sigma is only something for the “big boys”, in other words only for the large(r) coporations. None of these sources of information present business cases that demonstrate that six sigma can be implemented (successful) in the same manner, with the same (expected) result at SMO`s.
    To help me proove that punch line is wrong, I ask you to present me several case studies where six sigma was implemented successfully at SMO’s from different industries. Now you may wonder why this question. I live in Europe. We have a lot of SMO’s over here (similar to US) and I feel that six sigma can be a contribution to the success of these SMO’s, especially now where the economy seems to be in the doldrums. To proof my case, I am currently designing a six sigma program tailored to their situation (and needs). With the help of your case studies, I try to determine if I am still on the right track or if I need to adjust my program. So any input regarding (un)successful implementation of six sigma at SMO’s is welcome. greetings, Martyn van den Bergh


    Kim Niles

    Dear Martin:
    This is a very interesting topic to me.  I have some thoughts on this and have experienced what you might be asking for … but first please define SMO.  Does that stand for Small Manufacturing Outfit?
    KN –



    Dear Kim,
    Tanx for your response. Communication is an essential part and I thought I had it (relatively) well covered. Nope, not so after all!
    SMO stands for Small and Medium size Operations or companies (up to 200 employees). So in response to your question, yes, a SMO can be a Small Manufacturing Outfit.
    It seems to be (too?) obvious that Six Sigma (SS) can only make a contribution in a production/manufacturing operation. I believe that a SS program can also be beneficiary to other types of organizations, e.g.the service industry.
    To prove my case, I am developing a type of SS program that can be implemented not only in a production/manufacturing operation, but also in other industries, especially for the SMO segment.
    Although I am still in the design phase, I am already looking for companies which are willing to work with me and implement the program.
    Any case studies of (un)successful implemenetation of a SS program is welcome and will help me with the fine tuning of the program in terms of specific needs and problems within the SMO segment.
    I hope that you are able to help me.


    Kim Niles

    Thanks Martin:I also am working on this issue as I submitted a proposal to talk on the subject in January during the next ASQ Six Sigma conference to be held in Palm Springs. Perhaps we can help each other?I agree that SMO’s (Small Small and Medium size Operations) should have a good chance of successfully implementing some form of Six Sigma, especially those in the service industry. My planned approach is to continue to:Review the important aspects of Six Sigma (see my article entitled “What Makes Six Sigma Work” at, Review key implementation barriers in relationship to the size of the company, Study SMO’s that have or are implementing what is or might be called Six Sigma.Point out flexibility in traditional models that allow the SMO to tailor fit Six Sigma to their needs. Regarding your specific question, I know of four local SMO’s that fit my related definition of “implementing what is or might be called Six Sigma”. One is a small but recognized software company, two are a Medical product based companies that I used to work for, and the forth is the semiconductor product based company I now work for. I am not in a position to be very specific at this point. I see implementation barriers as being from three categories as follows:Financial Justification – Training costs vs. expected ROI. Other Resource Justification – Limited personnel to dedicate full time to a project. People Training Barriers – Change management, lack of management support. What do you think?Sincerely, KN –

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