Six Sigma when problem and solution are clear

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    Pascal Zweipfenning

    I’m working as an SAP consultant and have a requst from a customer to use the Six Sigma method during a project. The project scope is implementing Sales and Operation Planning for 10 European plants. The problem is clear: bad planning and planning information. The solution is clear: implement Sales and Operations Planning. What role could Six Sigma play during this project and how could we incorporate it?
    ps:  I’m completely new to Six Sigma.
    Best regards,
    Pascal Zweipfenning



    Is the solution you have the best for optimization.  They might be many solutions that can work, but only one best one.  Use the tools to determine, or prove, that what you have is the best solution.  Continue to use the tools to statistically prove that your solution resulted in the benefits and then use the control tools to ensure the solution stays put.
    I would suggest starting the problem over with the define step and pretend that you don’t all ready have the solution.  Six sigma works bests when you don’t already have a solution and a six sigma project shouldn’t be one that is a “flat tire”.  Good luck.



    Six Sigma has no role where the solution(s) are known.
    This type project is known as Program Management



    Dear Pascal,
    To me, your problem sounds very similar to: “I should make a widget, and my customer says I should use a hammer at all costs”. 6Sigma is a tool, and you should select the tool that is best suited for the job you need to do. If indeed your solution is already clear, don’t start pretending as if it isn’t (so I disagree with Divdar on this). Your customer already consulted you at SAP, which means he already wants to have a certain kind of solution.
    An assumption from my side: your customer probably means that he want to have things done on the same level of a 6Sigma project, meaning: just as systematic, and just as data-based. It expect that you will end up using many of the tools of 6Sigma like QFD, counting defects, measuring the improvement, ensuring proper implementation of the solution, and so on. But as you describe it, the solution is already quite fixed.


    John J. McDonough

    I’m going to be the outlier here.  If you know what the problem is, and you know what the solution is, AND YOU HAVE THE DATA TO PROVE IT then it’s not a Six Sigma problem.  Your customer may very well, however, want you to show him the data that proves it!  If you don’t have the data, then your “known” solution is nothing more than conjecture.  Any organization that has embraced the Six Sigma culture is going to insist on seeing the data before believing something that, at this point, carries no more credibility than myth.
    The other thing I would look at is just how much of an improvement are you going after?  If the improvement is slight, say a few percent of something measurable, then go ahead and press on with the “Project Management” methodology.
    But if you are looking for a significant improvement, then the odds are quite high that the solution you know to be correct, in fact, is not the best, and maybe not even good.  In any case, if the desired improvement is great, then it’s worth going through the rigor of the whole Six Sigma process anyway.
    It’s easy to say “implement Sales and Operations Planning”, but you know better than I than when you say “implement” in an SAP context, you are suggesting spending somewhere between millions and hundreds of millions of dollars in training, work process reengineering, business disruption, etc.
    Now, if that company has done this implementation before in several other lines of business, and this is really a 2-n implementation for them, then maybe it’s not a Six Sigma project, even though there are millions at stake. If they have a process, then doing it again should be a no brainer.  Maybe it’s a DMAIC opportnity to improve the process, but it’s not a start from scratch sort of exercise.
    But if they haven’t implemented this multiple times before, then if I were them, I would insist on a DFSS execution.



    First since you are new to six sigma let me say that “bad planning and planning information” is not a problem statement, and my peers here missed that piece. “bad planning and planning information” is an assumed root cause that you or someone has thought of as a cause to the problem. the problem statement should be the effects that you see occur that you think are caused by bad planning etc….too much inventory is a problem that may be caused by bad planning, backorders is a problem that could be caused by bad planning. Your problem is not a problem. Therefore as someone earlier said, your solution could be completely wrong. “implement SAP” is a solution that I doubt has been thought out very well and I bet will not address whatever problems they are facing. I was at a global mfg company that implemented JD Edwards and we forced our consultants to use 6sigma as well, but we meant Design for Six Sigma and my guess is that would be more applicable here as well.

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