Six Sigma Without Tools Support

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    I am a former black belt from a production facility. I now work in a warehousing environment. The problem is my boss hired me because of my success as a black belt in production. I have non of the tools (minitab, workbooks, etc.) that I had at my previous job. My current employer does not use the Six Sigma methodology, and they are light years away from being ready for it. I frequently hear, “use your six sigma eyes”. My boss is an “I know everything” type of personality, he knows very little about six sigma, and doesn’t see the true possibility. My question is how can I help improve a process, without the tools, without the support, and without any type of statistical software? and Do you have any ideas for projects in a warehouse environment (Pick, Pack, Ship process to be specific)?


    Michael Schlueter

    Dear Stephen,
    I think what will help you is TRIZ-thinking.
    The situation you are in is a very difficult one, called an inventive situation:

    you have to obtain the results from six sigma
    without applying the successes from six sigma.
    Or in other terms:

    you have to obtain all the benefits from six sigma
    without the cost and drawbacks from six sigma.
    What are the (potential) benefits from six sigma for the warehouse? Ok, better processes, fewer defects, cultural change … which leads all to … ? Assume, you were able to do all six sigma actions you find necessary to do, then you’ll end up with … ?
    Ok, I just can sketch it. This is one part of the inertia-breaking thinking process TRIZ provides for you. You can do the same challenging of your views on the required efforts, drawbacks, cost etc. which do come with six sigma.
    This thinking part is goal-setting, visionary:

    you’ll obtain all the benefits from the warehouse
    without all its drawbacks …
    By intention I just shifted focus, from benfits from six sigma to benefits from the warehouse. After all, it’s there for a purpose (all its benefits) and does provide a lot of drawbacks at the same time (you named a few of them).
    What’s the better warehouse?

    it provides more benefits of today’s warehouse, including its main purpose
    with less harm, less drawbacks, fewer cost etc.
    Ok, once you arrived there, what’s the next-better warehouse?
    Ok, you are right.
    What’s the Ideal Final Warehouse?

    it is the (almost) absent warehouse
    which DOES provide all its benefits.
    This is a truely inertia-breaking thought, isn’t it? Let’s explain it:

    when the warehouse, as you know it today, is no longer there, it can’t hurt (no cost, no drawbacks, no lack of support etc.)
    but something has changed to preserve its main-purpose (which is it?)
    and something has changed to provide many more benefits (to whom ?)
    Please note, this doesn’t mean necessarily to close the warehouse. Because when you close it, the hurt from it is gone, but the benefits and main-purpose are gone, too.
    Something else will happen – has to happen – instead.
    What I tried to line out here is called “ideality thinking” in TRIZ. Ideality thinking provides:

    I recently read an article about it in the newsletter from . This is a challenging process. E.g. what is the main purpose of the warehouse – for whom?

    owner: get a high profit from it
    employer: have a safe position
    customer: get what he/she wants
    and so on.
    So the “Ideal Final Warehouse” will provide properties like (or at least will come closer to it):

    double profit as today
    one of the safest places to work at
    immediate delivery of my orders at virtually no cost
    Which brings us, inevitably, to the weak spots of todays warehouse. You will very likely find trade-off situations made in the warehouse today. Trade-offs are another way to indicate conflicting requirements. E.g.:

    the warehouse has to charge its customers as high as possible (to make profit)AND
    the warehouse has to offer very low prices (to be competitive)
    So it has to offer >>> a high price AND a not-high price <<<.
    Identifying (relevant) conflicts is vital for you:

    they limit the capability of your system (e.g. of this warehouse)
    they can be eliminated completely by applying TRIZ.
    From analyzing these conflicts and eliminating them you’ll obtain results like you know from six sigma wihtout the need to use statistical data. The improvement will be self-evident.
    I wonder how far your people are willing to go. “Use your six sigma eyes” can indicate a TRIZ-like mentality; but it can also impose the next inventive situation onto you, when:

    you have to change the process (to approach the ideal final warehouse)AND
    you have not to change the process (because people are not willing to change anything).
    Again, this type of problem you can attack with TRIZ. Basically what you do in this process of conflict elimination is:

    to indicate precisely WHERE the conflict exists (and where not)
    to indicate exactly WHEN this conflict exists (and when not)
    to apply separation principles:

    separate the conflict in space (change here, don’t change there) {including people and oppinions}
    separeate in time (change now, do not change then)
    and a few more.
    Finally you will turn these ideas into reality by utilizing available resources, only.
    Best regards, Michael Schlueter



    I feel sorry for you … How to change managment?
    Check out if our boss likes 8D problem solving. If he likes eliminating root causes then there is hope ..



    Following the thread here..This TRIZ has actually captured my attention. But to tell the truth, I have not made much headway into this way of thinking.. I tried some sites in the Net, but all of them gives only and introduction and not the whole story.
    Has anyone here practices real TRIZ? If so, how did you go up the learning curve?
    Further, I just managed to lay my hand on this book called World Class Quality Second Edition by Keki Bhote. First 30 pages has been excellent. In one stroke he has dismissed the value of tools that we have been thinking as greatest.. like QS 9000, some visual tools and even G8D…! Even Six Sigma is ‘okay’ but still weak. DOE and MEOST, leading to ‘Ultimate Six Sigma – The Big Q’ is the final thing.. he says.. anyway, I gotta confirm that by completing the book…
    But he says, CpK of 1.33, 2.0 are all history.. Companies & tools must aim at 5.0…


    Raul Tamez

    Dear Stephen:I not pretty sure that you will be succesfull without SPC tools, but what about if you try to Training your boss with a nice presentation of “Six Sigma for not beleivers”, if you wish I can provide you one, just let me know [see below for download].So in this way your boss start understanding what means Six Sigma and his benefits.To be honest with you, in the past have some problems like this, and I’m already solve in this way.Regards.RaulDownload 6_Sigma_for_not_beleivers.ppt


    Ken Feldman

    Sounds like a tough situation; no support, no tools, no statistical software.  I agree with some of the responses that getting support is important but I disagree with your throwing in the towel regarding “no tools and no statistical software”. A flip chart and a marker or a pencil and a piece of paper give you the ability to do brainstorming, C&E diagrams, C&E matrices and process flow diagrams.  Activating the Analysis ToolPak in Excel gives you the ability to do Hypothesis Testing and Descriptive Statistics.  You can get creative and use Excel to do Control Charting if needed or Pareto Charts.  Don’t use the lack of Minitab or manuals keep you from using your acquired knowledge and skills.  It is your intelligence and experience as a BB that makes you valuable, not books and software.  Be a little creative and demonstrate the value of  your approach and that is the best way to convince your boss that a change might be to his advantage.  Good luck and KICK SOME BUTT, YOU WIMP :-).



    The first thing I would do is to collect data on areas you see could be improved. (1. Such things might be cycle time for orders in versus orders out,  2. Correct shipments versus errors, 3. Correct paperwork. etc.) Show the boss the cost of “poor” quality such as scrap, rework, customer rejections, customer payment of invoices(cash flow) damaged shipments by carriers.
    This will mean a lot of work for you but it will pay off when you present the savings or the potential savings to the Boss. Bosses always respond to dollar($) signs.
    If he will not respond to these maybe you need to hunt a job elsewhere. Life is too short to work under these conditions.
    Dale K



    One small piece (improvement) at a time. Stick with that motto and get wins under your belt. A year from now people at your shop will say “look at all he’s done (a, b, c, d)…maybe we should learn this six sigma stuff also.” You’ll get there.
    By the way, your “use your six sigma eyes” line seriously cracked me up. I’m going to start using that line with my black and green belts. Hilarious! :)


    Fiona M

    a tough one! This isn’t answering your question per se, but can I ask what you were hired to do, i.e. does your manager have clear objectives for you to accomplish? If so, then it will be easier for you to build a business case around what resources you need to accomplish them – one of them being the level of support you require from him. IMHO you may need to be quite directive about what actions and behaviours you need him to exhibit. The business should be ‘hiring you in’ to help them fix their processes – if they aren’t supporting your doing this, then fundamentally, why are they hiring you?
    If he doesn’t have clear expectations, then it’ll be hard to prove you’ve accomplished them (conversely, difficult for him to prove you haven’t!)


    Dan Feliciano

    You have to be kidding me!!!  You’re surrounded by tools and the skillful use of influence is a critical characteristic of a Blackbelt.   Let’s start at the beginningProcess mapping can be done with any MS Office productCT trees can be done with MS Office’s organization chart toolLast time I looked, MS Excel could be for analysis includingCreating histogramsCreating Pareto chartsData charting / graphingANOVARegression AnalysisVarious Hypothesis testsNow get going and start saving your organization money!



    Remember, Six Sigma is all about reducing variation in the process. Fancy programs and too much dependancy on W,X,Y & Z factor talk tends to drive people away from getting to know the real Six Sigma. Define your project, Measure what currently happens, Analyze (with Excel) the measurement, brainstorm and Incorporate the changes that need to take place, get some metrics in place to Controll it.
    Your still a BB and a slide-rule still calculates.


    Fred Hoth

    This may have been said already, but for the type of environment where there is little support, especially from management, it’s best to start with small, quick-hit projects that will show real results. You can easily use some six sigma tools (even without your boss or associates knowing) without going into a full blown project. As you build on these quick hits the grass roots movement will start to drive upwards.
    Good luck!


    Victoria Ricketts

    Hi Raul,I also think your document sounds interesting and useful.Good luck. I have also come from an environment in which six sigma was widely used and minitab was available. I am fortunate to have minitab in my new position, but my advice would be as others have mentioned. Use the tools you have in a basic way (Excel etc) to slip six sigma in without them noticing. You only need obvious and basic savings initially to then turn it around and show them how good six sigma is (look, you made these savings and didn’t even realise you were using this nasty process Six Sigma!). On the back of that, you could get them to fund a single license minitab package? 



    Hi Raul,
    I also think your document sounds interesting and useful, I would really appreciate it if you could send me a copy to [email protected]


    bhupinder singh walia

    please do send me if u get reply,interesting question


    John J. McDonough

    Between Dan and Darth they got it right.  The vast bulk of the Six Sigma tools take no more than some flip charts and Post-It notes.  Surely your professional success is worth a $20 trip to Staples!  And most of your statistical analysis can be done with Excel.  Sure, it’s not as flashy as Minitab or JMP, but it can get the job done.
    The support is a tougher issue, but it may not be that tough.  Don’t get too frustrated, and drag out the ABC/BOC tool to apply to your boss.  I suspect, although your boss may be easier to deal with than you think.  Keep the right attitude and remember it’s pretty hard to argue with the data.  As another poster suggested, get a few quick wins, and sell them.



    The ultimate tool is your brain power to overcome and solve problems, not the Six Sigma tools or other jargons.


    Tarek Mahmoud

    Hi Raul,
    First, thanks

    I also think your document sounds interesting and useful, I would really appreciate it if you could send me a copy to [email protected]
    It is a cahnce to exchange the ideas and Establish a Teamwok speaking one Languash


    Prasad Uthup

    You can select projects on Truck turn around time reduction, total shipping cost reduction, customer service level enhancement. In connection with Production department u can take up a really nice project on order processing whose effect on business bottom line will be visible.



    Hi Raul
    Please do not get tired of sending out your presentation, there is obviously a huge demand for this kind of ‘Beginners’ info. Would love to see your presentation for non-believers. Would really appreciate if you sent a copy through to me so that we can start recruiting believers in Africa.Send to [email protected] . Many Thanks



    As a Blackbelt you learned many tools and how to apply them. Excel has most of what minitab has and you can purchase add ons to enhance the rest.
    The DMAIC process is the way forward. I would be interested to know where you got your six sigma training as it sounds like you did not get the full package.



                    I have ten plus years in warehousing, drop me a line at [email protected] and we can discuss opportunities for projects.



    I understand your concern. Most of the quality BB when once join an organisation not Six Sigma Literate face similar problem.
    You can do a DMAIC and focus on  reducing Non Value Added  activities through process map analysis which doesnot require minitab or statistical approach and generate quick gains in terms productivity. Get buyin from the Finanace guy too. You company may start believing six sigma.


    Gerry Polesky

    I hope you have been using the SPC tools available to help you.  They are very powerful and informative and will provide you with a great deal of the information that will help you.


    Raul Tamez

    Ok. guys, sorry for the late, have some problems into our server, there is the 6 Sigma for not believer already send it to iSixSigma. [It is now posted to So, you guys there can download this presentation.Again , Sorry for this mishap, hope this presentation help to you a lot.Regards.Raul Tamez

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