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Suppliers are Root Cause of Processing Problems

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  • #28282

    Frustrated 6 Sigma Target
    Participant

    A “Six Sigma” team at our customer insists that 90% of their problems are caused by their supplier — us. They’ve been attacking the problem for six months and have examined our process and raw materials without reaching a verifiable conclusion. All supplier processes and materials are within the specifications and process investigation has not revealed any changes — where do we look next?? It’s my belief or at least suspicion that the customer Six Sigma team is approaching the investigation with a subjective outlook at the direction of their management — how can I verify ?? With each discussion we’re told it has to be in our process yet they will not look at their process even when they admit significant changes — Six Sigma is not the tool it’s advertised as in my opinion.

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    #70207

    Your Customer
    Member

    Can you verify your processes through capability studies and process analysis?  Do you routinely gather feedback and requirements from your customers to make sure you’re in the loop?  Is your process currently mapped, and do you currently track metrics that are representative of your process?  Or better yet…is your organization deploying Six Sigma?
    Does your customer have revealing data about the inadequacy of your processes and has he/she showed the data to you? 
    If you cannot answer these questions, then you may want to look into them further before accusing their management team of being subjective.
    By the way, if you’re not a big believer in the Six Sigma business approach, how did you find out about this site?
    Your Customer

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    #70212

    trigger
    Member

    You say that all your suuply materials are up to scratch and in spec?  How good is your own measurment system?  How good is your customers measurement system?
     
    Go and take a good look at the way you analyse your products.  Do Gauge Rand R work and then say that your meeting customer specs.  If not, rectify the gauges, then sort out the variation in your process that will be clearly identified with your new found accurate measuring system.
     
    Enjoy the success

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    #70214

    Mikel
    Member

    He probably had a dumb customer like you that speaks in generalities and recommended general info sites like this as solutions.What an arrogant response and name you have given yourself. Obviously you (the customer) has not defined the problem very well or we would not be six months into work without a result. You give Six Sigma a bad name with responses like this.

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    #70215

    Mikel
    Member

    Dear Frustrated,Go find out what this work is costing your company and then get good help (obviously not from this customer).I will come solve this problem for you for 20% of the cost plus 20% of any savings I can bring to you bottom line. Problems like this are easy if you have competent help.

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    #70219

    Ken K.
    Participant

    It seems that there is not a clear understanding of the root cause for your customer’s defects.
    You need to try to form a JOINT team with your customer to understand the customer defect data, determine the root cause of the defect, and then use that information to identify exactly where the focus of your investigation should, well, focus.
    If your product is within spec leaving your factory, but the thing your customer is building is not within spec, it would seem they must know where the problem starts.
    Another possibility is that the tolerances speced by the customer are not sufficient – that is, your stuff may be in spec, but that might not be good enough for your customer. They may need to pay you, the supplier, more to produce “better” stuff, or simply find another source of “better” stuff (not that you did anything wrong – you sold them what they asked for). If your customer is truly a Six Sigma customer, then they should be able to provide at least some help in improving your stuff – if that is what is needed.
    At this point it sounds like they (your customer) needs consulting help more than you do – they clearly can’t figure out what is wrong with their process.

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    #70221

    Frustrated 6 Sigma Target
    Participant

    Thanks for the replies. 
    Our customer product is a vinyl cut out with an adhesive film attached to the back by us. Our customer molds this part to a vinyl skin and then to a plastic substrate. The parts have been working fine up until six months ago. We have tried many retains from the start of the program and have discovered that even they are failing. Our customer refuses to acknowledge this phenomena as an indicator of possibly their process having changed. We and our subcontractors (adhesive & vinyl) have been investigatigating our processes for the past six months without discovery. Cp and measurement system included. Our customer has sent their experts to review all the sub processes and haven’t discovered any causes. But their Six Sgma personnel insist that they will discover a supplier fault because “they’ve been trained that suppliers create 90% of all the problems in any process”.
    I am a beliver in the advacnced problem solving methodologie in cluding Six Sigma, I’m just baffled as how to respond to this statement. If you can offer any help it would be greatly appreciated.

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    #70228

    Kevin Alderson
    Participant

    One interesting fact, is that they have ‘quoted ‘ 90% is your problem, this is very significant statement from them . Therefore they must have significant data, the six sigma tools are ok but interpretation can be difficult in wrong hands.!

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    #70233

    Eoin Barry
    Participant

    Hi –  If your customers black belts are worth their salt they should be able to demonstrate to you the size and direction of  the impact that your components is having on their finished products key characterisitc.
    A sweeping statement on their behalf that 90% of the defects are caused by the suppliers goes against one of the tenants of Six Sigma – act on fact, (numbers not just gut feel).
    If they do supply numerical data to demonstarte this then I or I’m sure any of the decent people who contibute to this site will help you analyse it for free.
    One final point – the customer is not always right, but they are always the customer…
    Best  of luck! Eoin 
     

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    #70234

    kony
    Participant

    Dear SUPPLIERLook in your data (in your process) and find what changed six months ago. If nothing (I mean really nothing!) then go to your suppliers and look there. If also nothing then go to your customer and ask them! Be courious and stubborn – MAKE THEM explain the process which was six moths ago and now.Are there some products made by your company which are good for you customer? If so, compare them with those which are not o.k. Find the differences.And last, be careful with tolerances given by customer – usually customer don’t know what he wants!Success.

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    #70235

    Jim George
    Participant

    The problem isn’t Six-sigma, but lack of using it right.  The WHOLE process (involving 2 companies) needs to be properly evaluated.  The team doesn’t seem to be doing that.  Maybe they cannot (due to management bias or stupidity).  I suggest an independent review by a good outside consultant, even if your company has to pay for it.

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    #70239

    Phil Harmer
    Participant

    Six sigma is an eceptionally good tool when used correctly. Just like many other tools used to establish problem areas or improve current processes, they are all benificial providing that they are used correctly. It seems to me that you are on the recieving end of an asumption of the cause of the problem with your customers. If your customer has established the cause of the problem is you the supplier, then they should be able to statistically show you how they came to their conclusion.  
    Perhaps it may be an idea for you to suggest to your customer that they visit your establishment and discuss ‘ best practice’ options on how you can help each other. At this time you could suggest that they run through how they established that you were to blame for their current problem. Like you say, they could be under pressure from their Manager to get a result with their project. If that is the case then getting together might help them to achieve this.
     

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    #70241

    Jaran S.
    Participant

    Let the data speak where the problem is.
    This case I do not have enough data to conclude where the problem is.
    Any are possible such as :
    1. The root cause of the problem may be difficult to find. Somtimes it take time to find, even more than years.
    2. Problem solving skill of the Six Sigma team may not good.
    3. Team work may not good.
    4. Problems may not at your process.
    5. Six Sigma may be not good enough for this project. To solve the problem, long term R&D project or more tools may required. 
    6. etc. or combination of these
    For you, I suggest you study Six Sigma until you really know what the strength and weakness of Six Sigma. I promise you will not waste your time.
    Jaran S.

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    #70242

    Gator
    Participant

    The customer didn’t say they had data showing the supplier was responsible for 90% of their problem. They said their BB’s had been told during training that suppliers were responsible for 90% of problems. Kinda seems like they might be applying an unfounded generality / biased personal opinion to a specific case.

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    #70245

    Paul Hader
    Participant

    It is a little difficult to respond to your posting since you haven’t presented any data to support your statements. If we assume what you say is correct, that your products are meeting specifications and there is hard data to support this, then you do need to start to look elsewhere for the “problem”. The Six Sigma approach is based on factual information. If your customer has factual information that product arriving at their business doesn’t meet specification adn you have hard factual data that your product is leaving within specification then maybe the problem is in the way the product is shipped.
    If your customer can’t produce factual data to support their claim that your product isn’t reliable then they aren’t following Six Sigma principles and are probably being motivated by some other factor.

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    #70247

    Mikel
    Member

    Dear CUSTOMER,Look in your data (in your process) and find what changed six months ago. If nothing (I mean really nothing!) then go work with your suppliers. If also nothing then go to your customer and ask them! Be courious and stubborn – help them understand the process which was six moths ago and now.And last, be careful about the tolerances given by you – usually you don’t know what you want and give tolerances that don’t reflect your needs!Success.

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    #70248

    Mikel
    Member

    1. The root cause of the problem may be difficult to find. Somtimes it take time to find, even more than years.NONSENSE, I could resolve this issue in two months. Any “unsolvable” problem is a problem of measurement — go look there.2. Problem solving skill of the Six Sigma team may not good.Nothing like stating the obvious.3. Team work may not good. Nothing like stating the obvious.4. Problems may not at your process.But then again they might be — where is your data is the only appropriate question for all involved.5. Six Sigma may be not good enough for this project. To solve the problem, long term R&D project or more tools may required. NONSENSE – Jaran you seem like a smart guy – where is your data is make such a statement? I doubt you have it.

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    #70249

    Mikel
    Member

    Paul,I don’t know where you learned Six Sigma, but I know of nothing in Six Sigma that says meeting spec is good enough. Is it +/- 3 or +/-6?

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    #70254

    Paul Hader
    Participant

    Stan,Meeting specification means meeting specification 100% of the time! This means you also have data to demonstrate you meet specification 100% of the time. On a more realistic or practical basis the customer and supplier have to agree on the level of sigma necessary to achieve the desired level of performance. If you truly need 6 sigma performance and you aren’t at that level then you need to start analysis and identify where you can improve.

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    #70260

    Marz
    Participant

    There seems to be a great deal of emotion surrounding this issue (including in some of the responses here).  As someone else already said, Six Sigma is about working with facts and data — it is NOT about assigning blame. 
    First, recognize that Quality is dependent upon ability to meet customer needs (CTQs).  So, in what way does your customer see that you are failing them?  Failing to meet specification?  Or, failing to function in use?  Any Black Belt worth his salt can easily answer this question, with supporting data. 
    This basic information is needed for project definition.  The former may be addressed through improvement of the measurement processes (gages – yours & theirs, correlations).  The latter would require looking more closely at THEIR process (as the BB should have done).  Ultimately, they (perhaps with your help) must determine the correct specifications.  Then, the negotiations begin as to whether/how much your specifications should be changed or their process (or both).
    You already started down the latter path when you indicated that their process does not work with retains.  From what part(s) of your specification are these retains?  What data is there to support that the process ever worked well with your material?  If it did, then you have benchmarking data — and perhaps clues.
    If your relationship with this customer is good, and the methodology followed, then this problem can be solved (to both your benefit).  With continued use of generalizations, a satisfactory solution is unlikely.

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    #70267

    J. Gross
    Participant

    No where in your discussion is the results of data collection mentioned.  If you believe that your customer is using 6 sigma techniques to make you a scapegoat, then you need to refute their claims with data.
    Use the techniques in the measurement phase to determine what variation is occuring in your process and to determine if the defect they are concern with shows up in your completed product.
    Six sigma works if you follow the discipline.  Good Luck!
     

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    #70296

    Swaggerty
    Participant

    I agree with the posting by “kony” (11/29).  Look for what changed six months ago.  This is often the best starting point.
    If your customer is investigating your processes and your subcontractor’s processes, allow them to practice the Six Sigma they have been trained.  Ask to be informed of their report-out schedule and be present at their report-outs or at least have access to their findings and report-out materials.  Use Six Sigma to check and double-check their work for rigorous adherence to their methodology.  Work with them every step of the way on their investigation.  Ask them to teach you their methodology and then hold them to it.
    Do not jump to a conclusion or a solution.  Implementation of an incorrect solution may have no impact or a negative impact on process performance.
    As for the ‘90%’ issue, look past this.  I have been in a similar situation except that it was the supplier pinning 80% of the cause of a problem on the customer (me) before even fully defining the problem – and the supplier has a well-regarded and well-known Six Sigma program!  This unfortunate generalization from a small minority within a large respectable organization temporarily divided a problem-solving team and hindered progress.  Although we (supplier and customer) eventually implemented successful solutions, we (the customer) would have been better off to have not reacted to the comment and to have simply focused on the problem and the Six Sigma methods.
    I also agree with Eoin’s (11/29) statement, “…the customer is not always right, but they are always the customer…”  Keep this in mind when working with them on their investigation.
    Good luck, and please keep us posted on your progress.
     

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