Manufacturing Basics and Best Practices Bulletin
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Six Sigma Simplified
me start by saying that Six Sigma is not an overly sophisticated and
unrealistic method of measuring data variation. It is also not a
continuous improvement methodology for only banks, insurance
companies and widget manufacturers.
if that’s what it’s not, then what is it?
First, it is a statistical measure of the performance of a process or a product.
it is a goal that reaches near perfection for performance
and most important, it is a continuous improvement methodology
designed to achieve “top-to-bottom” commitment to world-class
Sigma as a Statistical Measure
stands for standard deviation. It is a statistical way to describe
how much variation exists in a set of data, a group of items, or a
process. If you deliver only about 68% of your shipments to your
customers on time, your process is at only a “2 sigma” level. If
you deliver 93 percent of your shipments on time, which sounds good,
you are operating at only a “3 sigma” level of performance. If
you get 99.4 percent of them to your customer on time, you’re
operating at “4 sigma.”
be a Six Sigma on time supplier, you would have to have a delivery
record of 99.9997 percent on time. That’s practically perfect! In
fact, for every million of shipments you make, you’d end up with
only three or four late deliveries.
enough to turn almost every manufacturing team off. If we’re
struggling to make our goal of 97% on time deliveries, and that’s
only 3.4 sigma, there is no way in hell that we’re going to get
anywhere near 6-sigma … ever!
my early years in manufacturing, I thought that Six Sigma was a
program for only banks, drug companies and doughnut factories …
not for manufacturers producing a product; let alone make-to-order
products. Today, things have changed and Six Sigma has become a
continuous improvement methodology employed by many small to medium
size manufacturing companies.
Sigma as a Goal
goal of Six Sigma is to help people and processes aim high in
aspiring to deliver defect-free products and services. The notion of
zero defects is not at work here; Six Sigma recognizes that
there’s always some potential for defects, even in the best-run
processes or best-built products.
goal of Six Sigma is especially ambitious when you consider that
prior to the start of a Six Sigma effort, many processes in many
businesses operate at 1. 2, 3 sigma levels. This means that from
66,000 to as many as 700,000 mistakes per million opportunities are
being produced! Indeed, it’s often a shock for people to see how
poorly their processes and products perform.
taking up the Six Sigma banner, a business is saying, in effect:
“We’d like to get as many of our customer-related activities and
products performing as close to Six Sigma as we can.” Because 3.4
defects per million is such a challenging goal, the more immediate
objective may be to get from, say, 2 to 3 sigma. But that’s not
shabby either: It would mean reducing defects from more than 300,000
per million to fewer that 70,000.
customers happy is good and profitable for the business. A 5 percent
increase in customer retention has been shown to increase profits
more that 25 percent. It is estimated that companies lose 15 percent
to 20 percent of revenues each year to ineffective, inefficient
processes---although some might suggest that it’s even higher. Six
Sigma provides a goal that applies to both product and service
activities and that sets attainable, short term goals while striving
for long-range business objectives.
Sigma as a System of Management
significant difference between Six Sigma and other continuous
improvement programs is the degree to which management plays a key
role in regularly monitoring program results and accomplishments.
a management system, though, Six Sigma is not owned by senior
leaders (although their role is critical) or driven by middle
management (Although their participation is key). The ideas,
solutions, process discoveries, and improvements that arise from Six
Sigma take place at the front lines of the organization. Six Sigma
companies are striving to put more responsibility into the hands of
the people who work directly with customers.
short, Six Sigma is a system that combines both strong leadership
and grassroots energy and involvement. In addition, the benefits of
Six Sigma are not just financial. People at all levels of a Six
Sigma company find that better understanding of customers, a clearer
process, meaningful measures, and powerful improvement tools make
their work more effective, less chaotic, and often more rewarding.
my experience, I found that like most other change initiatives the
success level was always related to how well a company built the
foundation for its change initiative success. Their foundation for
successful implementation had the mastering of relevant business
basics as its core strength. Six Sigma is no different.
amazing how many companies have great visions yet fail to achieve
their full growth and earnings potential. They're a lot like the
Green Bay Packer's football team before the arrival of Vince
Lombardi ... all the potential in the world but with little focus on
executing the basics of their profession.
for Six Sigma Success
any Six Sigma initiative to be successful, the following three
challenges must be conquered:
Companies need to identify which Six Sigma basics that are
requisites for increasing speed, improving quality, and boosting
Teams need to master these basics to provide a solid foundation for
the successful implementation of Six Sigma?
Someone needs to champion a “top-to-bottom,” company commitment
to the flawless execution of the Six Sigma Basics? A commitment that
will provide the launching pad for individual, team and company
achievements beyond all expectations.
SPECIAL OFFER FOR MBBP BULLETIN SUBSCRIBERS
you and your company are interested in learning about Six Sigma; or
if your seeking ways to optimize your Six Sigma results... a good
approach would be to consider our training package, Six Sigma
Simplified, including the e-tutorial "The 8-Basics of Lean Six
this week only, MBBP Subscribers can purchase their training package
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for future review.)
a detailed review of this tutorial, go to:
DON'T PROCRASTINATE... DO
If you need front office support and/or "go-ahead" approval, I suggest that you provide them with a copy of this week's MBBP Bulletin and ask them for comments and suggestions. Most upper management leaders will be glad you did.
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