Manufacturing to Target & Six Sigma:Tools for Our Future 

· Six Sigma is a process-focused methodology designed to improve business performance through improving targeted areas of strategic processes.

Key Concepts 

Six Sigma stem from a few key concepts:

“Critical-to-Quality” Characteristics:Attributes that are most important to the customer

Defect:Failing to deliver what the customer wants

Process Capability:What your process can deliver

Variation:What the customer sees and feels

Stable Operation:Ensuring consistent, predictable processes

Customers Feel the Variance, Not the Mean

Often the business view is based on averages and average-based measures of the recent past.However, customers don’t judge businesses on averages; they feel the variance in each and every transaction.Customers value consistent, predictable business processes and products that deliver world-class levels of quality.Six Sigma focuses first on reducing variation and then on improving process capability.


The Six Sigma Objective: Minimize Variation

Our goal is to minimize variation within all of our critical processes.Quantitatively, this means working towards Six Sigma quality,orfewer than 3.4 defects per million “opportunities.”An opportunity is defined as a chance for non-conformance or not meeting required specifications.Culturally, this means needing to learn how to be nearly flawless in executing key processes because flawless execution is critical to both goals – customer satisfaction and increased productivity.

Examples of key processes include:

Billing a customer

Developing new products
Processing customer orders
Upgrading software
Managing payroll

·Hiring employees


·Paying bills

·Evaluating vendors

·Improving distribution of products

·Managing inventory

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a highly-disciplined, process-focused management approach.It is designed to help an organization consistently meet customer requirements and to drive breakthrough improvements within the organization.

The word, sigma, is a statistical term that measures how far a given process deviates from perfection.The central idea behind Six Sigma is that by identifying the “defects” within a process, it then becomes possible to systematically eliminate them and move the process as close to “zero defects” as possible.

Six Sigma is about driving results: creating, preserving and realizing value.In this way it links customers to shareholders.

Who Helps Make This Happen?


Champions are normally senior managers who are responsible for the various business processes.Champions select and approve projects, provide resources, and facilitate the teams while working on projects.Champions are in a position to defuse any issues that arise among people, priorities, and resources. 

The number of Champions should reflect the number of transactional and manufacturing processes that need to be improved.Champions devote whatever time is needed to make certain their Six Sigma projects are successful.At a minimum the Champions meet with the Black Belts on a weekly/monthly basis to review current project status.

Master Black Belts

Master Black Belts are foremost teachers. They also review and mentor Black Belts. Selection criteria for Master Black Belts are quantitative skills and the ability to teach and mentor. Master Black Belts function full time in this role.

Black Belts

Black Belts are the process/project subject matter experts.They lead the teams that are responsible for using the Six Sigma methodology to improve business processes that influence customer satisfaction and/or productivity growth.Being a Black Belt is a full time job.

Green Belts

Green Belts are individuals trained in the Six Sigma methodology and tools.They are team members in Black Belt projects, and they also use the techniques to achieve improvements within their current work assignments.They support the goals of the project, typically in the context of their existing responsibilities.They are expected to use Six Sigma tools as part of their normal jobs.Green Belts, in the long run, are those who shift the culture.


How Does Six Sigma Work?

Once a project is identified and the critical-to-quality characteristics (CTQCs) are defined, the Six Sigma process begins.Master Black Belts initially train and mentor Black Belts through the four-phase Six Sigma approach:Define/Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.


Identify and rank the process’s key input variables (KIV’s) and the key output variables (KOV’s).Review and validate the measurement systems used in the process.Establish the baseline performance for the process. The end of this phase occurs when the Black Belt can successfully measure the defects generated by the current process and establish the baseline capability of the process.


The objective of this phase is to begin to understand why defects are generated.Statistical tools are used to analyze historical data to identify KIV’s that influence the KOV’s.The output of this phase is the identification of those variables that are most likely to drive process variation the most.


During the improve phase the cause-–and-effect relationship between KIV’s and KOV’s is established.This phase ends with the establishment of KIV targets and maximum acceptable ranges (tolerance).


During the control phase, process control plans are developed which define the targets and control limits for the critical KIV’s.Operators are trained on statistical process control charting and out of control action plans for the process.The objective of this phase is to ensure the KIV’s stay on target and within the maximum acceptable ranges.

Each of the four phases of Define/Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control takes one month for a Black Belt’s first project.Each phase starts with one week of training, followed by three weeks of “doing,” and one day of formal review by the Master Black Belt and Champion.After a Black Belt completes his or her first training project, the Black Belt can work on more than one project at a time under the review of a Master Black Belt.Both Master Black Belts and Black Belts should expect to be full time in their roles for at least two years.