Six Sigma Project Selection – Ideas based on issues

Previously i have mentioned some obvious areas which can be looked into where you are likely to pick some projects. Here are some more ideas which will guide you towards your continual improvement journey and six sigma project selection.
To build the culture of excellence through continual improvement, you need to start at some point and show some results. One good project completed will get push from the management to believe that continual improvement must be the strategy to grow. It can be used to scale up and bring in more value to the stake holders. If the strategy includes involvement of people, this will spread like a wild-fire across the organization. Here are some ideas based on issues currently faced by the people in the organization. As a mentor, i would suggest to start one of these ideas for six sigma project selection to prove the results in short-term and get the buy in from the stake holders.

Efficiency/Capacity Issues
Processes producing less than expected
Processes requiring overtime not requested by a customer
Processes requiring cycle times in excess of expectations
Processes with computer/machine downtime
Processes requiring expedited shipping and associated costs due to delayed output production
Any process that has added labor to make the required cycle
Too much of waiting between hand offs
Call drops or disconnects during customer calls.
Low customer Satisfaction

Understanding Process Variation
How much variation is there in your incoming materials and/or process parameters and how does this affect your output?
Where do you need the input controlled to always have a good output?
Can you scientifically adjust your process to compensate for changing material, weather, etc.?
Can your Black Belt help your supplier do a project to control the incoming product where you need it?
Does understanding your inputs allow you to produce a good part using less material?
Time taken for each call by various employees
Time taken for invoicability of the resources.

This list can go on. Essentially the power of Six Sigma is really great and can be applied across all issues to be solved. However, there is no point in making a project when you have obvious solutions visible. If you have obvious visible solutions they shall be implemented before taking up a six sigma project.

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Originally posted 2013-02-24 08:27:00.

Identification of Six Sigma Projects – Idea Generation

We had some guidance on the six Sigma Projects. Now let us focus on identification of Six Sigma Projects.
Six Sigma is accomplished one project at a time. Identification of Six Sigma Projects shall aim at breakthrough Improvements and not simple goals. The billion of dollars saved by companies around the world is the cumulative effect of properly selecting and defining business issues that can be assigned to Green Belts and Black Belts for solution.  Six Sigma projects are a key action that you can take to reach your organization’s strategic goals.

I have gathered some of the ideas for the Six Sigma Projects from Various Sources. Some of these are obvious and can be applied across any organization after careful evaluation. You can study them, based on your current status these can be implemented formally as projects. the prioritization shall be specific to the organization. The best approach would be pick the idea, do a brainstorming and finally come to a conclusion on the priorities. The prioritization can be done based on the current status, Quickness in results, availability of data, and so on. One of the Main criteria shall be the priorities of the Top Management who must commit the resources and give support for the project to be a success.

General Ideas for Six Sigma Projects.

  1. Customer Satisfaction improvement.
  2. Reduce the Scrap or rejections
  3. Reduce the down time of resources (Machinery) or to increase uptime.
  4. Reduce the Rework
  5. Increase the output
  6. Increase throughput (output from multiple processes, locations, departments) or Reduce bottlenecks
  7. Reduce Quality Defects from the output
  8. Reduce customer complaints.
  9. Increase the process Velocity ( lean)
  10. Any item reworked in a process (sales contracts, invoices, surgeries, software, etc.)
  11. Reduce the Process Variation (Sales, Purchase, Recruitment  Etc)
  12. Reduce Variation of input consumption (product)
  13. Reduce the time taken for Inspection
  14. Reduce the multiple hand-offs
  15. Findings from the Internal, External, Customer and Regulatory Audits
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Originally posted 2013-02-23 19:15:00.

Project Identification guidelines

We may have to decide on weather we need to approach the problem at hand using Six Sigma Methodologies. Here are some hints Which are generally accepted project identification guidelines which can really fit into  Six Sigma.
Any project should have identifiable process inputs and outputs.
A good six sigma project should never have a pre-determined solution.  If you already know the answer, then just go fix it!
For projects that have operator or operator training as an input, focus on ways to reduce operator variation, thereby making your process more robust to different or untrained operators.
All projects need to be approached from the perspective of understanding the variation in process inputs, controlling them, and eliminating the defects. 

If you are using the Secondary data validate the data first. If you are not confident of the authenticity or integrity of the data, it is better to recollect the data.
You should have enough data to start with. If you do not have data or it takes too long to collect the data look for alternates. About 30-40 data points minimum in a month is ideal. 
The team should be committed to the improvement project.
Sponsor should see the measurable benefits to have the support.
If geographical separation within the team is there, then finding a workable solution before start of the project. In fact many projects fail due to this constraint. 

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Originally posted 2013-02-22 20:31:00.

What is Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a Lean tool, to visualize the various steps and their contribution to the overall process.
When a product or service has been perceived or appraised to fulfill a need or desire–as defined by the customer–the product or service may be said to have value or worth. Components of value may include quality, utility, functionality, capacity, aesthetics, timeliness or availability, price, etc.
Value Stream

All the activities (both value-added and non-value added) required within an organization to deliver a specific service; “everything that goes into” creating and delivering the “value” to the end-customer.
Process Map
A visual representation of the sequential flow of a process. Used as a tool in problem solving, this technique makes opportunities for improvement.
Value Stream Mapping A graphical representation of all tasks and activities needed to transform input materials and information into an output. 
Value Stream Analysis – The identification of all the specific activities occurring along the value stream, represented pictorially in a value stream map; see waste, unevenness, and overburden, size the opportunity, share a vision, communicate visually, permission to change, predict results
Non Value Added (NVA) – 
Those process steps in a Value Stream that take time, resources or space, but do not transform or shape the product or service to meet the needs of the customer 
Value Added Activity – An activity can qualify to be value adding, if the customer cares, perceptable change and first time right.
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Originally posted 2012-08-26 08:06:00.

Industry Specific international Standards

There are many industry specific international standards other than ISO 9000 family. ISO 9000 family is the most widely used Quality Management System across the world. This is not specific to any Industry or Group of Industries. The requirements specified in ISO 9001 are generic and can be applied to a grocery shop to a Large OEM. However, some of the Industries have felt the need for inclusion of specific Requirements based on the industry conditions. These are further included in the ISO family of standards with a distinct identification. Generally these are built upon ISO 9001 Quality Management System, with additional requirements. Whenever the ISO 9001 Standard changes, these industry specific standards are also changed.
I have put together the list of standards which are applicable for different industries. Although there is a huge list, we have added few things which are adopted by major industries.
Standard Industry Standard Prepared by and controlled by
ISO 9001:2008 General ISO
ISO/TS16949:2009 Automotive International Automotive Task Force (IATF)
ISO/IEC 17025 Laboratory ISO
ISO/AS 9100 Rev C Aerospace IAQG
ISO 22000 : 2012 Food Industry ISO
ISO/TS 29001:2010 Petroleum, petrochemical and natural gas industries ISO

In addition to these there are many other international standards which are industry specific, which are not listed above. However, these are not so popular as the ones listed above.

The OEMs in these industries insist that the suppliers be certified to or at least complaint to the industry specific standards. This will help reduce the pressure on these companies for supplier inspections rigor. This will also help the suppliers to reduce the number of audits faced. This way the cost of audit on both the supplier and the OEM are reduced.

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Originally posted 2012-09-27 04:49:00.

What is Rapid Improvement Event (RIE)

Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) is a 4-5 day process utilizing a team based methodology to apply the lean tools for seeing waste and making immediate improvement. The focus in a Rapid Improvement event is to work on the set up time or the Changeover time.
Set-up Time
Work required to change over a machine or process from one item or operation to the next item or operation; can be divided into two types:
1. Internal: set-up work that can be done only when the machine is not actively engaged in production OR
2. External: set-up work that can be done concurrently with the machine or process performing production duties
Changeover Time
As used in manufacturing, the time from when the last “good” piece comes off of a machine until the first “good” piece of the next product is made on that machine. Includes warm up, first piece inspection and adjustments. 
The set up time and change over time are two of the biggest challenges to maintain a continuous flow of the work. this is one of lean tools effectively used by General Electric (GE)
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Originally posted 2012-08-26 07:50:00.

De-bottlenecking process and improving throughput

De-bottlenecking is  one of the very good lean tools focus on reducing cycle time and improving throughput. One of the important toll used is to study the bottlenecks in the system and improving throughput. A systemic approach is taken in studying, analyzing and acting on the bottlencks. A similar approach is taken in the theory of constraints also.

Bottleneck- Definition

The place in the value stream that negatively affects throughput; as a resource capacity limitation, a bottleneck will not allow a system to meet the demand of the customer.


De-bottlenecking essentially involves studying the bottleneck in the system and Improving the throughput rate of the process by working on optimizing the utilization of the bottleneck. 

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Originally posted 2012-08-26 07:33:00.