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Research Methods Module Conference,

2, 9,23 March, 2007, Nottingham Trent University


Sidharath Goel
MSc Engineering Management, School of Computing & Informatics
Nottingham Trent University

Abstract DMAIC methodology which has phases: define,

Since its start more than a decade ago, there has been now an measure, analyse, improve and control. The aim is to do
increased attention, growth and investment of six sigma and what the company already does, but doing it efficiently
design for six sigma (DFSS) in both manufacturing and service
by reducing inconsistency from processes. These
industries. Although initially deployed to improve existing
processes, six sigma principles are also applied to design and
projects are developed from today's perspective and
redesign processes to ensure achievement of high levels of inhibited by assumptions made during development and
quality. In this paper, a realistic view is taken of the six sigma design stages{2}.On the other hand, design for six sigma
framework, with an examination of the basis of six sigma and efforts tend to predict and improve quality before
its long-term potential. The 3.4 PPM, so-called quantitative products and processes are launched by using the IDOV
aspect of Six Sigma, is challenged statistically over process (identify, design, optimise and verify) methodology. It
variability. It is argued that in the dynamic business can also be employed to redesign current processes and
environment of the twenty-first century, a forward-looking products. This approach can be utilised to enhance
organization should aim beyond the six sigma benchmark; thus
process and product effectiveness and not just efficiency
additional requirements are recommended to fortify the
common six sigma approach, leading to an “eight-S’s” and avoid future problems at manufacturing and service
paradigm for sustained excellence in performance. stages{3}. Now what the improvement projects assume
Keywords : Quantative aspect, challenged statistically, process and what the design/redesign approach intends the
variability, quality management ,quality improvement. processes and the products to be are all listed in table1:

1. Introduction DMAIC IDOV

• The design of • resource efficient
Six sigma has been considered as a philosophy that product is • capable of
employs a well-structured continuous improvement basically correct reaching very
methodology to reduce process variability and drive out and the most high yields,
waste within the business processes using statistical economical regardless of
tools and techniques. A continuous improvement • customer needs complexity and
methodology or a design/redesign approach known as are satisfied with volume (more
design for six sigma (DFSS) is used to reduce potential that design than five sigma)
variability from processes and products {1}. Industry • the current • “robust” to
leaders like Raytheon, Motorola, GE and Honeywell product process
(formerly, Allied Signal) have laid out specific examples configuration variability
for process improvement using this framework. Six satisfies the • highly linked to
sigma performance is less than 3.4 defective parts for functional customer
every 1.0 million parts produced. It could also mean requirements of demands.
only one defect for every 250,000 systems transactions the market and
or only one human error or mistake out of every 250,000 customer.
decisions made. “Sigma” is a Greek letter denoting the
standard deviation of a random variable. First-time six
sigma requires the flawless performance of every Table 1: Difference between the approach of DMAIC
process, every system, and every individual. In this and IDOV.
paper, an overview is taken of the six sigma approach as
it is known today, leading to a discussion on how it can
be taken one step further to enhance the competitiveness 3. Six sigma methodology
of an organization.

2. Background to the research Six sigma uses various quality management and
statistical tools to construct a framework for process
Six sigma improvement projects seek to enhance improvement. The objective is to improve the sigma
company's existing processes by continuous incremental level of performance measures that reveal the needs of
improvements working within the company’s the customer. Such measures are generally referred to as
framework. The improvement methodology follows the “critical to quality” or CTQ. CTQ is improved through
DMAIC approach: define, measure, analyse, improve involved in the project:
and control, taken on a project-by-project basis. • Optimistic : the perfect scenario
• Most likely : average situation
The impact of six sigma arises largely from customer • Pessimistic : the worst case scenario
focus as well as measurable improvements of CTQ. The
effectiveness of six sigma is embedded in its well- There are three important parameters which are used in
judged application of statistical techniques for Project Evaluation and Review Technique:
information gathering, analysis and interpretation. An • An expected Time (Te)
operational problem is translated into a statistical • Standard Deviation (SD)
problem by Six Sigma, which makes use of proven
• Variance (¬)
mathematical tools to solve it, and the results are
translated back to practical actions.{4}
Thus in a process where the output y, say the time it
takes to process a customer order for shipment, is
In an organization, Six Sigma is a top-down initiative
desired to be not more than a specification limit of L, the
carried out by a hierarchy of trained personnel
best way to ensure that there is no out-of-specification
designated as managing director, general manager,
performance, i.e. exceedingly long time taken, is to
assistant general manager, manager and so on, each
make sure that there is a sufficient buffer between
designation reflecting a level of competence with respect
process mean and L. To do this, the variation or sigma of
to the extent of DMAIC knowledge and practice. The
y must be reduced. If there can be a gap of six standard
logical sequence and purposeful integration of various
deviations between the optimistic level and the
quality improvement tools can lead to results far
pessimistic level, the process is said to be of “six
exceeding what is possible with isolated use of single
sigma”,thus expressed in mathematical form as:
tools. Six sigma is deployed in terms of projects, each
with clear objectives, time frame and results. With
L = Lower spec Limit (O) – Upper spec Limit (P)
improved processes and products, organizations using
six sigma are expected to bring value to customers thus
6SD = O – P ………………(1)
contributing to their competitive edge.{5}{6}

The occurrence of statistical thinking in six sigma leads

Figure 1 shows the concept of six sigma and illustrates
to decision making based on facts rather than random
that customers are satisfied when a process produces
opinions or preferences. Consequently, as a rule, six
items that are well within specification. As products
sigma brings about improvements based on actual data,
move “out of spec”, customer dissatisfaction increases.
hard techniques, and purposeful changes. It does not rely
Companies that listen to the “voice of the customer” try
on ordinary quality management practices such as
harder to remain within specification: a six sigma
slogans, pep talks, will power, accreditation, audit,
process is much more closely focused around
certification or awards. Six sigma may thus be
minimising the deviation from specification.
characterized by the common “5W+1H”, summarized
And Standard Deviation is inversely proportional to
via six Ss:
certainty, i.e., the less is the standard deviation, the more
is the certainty. The more consistent a manufacturing or
• WHY six sigma? transaction process, the smaller is the value of standard
Satisfaction of customers. deviation or sigma value, and hence the higher the sigma
• WHO does it? level.
Structured top-down hierarchy of trained Therefore, SD is less, then certainty is more
• WHAT is it? From (1), O – P is less, then certainty is more.
Statistical thinking using data to conflict
process variation.
• WHERE is it? Fig 1: The voice of customer
Standardized framework of “DMAIC”.
• HOW is it done?
Software packages for information analysis.
• WHEN is it done?
Constant effort via projects.

Six sigma arises from the need to improve quality. The

main cause of quality problems is variation. To improve
quality, variation must be measured, reduced, and
As per Project Evaluation and Review Technique
(PERT), there are three time estimates which are based
on (1) past experience and (2) advice from those who are
making management decisions, and a significant
Due to external and internal stresses as well as wear and investment in education and training in statistics, root
tear of physical or organizational elements, the cause analysis, and other problem solving
performance of process deteriorates gradually, drifts will methodologies. With TQM, quality was the first priority.
occur over time so that the buffer between process mean The main tools of TQM included the seven tools of
and specification limit L could eventually be reduced to quality: control charts, histograms, check sheets, scatter
as low as 4.5 sigma. With this worst-case scenario, the plots, cause-and-effect diagrams, flowcharts, and Pareto
out-of-specification or defective rate is 3.4 parts per charts; and the seven management tools of quality:
million (ppm) values of y. Thus six sigma level quality is affinity diagrams, interrelationship digraphs, tree
commonly understood to correspond to 3.4 ppm; other diagrams, matrix diagrams, prioritization matrices,
levels of undesirable performance can be process decision program charts, and activity network
correspondingly represented by a sigma figure, e.g.. 233 diagrams {8}.
ppm for a 5 sigma process, 6,210 ppm for a 4 sigma
process, and so on. The sigma level then becomes a The six-sigma metric was developed at Motorola in
means of calibrating process performance. 1987 in response to sub-standard product quality traced
in many cases to decisions made by engineers when
designing component parts. When evaluating whether or
not an acceptable proportion of manufactured
components would be expected to meet tolerances,
design engineers used the “three-sigma” rule. When a
component's tolerances were consistent with a spread of
six standard deviation units of process variation, about
99.7 percent of the components for a centered process
would be expected to conform to tolerances. That is,
only 0.3 percent of parts would be nonconforming to
tolerances, which means about 3,000 non-conforming
parts per million (NCPPM).

At Motorola, as products became more complex,

defective products were becoming more usual while at
the same time customers were demanding higher quality.
For example, a pager or cell phone included hundreds of
components. Each component typically included
numerous important quality characteristics. It was not
uncommon for a product to include thousands of
opportunities for defects (OFDs) in each product sold
{9}. Traditional three-sigma quality for each OFD was
Fig 2 : Conversion between dmpo and sigma level no longer acceptable. For example, consider a product
that contains 1,000 OFDs. If, for each OFD, three-sigma
Level of performance is often mentioned as defective quality levels are achieved, only about 5 percent of the
parts per million pieces, when the above theory is products would be defect free. The calculation used to
applied to physical items, and defects per million obtain this probability requires raising the fraction
opportunities, or dpmo, when applied to non-physical conforming (0.997) to the power of 1,000, and is based
items. This means that the performance of either a on the binomial probability distribution {10}.
physical manufacturing process or a transaction process
can be determined by some sigma level. Figure 2 depicts
the direct conversion between dpmo and sigma level.

4. Overview of Six Sigma

The extraction of Six Sigma can be found from two

primary sources: total quality management (TQM) and
the Six-Sigma statistical metric originating at Motorola
Corporation. Today, Six Sigma is a broad long-term
decision-making business strategy rather than a narrowly
focused quality management program.

From TQM, Six Sigma preserved the concept that

Fig 3: Process average shifting ±1.5 Sigma units
everyone in an organization is responsible for the quality
of goods and services produced by the organization.
Other components of Six Sigma that can be traced to
The formula used to determine the probability of defect-
TQM include the focus on customer satisfaction when
free products provides only an approximate guideline for the standard against which all decisions were made.
two reasons. Since three-sigma is the minimum design
standard, it would be expected that many products would
surpass the three-sigma standard. On the other hand, the 5. Critical Evaluation
0.997 conformance probability assumes a centered
process and it would be expected that many processes Nowadays, every corporation looks at any possible issue
would not be centered every time a component is of cost cutting and wise deployment of barely available
produced funds because of economic collapse and slow down in
Other industries face similar challenges in achieving demand. Everybody might agree or not to compare Six
superior quality. In addition to the consumer electronics Sigma by looking at the other traditional and modern
industry, other products with a large number of OFDs process improvement models but it is worthwhile to
include automobiles, engines, airframes, and computers. focus on Six Sigma with intent,
Many industries where products are less complex also
face similar challenges. Manufacturers of medical
devices and other products where defects in the field
may cause harm must achieve almost perfect quality.
Companies that manufacture less complex products but
sell them in very large volumes also need to be focused
on achieving superior quality.

Table 3: Cross-comparison among quality improvement


rather than an impulse? Some of the improvement

models are Deming's (1982) cycle, total quality
management (TQM) assessment methodologies
including Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award
Assessment (MBNQA) or the European Foundation for
Quality (EFQM) framework and of late, the much
popularized Dorian Shainin's Statistical Engineering
Table 3 suggests the corporate planners or Quality and
Reliability champions in industries to take a look at the
cross-comparison before planning an improvement
At Motorola, when studying the relationship between initiative plan. Although this is precise and does not
component quality and final product quality it was contain the quantitative aspects of gains/losses, but
discovered that, from lot-to-lot, a process tended to shift certainly it throws light what improvement plan to adopt
a maximum of 1.5 sigma units {11}. This concept is and when.
shown graphically in Figure 3 which shows a centered
process and processes shifted 1.5 sigma units in both 6. Conclusion
directions. Table 2 provides the relationship between
component quality and final product quality, assuming To retain existing customers and attract new ones in this
that the full 1.5 sigma shift takes place. In Table 2, rapidly changing world, constantly new products and
Sigma level is the standardized process variation (see services are needed – in other words, an organization
Figure 3), OFD quality is the NCPPM if the process could hardly operate from a monopolistic situation for
shifts a full 1.5 sigma units, and the probabilities in the long. “Winning the competition” takes creativity and
table provide the proportion of final products that will be enterprise, not avoidance of errors. Even when an
free of defects. For example, if the company sets a goal organization is enjoying a clear market advantage,
for final product quality of 99.7 percent and products customization with increased variety and attractiveness
include about 1,000 OFDs, then the 3.4 NCPPM has become important in the global marketplace; what
corresponding to the Six-Sigma metric would became this means is that increasingly, multiple CTQs need to be
recognized, addressed and balanced. Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the
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Fig 4: Extending the usefulness of six sigma


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