Quality is everything
Your reputation, customer satisfaction, the value of your products, expansion opportunities and your attractiveness as an employer all depend on the quality of your product.
But let’s take a step back from the end product.
To get to a consistently high-quality product, you need to look at each part of the value chain in detail. By constantly seeking optimisations and process improvements while simultaneously eliminating defects and inefficiencies, manufacturers can achieve sustainable growth without compromising quality.
How is it done? With a combination of Quality Assurance, Lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma tools.
Think of Quality Assurance, often written QA, as your “must-have” resources and requirements to create a satisfactory product. Not to be confused with quality control (the mechanism used to eliminate defects), QA is the higher-order process you design to prevent mistakes.
Lean manufacturing principles focus on eliminating waste and adding value. As the name suggests, Lean is lean – meaning manufacturers are always looking for non-value-adding activities where there’s fat to trim or inefficiencies to optimise.
These techniques are all about reducing defects – that is, suboptimal products that fail to meet expectations. Six Sigma (6σ) aims to eliminate defects by detecting process variations.
Combining QA, Lean and Six Sigma
Did you catch the subtle differences in the definitions above?
Each philosophy is unique – and they dovetail nicely together.
Rephrasing the definitions another way might help to clarify why these are symbiotic approaches to improve quality in manufacturing:
- Quality Assurance is the process of identifying defects
- Six Sigma tools and techniques stamp out variability throughout the process
- Lean is the constant pursuit of efficiency, generally by removing wastages like movement time or idle machinery
We’ve discussed Lean manufacturing principles in earlier blogs. So let’s dive deeper into Six Sigma processes that complement Lean principles.
Six Sigma methodologies for Aussie manufacturers
Whereas Lean is the set of guiding principles for process improvement, Six Sigma refers to the methods that result in fewer variations and better products.
The name refers to the statistical quality control principle that targets long-term defect levels below 3.4 defects per million opportunities (dpmo).
It’s a complicated set of equations (which you can read on Wikipedia), but the vital thing to remember is the 3.4dpmo figure. “Opportunities” refers to individual defect opportunities, i.e. multiple types of defects or multiple defects of the same type.
Getting to 3.4dpmo – achieving “Six Sigma quality” – requires manufacturers to follow 1 of 2 methods, DMAIC or DMADV:
- Define your goals and the particulars of the problem/opportunity
- Measure the various aspects of your current process in detail
- Analyse your data to dig up the root of the defect
- Improve the process by overhauling or optimising it
- Control the process to ensure the fault is truly eliminated
- Define your goals
- Measure the most important process and product capability components
- Analyse your data to design more efficient processes, then choose the best one
- Design the process and test it
- Verify the results, perhaps with a pilot program, then hand it over to the team
Does Six Sigma work?
The short answer is yes. In the Australian manufacturing industry, leading-edge companies of all sizes use Six Sigma in combination with Lean principles and QA processes to address production challenges and ultimately yield greater ROI.
Jobman, an ERP designed for SME manufacturers, is a crucial component in this success. With Jobman, you have all the data and analysis capability you need at your fingertips.
Data is a vital step in DMAIC and DMADV. If you’re not getting the information you need at the speed you need it, get in touch to find out how Jobman can help.