Guest Post: How To Start a Six Sigma Case Study

Guest Post: How To Start a Six Sigma Case Study

Most people start a Six Sigma case study thinking they already know the answer to the problem! What needs to happen for a successful Six Sigma case study is understanding the true definition of DMAIC and not focusing on the “I” for Improve. The Process Improvement Roadmap for DMAIC is as follows:

  • Define: Initiating the Project, Defining the Process, and Determining Key Customer Requirements
  • Measure: Understanding the Process, Evaluating Risks on Process Inputs, Developing and Evaluating Measurement Systems, and Measuring Current Process Performance
  • Analyze: Analyzing the Data to Prioritize Key Input Variables, Indentifying Waste (waste of overproduction, waste of waiting, waste of transport, waste of over-processing, waste of inventory, waste of movement, and waste of defect and rework)
  • Improve: Verifying Critical Inputs Using Planned Experiments, Designing Improvements, and Piloting New Processes
  • Control: Finalizing the Control Systems and Verifying Long Term Capability

First and foremost, it is important to begin with understanding the Purpose, Importance, Focus, Deliverables, Measures, and Resources. A project charter Defines the scope of the project and maps out the project team. Having a team based on knowledge and expertise of the process that includes cross functional members is one of the most important aspects. A process map should always be done at the beginning. This will help determine key inputs and outputs and is a good place to review suppliers and customers to see where different variations could be coming from. Understanding what the customer wants and needs plays a key role here. It is important to know that the customer is not always the end customer, and could be as simple as operators on the production lines.

The next step after defining key inputs and outputs based on the team’s goals is to Measure current process performance. Developing the proper measurement systems will help the team to understand the process and measure where opportunities exist. Understanding the cause and effects of the key inputs to the outputs of the processes help prioritize initiatives. The best next step at this point in time is a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). This will identify risk factors and help formulate process controls. This is a key place to establish action items, assign key dates, and hold employees accountable. Other key areas in the measure phase are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Do they exist? Do they need to be updated? Are they being followed? Do the operators need to be re-trained?

Understanding and Analyzing the data measured now plays a key role. It also needs to be noted that the analyze phase may lead the team to returning to the measure phase by gathering more data. Defining and Analyzing the 5 M’s at this point in time will lead to understanding the 7 Wastes in the process.

Machine Machine

Method Method

Materials Materials

Man Man

Measurement Measurement

5 M's Lead to 7 W's:

7 W's 7 W's

Improving processes can take place after the data gathering and analysis is complete. Determining where the “Biggest Bang for Your Buck” is should play a vital role in the improvements to be implemented, keeping in mind severity is the most important factor. Severity of effects could be concerned with safety and other risk failures. Occurrence or the frequency with which a given cause occurs and creates failure modes also should be considered when making improvements. Finally, detection or the ability of current controls to be detected or prevented should be noted. Poka Yoke, also called mistake proofing, is a simple method to prevent defects from occurring in business processes. Poka Yokes are simply strategies used to detect or prevent defects from happening. The goal of Improve is to make process/product/equipment changes in order to solve the problems defined, measured, and analyzed. Referring back to goals and objectives stated in the project charter should be done at this point.

Finally, Controlling the Improvements made is essential to sustaining a Six Sigma project for successful results. Verifying long term capability is important so that “the old way” of doing things does not happen after improvements are made. A control plan needs to contain the following information: Process Improvements, Process Steps, Inputs, Outputs, Process Specifications, Ppk Data, Measurement Techniques, Percent R and R’s or Product Tolerances, Sample Sizes, Sample Frequencies for continuous testing, Control Methods, and Reaction Plans with personnel held accountable and key completion dates.

Improvements are great, but the process behind doing an actual six sigma case study make the improvements everlasting!

Written by Guest Blogger Tina Kovach, Continuous Improvement Manager at Dawn Food Products

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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