The House of High Quality Articles for Everyone in the World

Jun 29, 2011

How to plan for quality?

The first step in a quality improvement programme is planning which in itself also consists of five major steps which are discussed below.

1) Product or service selection. The first step in planning for quality is to identify and select the product or service that needs improvement. This topic has been exhaustively discussed in an earlier article.

2) Output definition. Output is a product or service that you produce regularly and pass on to another person or department that uses it. Activities we do which are not passed on are results not output. It must be something you do yourself not what you supervise or delegate to others to do. It is essential not only to know our output but more importantly to know our customers and their requirements.

3) Identify the customer-supplier chain. In quality management, a customer can be both internal and external. the user of you output is your customer who may modify your output before passing it on to another person or department for further modification on and on like that until the final product or service ends up in the hand of the end user.

4) Negotiate the customer requirements. In order for a product to be usable and beneficial to your customer, there may be specific requirements which make the output useful to them. Some of these requirements may be obvious or stated, some may be unstated while others may be unrealistic. Knowledge of these requirements is essential and clearly important before you can negotiate them. Except a product satisfies their requirements the product will not provide customer satisfaction.

Apart from this, knowledge of customer objective is also crucial so that the product or service can be made to fit that objective (custom made). Developing a quality product requires understanding the overall purpose of our customer's need for the product by answering questions such as (a) how will it be used? (b) who will be using it? (c) what will be the ultimate use and who will be the end user?

Next all the requirements should be discussed in a specific and measurable way. Areas of discussion will include quantity (how many), time (date, time, frequency), costs (budget, allowed expenses), size (dimensions), efficiency (to what degree). It is important to be objective in negotiation, ensure you separate the person from the product or service, focus on interests not positions, establish precise goals not generalities and work together to create options that satisfy all.

5) Translate customer requirements into supplier specifications. Supplier specifications describe the precise technical directions for production. This is stated in terms meaningful to the output producer. The fact that it is based on customer requirements will reduce errors and ensure a higher chance of doing it right the first time. T Bar is a useful method for displaying customer requirements and supplier specifications. The translation of customer requirements into supplier specifications is the job of the supplier. Unreasonable customer requirements must be negotiated with the customer and supplier to ensure quality output.

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Jun 25, 2011

Integrate Six sigma in Marketing and Sales

Many marketing and sales managers may be unfamiliar with Six Sigma and why it is important in marketing and sales.

Since most sales and marketing work processes also follow some very basic rules, it would not be difficult to implement Six Sigma and derive the associated benefits.

However, before we discuss these, let us first list some of the main challenges associated with sales and marketing.

Sales and Marketing Problems
The basic concept underlining sales and marketing stresses influencing customers in such a way that it would motivate them to opt for the offered products or services. Doing things that might force customers to reject the offer is fairly easy, but when it comes to getting the desired response from customers, it becomes difficult to define what exactly needs to be done.

This is obviously because customer buying behavior is quite complex and more importantly what works for a customer does not necessary work the same for others.

Given below are some of the most common sales and marketing issues that need to be resolved in order to get the right response from customers.

•How to predict customer buying tendencies
•How to attract new customers
•How to retain existing customers
•How to create more value than that offered by the nearest competitor
•How to augment the brand image and corporate identity
•How to set the most appropriate price for goods and services
•How to increase the perceived value offered by an existing product or service
•How to create the desired market for a new product or service offering
•How much to invest in sales and marketing so as to make it cost-effective
How Does Six Sigma Help?
All the above stated problems do seem quite complex, but even then Six Sigma easily overcomes most of them. It manages to do so because it concentrates on eliminating the root cause rather than just suggest alternatives, something that often creates more problems.

In the first phase of Six Sigma implementations, input, feedback and suggestions are sourced from both existing and potential customers, creating a valuable database of customer tastes and preferences.

After this, the available information is sorted out, analyzed and categorized in order to make some definitive conclusions and to identify some new possibilities, if present. The former is then used for making the necessary changes in existing products or services whereas the latter is used for designing and developing completely new products and services from scratch.

Results derived therein are quite satisfactory most of the time, because in each case, customer tastes and preferences are properly accounted for.

When this is done, it makes it much easier for the sales and marketing department to motivate customers in the desired manner. Products and services that are designed according to customer tastes and preferences prove to be a success a majority of the time, and this is why Six Sigma focuses on this vital aspect.

It is no wonder, then, that Six Sigma has proved so very successful for most businesses that have implemented it to get the desired results from their sales and marketing initiatives.

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Jun 6, 2011

Risk management

While kaizen projects are typically short duration rapid improvement activities more and more businesses are embarking on significant process improvement projects where traditional project management methodologies can be a key contributor towards success.

Typical Kaizen projects usually rely on hands-on employee support and involvement with the teams developing and implementing their own solutions often over a short time scale. These environments, targeted at small scale, rapid improvements are not always overly concerned with traditional project management methodologies rather more with the results (through utilizing techniques such as DMAIC, Poke Yoke or other).

However for larger scale business improvement projects more traditional project practices including risk management have greater relevance.

Why risk management

Risk management is the task of identifying threats that could impact the outcome of your project and developing mitigation tasks that reduce the like hood or lessen the impact.

Typical risks can affect

• Project deliverable (the improvement)
• Project quality
• Project schedule
• Project cost

Does risk really apply to improvement projects?

Yes! Risk really does apply to most projects for example if you look at some common risks you can apply these to many projects.

■Insufficient resources
■Budget fails to be enough to deliver project
■Unable to deliver to the project timescales
While these example risks may seem a tad generic they do illustrate the prevalence of risk.

The nuts and bolts of managing risk

So risks everywhere but how should you manage the issue? For improvement specialists the risk management process can be a bit alien. A lot depends on the likely impact. For example through implementing a Poke Yoke on an assembly line that may take a day or two to implement you may consider the risk of failure as minimal (and would lead to minimal impact) would you carry out a full risk management process, creating a risk log and consulting stakeholders – probably unlikely. However should you as the improvement lead consider risk as part of your activity – absolutely.

In larger scale business change projects risk management should absolutely not be taken for granted and the usual tools, risk management plan, risk log and stakeholder consultation can be used to varying degree.

I guess the key consideration is the extent of what could go wrong. In many businesses the lines of business improvement and project management often become blurred and with those running improvement activities often being seen more as project managers than mere lean practitioners. Without a doubt project management methodologies can sometimes become over bureaucratic however they can also undoubtedly be effective and have their place in the business improvement toolkit.

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Jun 4, 2011

What is Six Sigma Deployment ?

In the implementation of Six Sigma, an effective infrastructure lays the foundation for success. An effective infrastructure for your Six Sigma or Lean Flow change initiative in an organization requires a clear strategy and comprehensive planning.

Strategizing and Planning
The planning stage of a Six Sigma deployment is where you can gain valuable traction. A critical factor in a successful deployment is the selection and chartering of the project that link to the strategy of their organization. Project should be selected with an understanding of what areas within the business are struggling to meet performance goals in the standard areas of cost, capacity and customer service. A deployment meeting can be called to create a prioritized project list. Once the projects are selected, project leaders are identified and readied for training. The leadership team identifies process characteristics that have the most impact on quality–separating the “vital few” from the “trivial many.” With these characteristics identified the team can create a map of the process to be improved with defined and measurable, deliverables, and goals that will guide the project deployment.

Once an organization initiates a Six Sigma program, it is very important for the organization to effectively deploy information about its target goals to employees. Involvement of top management and alignment of company leadership are critical. With the chief executive’s decision to proceed, a corporate-level deployment champion that reports directly to the chief executive should be identified. A set of policies, guidelines and rules must be developed with involvement of the deployment champion, one or more steering committees, and selected corporate departments such as finance, human resources, quality, communications and others.

Determining the current performance levels and setting goals for improvement are accomplished through an On-Site Assessment coupled with a Value Stream Assessment. The On-Site Assessment provides insight to the current directions of the business and the business metrics employed. The Value Stream Assessment provides detailed metric data for the processes within the business for use in aligning resources with projects.

Establishing and executing Six Sigma training plans are also critical. Some organizations try to cut costs by training only some members of the project team. This may seem penny-wise but ends up being pound-foolish. Implementation of significant return on investment can be realized from an orchestrated deployment over a grass-roots effort. If your organization is considering sending more than ten people through Green or Black Belt training, it is recommended that you consider a customized On-Site Deployment to maximize your return on training investment.

Project Mentoring
Organizations might insist on saving money by using Black Belts who are part-time.
However, successful completion of projects is increased when the Black Belt project leader can focus full-time on the project. It is important to get the right people involved doing the right things and the Black Belt should be available to assist everyone involved in the project. An organization will realize a much larger return on investment with dedicated resources. The Black Belt must also be a mentor to everyone on the team and develop a mentoring process. During the project, the Black Belt should continually Structure the team and its actions to best utilize the disparity in knowledge and techniques of the team members and increase project member morale. Chances of success is also improved when the Black Belt has a technical resource to review the project for use of the methods and for progress towards the desired goal. Mentoring can be accomplished through various means but should be conducted for no less than 2 hours per project per month.

An Ongoing Process
The implementation of Six Sigma must impact how people think and perform their day-to-day work. Continuous improvement processes, such as Six Sigma, means including people, gaining their involvement, and then supporting what they are trying to accomplish. Six Sigma asks for input on improvement solutions from all employees because it recognizes the value of creative solutions to problems from any and all sources. For real and lasting process improvement, that is how it should be. Thus, Six Sigma deployment is not a on-time thing; it is an ongoing activity.

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Jun 2, 2011

Working Through a Lean Transformation.

Although a lean transformation is good for business, employees, and the economy, going through the process can be an emotional roller coaster for any organization. Embarking on a lean transformation often means a lot of change taking place throughout a company and this may be a very difficult time for everybody during the initial implementation phase. However, over the long term, these changes will bring positive benefits to everyone in the organization. It can be a very tough time, especially for the business owner and/or management team who are involved in the day to day decisions as their organization is going through a transformation.

During a lean transformation, it's important for an improvement team to delve into and investigate the business systems and how they are performing. In doing this, they will determine how to improve the business processes, but it's important to realize that these activities will have a direct impact on employees and their work environment. In a business that has been under the same management team for many years, it's not unusual to find that their most valuable resource, which is their employees, are not being utilized in the most effective manner. During further investigations, the improvement team will find there are some employees that have only one job function or a job function that may be unnecessary as a consequence of the transformation. How does a management team deal with this situation?

The management team and their employees must collaborate and work together to deal with these issues during a lean transformation. It will all depend on whether the employees are capable of being cross-trained to do multiple job functions (providing that it is economically sound to do this), which is the best and the most effective practice. However, there may be some employees who cannot be integrated into the improved processes, and it may get to the point where a decision has to be taken to let some employee(s) go.

Although for most management teams this is always a difficult and deeply emotional decision which is often perceived to be an injustice by other employees, it's very important to get them to understand the broader impact of this strategy. It is always better for any business and its employees when a management team makes these types of difficult decisions early in the transformation. If employees see that people are receiving a pink slip during a lean transformation, this will give them a negative perception of lean, and it can be difficult to continue to get their buy-in. It is important to communicate to employees, so they understand that it was a business decision to reduce the workforce, not a lean decision.

For this very reason, a management team must step back and get a complete view the whole business and not just focus on the individual functions or employees. It's a good business decision to hire a lean consultant who can create and develop a lean transformation plan and then help to implement it. In doing this it reduces the stress and the learning curve for everyone as they work through the lean transformation, and it keeps emotions out of the equation. Lean business practices are still a good idea for everyone to consider in this day and age!

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