An overview of Six Sigma for business process improvement


Business process improvement

Business process improvement is the analysis of current business processes in order to determine which activities can be improved. It aims to discover inefficiencies, delays, bottleneck, and waste, amongst others, in order to eliminate them through improved processes that are more efficient and deliver greater value to the customer.

Six Sigma definition

Six Sigma is a business process improvement methodology designed to improve processes by decreasing variability and defects. The term Sigma is used to describe the quality of a business process. An organization that is operating at Six Sigma produces 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

Benefits of using Six Sigma

Implementing Six Sigma enables an organization to measure the number of defects in a process and design methods to eliminate them by reducing process variation. Organizations that use the Six Sigma methodology have reduced waste, increased profits, and enhanced shareholder value. Six Sigma is a widely accepted quality concept worldwide, which promotes the continuous improvement of processes, increases customer satisfaction, helps companies to reduce costs, and improve their productivity and quality of project outputs by a reduction in defects.

The DMAIC methodology for Six Sigma

To implement Six Sigma in existing processes, businesses can use a five-step model called DMAIC which is short for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control as outlined below. DMAIC is built around the basic principle of Y=f(x) where Y represents the output and x represents the inputs. Y represents a dependent variable – and is dependent on x – and represents the symptoms or the effect of a problem.

DefineThe problem and the ideal terms of the targets to be achieved are defined.

Measure Relevant data about the process and the problem is collected using appropriate tools.

Analyze The process is analyzed to identify the cause-effect relationship between inputs and outputs.

Improve The solutions for eliminating the root causes are implemented using appropriate tools.

Control – Standards and controls are established to sustain improvements in the long run.

DMAIC Diagram

Source: PhotoSpin

SIPOC model for identifying process elements

The SIPOC model is one of the most important tools in the Six Sigma Define phase of the DMAIC methodology. SIPOC is short for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. The SIPOC model is used by Six Sigma practitioners at a high level for representing a process in terms of a series of steps that convert an input into an output. Suppliers provide the inputs, and the customers are the recipients of the outputs. It is useful to have a clear understanding of the purpose and the scope of a process.

Roles and responsibilities in Six Sigma

During a Six Sigma project, members of an organization are assigned specific roles to play. These include:

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