Daily Archives: November 13, 2009

Six Tips for Six Sigma Implementation

A recent article on the SSON did a great job of covering the Top Ten Tips for Implementing Six Sigma. Of these, five are absolutely critical to the success of your effort. Even though all ten are important, if you miss any of these five, plus the bonus tip, you can pretty much bank on a project failure.

  • Go Six Sigma, Go Lean All The Way
    Half-way efforts don’t work and, in fact, will only make matters worse. You need to actively engage your entire team in end-to-end value stream mapping, understand what needs to be done, and do it.
  • Don’t Forget The Change Leadership
    Chances are you’ll identify significant changes that need to be made … changes that won’t be easy. Furthermore, such a radical departure from traditional operating practices will almost certainly be accompanied by numerous traumas all along the chain of command if the correct message isn’t communicated consistently and thoroughly. Change will have to be managed top down.
  • Get the Measurement Systems Right
    Metrics are essential to six sigma as you can only improve what get’s measured, but you’ll only improve if you focus on the right easy-to-calculate metrics which drive you towards continuous improvement.
  • Understand the Wider Environment
    Understand how your project will impact the rest of the organization. For example, trying to improve your processes during the busiest production season might not be the greatest idea. While Six Sigma and Lean are always the right things to do, it’s not always the right time to do it.
  • Don’t Expect Training Alone To Solve Everything …
    Your staff need to be well-trained, but you need more than training … you also need an execution framework, an execution plan, and good project management (with great change management and leadership support) to see the project through to completion.
  • … But Don’t Forget the Training!
    Having a well-trained team is a must. Your people have to be up to the challenge.

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Dick Locke on “Training Supply Management Personnel on Quality Assurance Basics”

Well, I’m glad the Doc is publishing his material on cultural differences. I’ve promised a blog entry on international topics every two weeks, but I’ve been suffering from blogger’s block. I’m tired of debating whether China is manipulating currency or not. I’m sure the ‘cultural differences’ series will generate lots of comments. This gives me a chance to write something on a more general topic: training supply management personnel on quality assurance basics.

What brought this to my attention was a discussion over on Strategic Sourcing and Procurement’s discussion board. It struck me how many KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) referred to quality as a KPI. It also struck me that many of them were phrased in terms of “good enough” quality. A few got it. No one should see incoming material with any quality defects as “good enough”. Intermediate standards other than zero defects may be necessary steps on the road to perfection, but they should be improving annually, and the performance measurement should count all defects, not just abnormally high defect levels.

I wonder though, if quality is so important, why there is so little training on the topic in the various training and certification companies. ISM has a two hour course on basics, and a two day course on six-sigma. APICS seems to have nothing. Neither does Nahabit and Associates or Next Level Purchasing. That’s probably why HP resorted to an in house-developed training program when I worked there.

Our director of corporate procurement had his quality engineers write an eight hour training program that he attended with all his senior staff. It had almost no math in it, but relied on drawings and concepts. Lots of us were engineering undergrads and that helped. In my case it almost offset the 6AM start time that my morning-person boss insisted on. I even remember the basic take-aways. Here they are:

  1. You’ll never get better than about 1% defective if you rely on inspection. You need statistical process control to get better than that.
  2. AQL inspection plans have a very high probability (like 90%) that you will accept a lot with the specified defect level. Some entire industries still use AQLs. (Shame on them.) LTPD plans are better if you are using sample inspection.
  3. Never let your supplier use a sampling plan that allows a lot that had a defect in inspection to be shipped without 100% re-screening. (Jargon version: use c=0 plans.)
  4. Know what a control chart is and how to make one.
  5. Insist that your suppliers control chart key processes. That will define their process variation.
  6. Compare your specification limits to the suppliers process variation. If the supplier’s variation isn’t a whole lot less than your specification, you and the supplier are in trouble. The supplier is going to build scrap and some of it will find its way to you. This comparison is called Cp or CPk. Higher numbers are better.

OK, it’s not really that simple. But I wonder why training programs are so scarce? Are the quality wars over and quality won? It did in some countries and some industries but not others. What does your company do about training its procurement professionals?

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