Expert Six Sigma Consultants

The fundamental objective of the Six Sigma methodology is the implementation of a measurement-based strategy that focuses on process improvement and variation reduction.  Six Sigma includes data driven tools and techniques to help practitioners to objectively understand and quantify how their processes perform.  Six Sigma is about letting the data tell the true story and leading the practitioner to the “root cause” to solve complex problems that have multiple “factors” with varying degrees of impact on performance.

Six Sigma Methodology (DMAIC, DMADV, DFSS)

Six Sigma is a rigorous problem solving methodology that uses well-defined progression phases of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control, popularly known by the acronym, DMAIC.  Define is problem definition, making sure you are solving the correct problem.  Measure is gathering data that helps explain the problem.  Analyze is reviewing the data to find patterns that lead to the root cause.  Improve is making changes in the process based on the analysis.  Control is achieved by putting process steps in place to ensure improvements are sustained.  For the design and development of new systems or processes, there is a similarly defined progression of phases known as Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Verify (DMADV) or also referred to as Design For Six Sigma (DFSS).

Six Sigma Principles (reduction in variation, root cause analysis)

The Six Sigma methodology was originally implemented in the semiconductor and electronics industry to reduce variation in manufacturing processes.  While the tools have been applied well beyond manufacturing the principles have held, that improvement in quality comes from the reduction in variation of your process.

Master Black Belt, Black Belt, Green Belt, Yellow Belt

The organizations who packaged and marketed the different problem solving and statistical tools also created a smart name for the Six Sigma training they provided.  The associated belts represent tiers of capability that can be achieved.  Master Black belts can teach all of the tools used in the DMAIC process.  Typically Six Sigma consultants are master black belts.  To achieve this level you need to pass the Six Sigma certification requirements of a recognized organization or company, and have taught black belt, green belt and yellow belt classes.  The other “belts” are different tiers of education.  Black belt classes often take 4 weeks of education (16 days) spread out over a few months. People leading projects should be Six Sigma black belts.  Green belt classes are often 6 days of classes. Green belts can support projects, filling in for the Six Sigma black belt as needed.  Yellow belt is an overview training that can be completed in 1 – 2 days.  Lean Six Sigma project team members should have yellow belt training.

Six Sigma Problem Solving Tools

Six Sigma uses a variety of statistical and graphical tools in the DMAIC process.  These include visualization tools such as fishbone (cause & effect) diagrams, scatter plots, bar charts, pareto charts and more.  In addition, rigorous statistical tools are used to make comparisons of data that go beyond intuition.  These tools include hypothesis testing, experimental design and regression.

Lean Six sigma

Six Sigma is often used along with Lean as a holistic process improvement / continuous improvement method and is called Lean Six Sigma.  Lean is comprised of a set of tools for identifying and eliminating non-value-added steps in a process.  Lean tools include value stream mapping, process flow mapping, kanban/flow manufacturing, 5S visual management, quickchangeover and mistake-proofing. Lean is very good at evaluating the Value Stream for speed and efficiency while Six Sigma is good at understanding the root cause of problems within the Value Stream.

By bringing together these two methods, Lean Six Sigma provides practitioners and Six Sigma consultants the best tool to work on different problems and processes.  It could be that there is variation in the process but to sustain the improvements requires 5S.  Or we may be streamlining a process using process flow mapping but we find a low first-pass-yield at a certain step that requires root cause analysis.  Viewing process improvement / continuous improvement holistically, results in more robust and sustainable improvements.

Six Sigma Manufacturing

Six Sigma was initially used to reduce variation and improve quality in manufacturing and often you will hear the term Six Sigma Manufacturing.  Within the manufacturing process each step is analyzed using statistical and graphical tools to understand its process capability and if it can meet customer expectations.  The term Six Sigma stands for a process that can “fit” 6 standard deviations between the average value of the process and customers’ specification limits.  This process would produce only 3 – 4 defects per million opportunity (DPMO).

However, Lean Six Sigma can be used in many industries including financial services (back office order processing), healthcare (health outcomes from procedures) and distribution (order fill rate, mis-ships).  In fact, these industries, with very high transaction volume, can actually be a better fit for the DMAIC process.

Process Improvement and Continuous Improvement

There is often confusion between the similarity and difference of process improvement and continuous improvement, and where Lean Six Sigma consulting fits.  Process improvement is the action of using Lean Six Sigma to make improvements to processes and solve difficult process problems.  (Lean is often called Lean Process Improvement). Continuous improvement is the ongoing journey a company (or individual) will undertake to endlessly make “continuous or incremental” improvements to processes, people and functions in their organization.  If you have heard of Kaizen Events, the word, Kaizen, literally means “change is good” but it’s spirit is to make continuous improvement in your organization.  Lean Six Sigma is one of many methods to support continuous improvement.

Lean Six Sigma Consulting

Supply Velocity has over 20 years of experience as Lean Six Sigma consultants.  We have implemented hundreds of Lean Six Sigma projects and have led thousands of Lean and Six Sigma training workshops.  We have two master black belts on our staff.

Our key differentiator is our focus on implementation with supporting education.  We take our clients through the DMAIC process in a practical way that leads to knowledgeable teams and sustainable results.  In addition, we have implemented Lean Six Sigma in many different industries including service, retail, distribution and manufacturing.  When choosing a Lean Six Sigma consulting firm you should make sure there is a good personality fit and that the firm balances implementation and training in order to help make Lean Six Sigma and continuous improvement become a part of your company’s culture.  We believe the best Lean Six Sigma consultants will want to educate people but also make sure that real improvements are achieved and sustainable.