Tag Archives: Sigma

Six Sigma And Healthcare

Six Sigma methodologies aim at improving overall quality by eliminating defects and achieving near perfection by restricting the number of possible defects to less than 3.4 defects per million. Six Sigma methodologies were originally developed for implementation in the manufacturing sector but with time their use has spread to the services sector as well. In the services sector, Six Sigma concepts are used mainly for eliminating transactional errors.

Today, the concepts and methodologies of 6-Sigma are increasingly being used in the healthcare industry for improving the quality of services rendered, increasing efficiency, and eliminating human errors that can often prove fatal. However, the use of 6-Sigma in the healthcare industry is a relatively new phenomenon as compared to other service industries that have undergone some type of data-supported, systematic, quality-improvement process. With medical and technological advancements, the demand and expectations for improved medical care are continuously increasing. However, due to lack of effective management systems, inefficiency is increasing, which often leads to congested emergency rooms, customer complaints, and lost revenues.


Six Sigma concepts and methods enable a healthcare organization to offer improved healthcare services to patients by streamlining business processes. In the healthcare industry, the quality of services rendered depends a lot on human skills, which is often very difficult to measure and control. 6-Sigma is effective as it is based on a comprehensive approach that focuses on improving both human as well as transactional aspects of a process. Although implementing Six Sigma concepts in the healthcare industry is a challenging task, it does help in getting quick results.

In the healthcare industry, the factors that determine the quality and efficiency are usually the flow of information and interaction between people. Six Sigma helps in streamlining the flow of information and achieving strategic business results by initiating cultural shifts all throughout the organization. 6-Sigma focuses on improving processes rather than just concentrating on the task, which helps in increasing the scope of improvements. It provides the necessary tools and methodologies that help in analyzing and transforming human performance, necessary for achieving significant long-term improvements.


Six Sigma helps in defining a vision for the future, identifying specific goals, and establishing quantitative measures for turning that vision into reality. It helps in formulating goal plans and setting timelines for moving from current performance levels to Six Sigma performance levels. The plans are defined only after documenting their effects on the organization’s work processes’ that may include flow of information, surgical site procedures, handling patients, and others.

The basic requirements for successfully implementing Six Sigma programs are usually long-term vision, commitment, leadership, management, and training. It is important to provide the requisite training to doctors, nurses, and the administrative staff for making them aware about the various concepts and methodologies. The training may initially appear to be expensive, but is often worth the cost when one considers the benefits such as improved quality of services and increased efficiency. It is necessary for employees working in a healthcare organization to develop an understanding about the various Six Sigma concepts. This will help them in integrating new techniques into the Six Sigma processes for improving quality and effectiveness.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution’s Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

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Lean And Creative Six Sigma To Solve Real-Life Issues

There are times when Six Sigma proves an excellent methodology for the elimination of defects. Sometimes defects are understood from VOC or VOS. These may be relevant from the point of view of the business, but there may be some defects that may not be noticed.

For example, if there are delays within a process, then by speeding up the process, the defect may be eliminated. However, this may be at the cost of quality if it is not given consideration. Here is where Lean can be useful by using the seven wastes theory. Additionally, defects will be reduced when the problem is solved.

The Six Sigma DMAIC method relies on the analysis of the problem and may not be able to provide solutions to real life problems. Thus, if you combine the two, Lean and Six Sigma you may have good solutions to rely on.

Lean Tools in Six Sigma Projects

Defects based on Lean wastes are rejects, movement, inventory, over processing, over production, transportation and waiting for the next step. In addition, it provides 5S, value stream mapping and error proofing, which in conjunction with Six Sigma can help sort out real life issues easily.

Let us take the example of the assembly of printed wiring board components (PWB). The process of assembling these components is a very complicated one and faces the critical problem of failure at the final product test.

The assembly, being complicated, is prone to defects and errors that could have caused further delays in shipping and rework. The Lean Six Sigma team in this case should focus on understanding the PWB components assembly area. If this is done, they will find three areas of errors, Manual insertion, automated insertion as well as semi-automated insertion.

Kitting errors, wherein all components are not provided as a common kit, can be identified. Other errors may also occur, such as layout of the manual insertion workstation and positioning the axial lead parts on the automatic insertion machine. The problems can be prioritized and further action taken.

The Lean way to problem solving can help overcome this situation so that improvements can be realized for a longer period. To achieve great results, Lean methodologies and Six Sigma phases can be combined.

By considering and implementing brainstorming sessions and the seven wastes in the Define phase of DMAIC, teams find it easier to define the problem area and develop creative solutions to the problem. In the Measure phase, teams can use Lean tools such as value-added to non-value added ratios, CT over Takt time and so on – and collect and measure the data related to the problem area.

In the Analyze phase, value stream mapping and the reframing matrix can be effectively used to look at the problem from different view points and prioritize those which need immediate attention.

In the Improve phase, the usage of 5S and other tools like the visual factory concept can help in sorting out problem areas and finding a different approach, if other approaches have been rejected. In the Control phase, error proofing is extremely useful to put controls in place to avoid errors in the first place.

Lean and Six Sigma provide creative solutions to solving real-life issues by precisely pointing out the errors and providing different ways to eliminate them. The data- driven approach of Six Sigma and the Lean way can work wonders for businesses.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution’s Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

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Cutting Costs With Six Sigma

Problems Faced By Companies On The Cost Front

On the cost front, most industries such as the manufacturing industry, service industry, health care industry and even the educational industry are all experiencing a great amount of pressure. As an example, hospitals are facing ever-decreasing compensation from insurance companies, which is a serious concern to many. Hospitals also experience the pressure of high labor costs and low productivity. This decline in revenue has come about due to the increase in costs and the ever-increasing competition. 6 Sigma has always been construed as a quality improvement tool, and quality has always been linked with high costs and expenditures. However, the efforts by the black belts and the master black belts to help save on costs have helped companies view Six Sigma favorably.

6 Sigma And It’s Contribution Towards Cost Cutting

Six Sigma was never intended to be used as a cost cutting tool; nevertheless it has made great contributions towards that end. The methodology of 6 Sigma employs unique ways to help cut costs in all aspects of business. Firstly, Six Sigma contributes towards customer servicing. The opinions of the customer alone help define the quality of the products and services provided by any business. By figuring out the customer’s needs; 6 Sigma can help by cutting down on any wastage like over-utilization and under-utilization of capacity. Six Sigma also helps stabilize process variation, which helps save on material conversion. Not only does this result in an increase and improvement in productivity and quality, but it also results in the reduced cost of rejection and re-working.

The reduction in Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) is massive considering the overall tremendous savings coming from practically no rejections. This has come about due to the graduation from three or four sigma to 6 Sigma. For example, in the case of a hospital, after utilizing the Six Sigma methods in it’s cardiology department, the hospital can cut down the average process time that is necessary for admission. This produces a dual-advantage. The first one being that the reduction of almost 45 minutes of the process time will lead to a decrease in labor costs. Secondly, the hospital department can now accommodate a larger number of patients because of the increase in the productivity.

The doctrines of total customer satisfaction and returns on investment are the main areas of focus. The 6 Sigma team helps generate innovative and creative ideas that are aimed at controlling costs. The team then helps employ risk management schemes and devises that lead to the early detection of various risk factors. An increase in yield from project portfolios will lead to an increase in resources resolving matters of risk.

The Biggest Challenge Faced By Six Sigma

The biggest challenge faced by 6 Sigma is from the outsourcing or off shoring of business processes. The developing third world countries have a lower cost structure and are attracting the large corporations offering them a chance to increase their overall return on investment. This is a process that is being engaged by medium and small-sized businesses, as the larger corporations have experienced significant success using outsourcing.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution’s Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

Six Sigma In The Insurance Industry

6 Sigma concepts and philosophies were originally developed for improving the overall quality of business processes in the manufacturing sector. Companies like Motorola and GE were among the first few that successfully introduced Six Sigma concepts in their business processes. However, with the development of newer tools and techniques, 6 Sigma is now deemed appropriate for the services sector as well. The usability of Six Sigma in the services sector is easily evident from the increasing number of finance and insurance companies that are opting for 6 Sigma.

Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the quality of services being offered to them, making it essential for the services industry to implement quality improvement techniques like Six Sigma for conforming to customer expectations. This is especially true for the insurance industry where the relationship between the insurer and the insured is still largely governed by sustained personal contact. By implementing 6 Sigma programs, insurance companies have been able to offer quality services at affordable rates to their customers.

Identifies Key Business Processes

Unlike other quality management practices such as Total Quality Management (TQM) whose effectiveness is difficult to measure, Six Sigma based improvement programs make use of statistical tools, which can measure the effect of changes being made in a very short time. 6 Sigma focuses on process orientation, enabling organizations to identify key business processes that are necessary for improving customer satisfaction. This helps managers in understanding the exact requirements of their customers and in altering business processes to suit customer needs and expectation.

Follows A Disciplined Approach

Six Sigma has helped insurance companies in improving quality as well as reducing costs of services offered. It has enabled insurance companies to follow a disciplined approach, which has helped in preventing errors, minimizing hand-offs, and eliminating rework and workarounds. It has also helped in increasing the speed of business processes used in the insurance industry.

Helps In Making Informed Decisions

6 Sigma has enabled managers in taking informed decisions based on statistical data. With the use of Six Sigma tools and techniques, managers no longer have to rely on their perceptions or gut feelings for rendering the level of services promised to policyholders, clients, and prospects.

Helps In Building Customer Loyalty

6 Sigma emphasizes on understanding the needs of the customers before making any changes to business processes. This helps insurance companies in building customer loyalty among their policyholders, which is necessary for the long-term success of any business organization. Insurance companies can also hope to increase their market share, as satisfied customers are most likely to recommend a company that offers quality services while advising a friend, relative or business associate.
Helps In Reducing Costs

Six Sigma tools and techniques aim at streamlining business processes in such a way that helps in reducing costs. This helps insurance companies to improve their savings and avoid drastic cost-saving measures such as downsizing, which can have a negative effect on employee morale. It can also create doubts in the mind of policyholders and prospects as downsizing usually attracts a lot of negative publicity.

6 Sigma has helped the insurance industry in bridging the gap between planned strategies and actual operations by providing analytical and in-process performance measurement tools. These tools are used for comparing planned goals and objectives with actual outcomes and for finding the reasons as to why a particular business process is not giving the desired results. Once the exact problem has been pinpointed, managers can make the necessary changes that will help in improving overall quality of services rendered to policyholders and prospects.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution’s Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

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Short Cuts To Six Sigma Success

Six Sigma is usually associated with the complete overhaul of existing business processes, to reduce shortcomings and improve the quality of goods and services. Due to this belief, many companies with insufficient resources often avoid implementing the 6 Sigma concepts and methodologies in their business processes. These companies are often unaware that the Six Sigma concepts and methodologies can also be implemented with innovative shortcuts. These shortcuts are known to have the same affect on the quality as the standard 6 Sigma implementation processes.

Avoid Time Consuming And Costly Implementation Processes

The standard Six Sigma implementation techniques involve expenses on the technique applied for assimilation of customer input. This is done with the intention of designing new products and processes, for the benefit of the clients. The basic problem is that it is a tedious task to quantify customer input, which is often as vague as ‘more stylish’, ‘less expensive’ or ‘better than X brand’.

A company that does not have the adequate resources to quantifying such vague requirements can simply skip this step and move on. There is not much to lose, since it is an established fact that most customers look for quality, affordability and style. It is often a waste of valuable resources when companies spend large amounts of money on understanding these common requirements of customers, over a period of time.

Avoid Standards And Generalizations

In large organizations, the top executives spend a lot of time on the implementation of the Six Sigma projects. However, in small and medium sized companies, the top executives are often too busy to look into the Six Sigma programs. 6 Sigma projects can be successfully implemented even without the support of the top executives. It is a general misconception that Six Sigma programs can only be executed when everyone, from executive to clerk, is involved in the project.

Opt For The Most Cost Effective Six Sigma Training

Although it is necessary to provide training to employees involved in the 6 Sigma implementation project, companies often go overboard by following the set standards of 160 to 240 hours of Black Belt training. Conscientious employees do not require such extensive training, as they are already aware of the quality expectations of them. Companies can save time and reduce training costs by opting for training programs that concentrate more on the techniques that are new and haven’t been addressed before.

The most cost-effective way is to opt for the online training programs. They are not only less expensive but also enable employees to access the information and learn in their free time. In this way, companies can ensure that the productive time of employees is not wasted on Six Sigma training.

Use Innovation And Creativity Wherever Possible

Although Six Sigma methodologies make use of the latest statistical tools and techniques, most of the basic quality improvement concepts and philosophies are based on motivation. Instead of using the set standards, companies can devise their own innovative methods and techniques that could help in achieving the same results. In this way, companies can easily tap into the benefits associated with Six Sigma programs in a shorter time span.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution’s Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.