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December 10, 2010

Quality Initiatives

Reading about six sigma, Lean, TQM and the other initiatives is confusing to a certain degree. While it is supposed to be reading about different things, the reader ends up reading about nearly the same thing in different ways. They are all aim at improvement, customer satisfaction and quality. 

However, I have not read about lean using statistics yet. But does that matter? There is no rule in any of the 'initiatives' that does not allow using tools especially if these tools help in achieving its main goals.

Reading in the literature might be a bit different from reality. I don't think that companies will go for a methodology and just read in the book and apply. The idea will be, just use what brings profit. And at the end of the day every company will have its own  mix of many tools and ideas that literature has not finished thinking bout a new name for them. I think it is difficult to find names because quality initiatives are making lots of babies in the market.



December 08, 2010

Toyoda's Lean

Lean is considered one of the most popular and successful models to follow in terms of waste reduction and optimizing profit in manufacturing. Looking carefully at how Toyota 'created' Lean can be innovative. When Eiji Toyoda visited the largest factory in the world at that time, Ford, he used his critical analysis rather than an engineer who had come to learn from Ford. Actually what he did was pointing out many of Ford's problems in terms of process efficiency. By doing this, Toyota's process jumped many years ahead by developing Ford's processes. 

I would imagine what would have happened if Ford noticed Toyoda's ideas and remarks and developed lean? we would have got a different car market shares by now.


December 06, 2010

Quality

Nowadays almost all the companies/ organisations that seek excellence are facing the fact that quality is the the main road to excellence. However, interpretation to the meaning of quality varies in the literature. Lots of definitions can be found, each approaches quality differently. Some focus on the quality of the product and some go in more detail into achieving quality in all aspects of the organisation such as finance and use of time. 

The interesting question is: Who put the quality criteria? is it the management? or is it by benchmarking with competitors? the  answer that can lead to sustainable result is: The customer. The costumer is the final judge for the products and the one who will decide what to buy.

Focusing on customers might only lead to more focus on the product without taking other areas such as employees satisfaction into consideration. It might not, however, if the management is wise enough  to recognise the connection between employees satisfaction and the quality of the product and image of the business in the eyes of its costumers.




December 01, 2010

Six sigma, Slow Process?

Although of its effectiveness, development of processes using six sigma can be time consuming. It approaches the processes by isolating the problems and handle each at a time (cycle). Moreover, it does not handle the causes of the problem as a group. only by going through cycles  usually these causes can be revealed and their degree of contribution to the problem is defined. Therefore, achieving a target of 6 sigma can take a quite long period of time.

In such competitive environment some can assume that the advantage for who starts earlier. Stages can not be overstepped hence a business has to go in sequence through the cycles. However, the argument will be about how good the process is designed in the first time and how much improvement it requires.

It would be interesting to look for opportunities to develop six sigma to become more time efficient. In the meanwhile it proves to be one of the best available depending on the results of the companies that have applied it.


November 30, 2010

Six sigma or management's fault?

Although any system can have areas to be improved, six sigma seems to have lots of fans who always blame the surrounding environment for any failure. Those fans say that any failure or shortage in achieving results when applying six sigma is due to many factors some of them are listed below:

1- Leadership: the leadership is responsible for monitoring and creating the enviroment that ensures a successful implementation of six sigma. With a "weak" leadership the chance that the development process will fail is high.

2- The lack of support among the different departments in an organisation (finance, production, and others) can lead to failure of the project. 

3- Low level of communication between the management and the low level of six sigma employees. Poor communication can lead to delays and misunderstanding which in turn leads to failure.

4- Bad project selection: sometimes the selected project is not tied enough to the organisation's goals and objectives. This will lead to a difficulty in understanding the way that this project should be approached. 

Despite all the above seems reasonable, I think six sigma in modern terminology is wider than a tool that can be used. It includes guidance for choosing the project and anticipating the problems within teams. It also suggests solutions to try to prevent these issues. the above issues seem to be a problem in the application not in the six sigma itself. However, six sigma tools might need to be developed more to maintain a higher level of success.




November 23, 2010

Importance of Cp

It was nice today to see practically how the sigma level might not meet the customer requirements even if it is high. Having two different results for two sets of data with the same sigma level was benificial. This brought the importance of Cp and Cpk up to the surface.

A data that presents a relatively high sigma level close to 2.1 can assume a very good functioning of the business. However, knowing that the Cp for the same data is 0.25 that the capability of the business is not good because it does not meet the customer requirements/ the tolerance limits. The variation of the data might not be that big but it is just in the wrong place. 

Practicing theories helps to understand them and make their application make sense.




November 18, 2010

Goals and Six Sigma

Some researchers debate that usually setting targets for product development leads to achieving these goals without any stimulation for people's thinking specifically who are working on these products. They argue also that Six sigma can alter the way that employees see the potential of their organisation. Setting such a high target (3.4 DPMO) can stimulate employees thinking and alter the way they look to the process, the product, and the organisation in general. It will change their perception to how much change is possible.

It is interesting to study whether applying six sigma can influence an organisation's goals, or studying and planning goals can influence applying six sigma.


November 17, 2010

Measurement

Being a process by itself, measurement has a special importance not only in six sigma but where ever it is used. It is really interesting how deep we can go in details regarding measurements. For example, for measuring the temperature of a device things such as: brand of thermometer used, how old the thermometer is, the person who measures, the ambient temperature, the method in which the temperature was taken, and many others must be taken into consideration. Consider that for many samples taken in different times.

Because of its big affect on decision making, the management must be sure that the measurement is done under its supervision. Or at least it is presented by a trusted person. However, that raises a fair question, can two experienced people from the management team get two different measurements? Yes guaranteed. Because in most causes measurement depends on human senses in deciding many things.

Measurement is a process that needs a process to develop. Even using automatic measurements and computers creates some problems sometimes. for example, over controlling the process usually leads to more variation than normal.


November 15, 2010

Stratification

Far from psychology and people, I find Scatter Diagrams very interesting. The ability to search the data in more and more details is really useful. 

I always tended to think that there is a problem and there a cause for this problem. It was interesting to have 3levels: issue caused by a problem that in turn cause by a cause. Therefore, finding the problem does not always mean that you have found the cause.

Sometimes many fake causes might appear as they are responsible for the problem. Through Scatter diagrams the relationship between factors and causes can be deeply analysed. Action is always against the factors that has a positive relationship with the problem. Testing all the factors against each other is refered to as stratisification. Data is stratisfied by using scatter diagrams to test the relationship between each two of them. 


November 12, 2010

Culture is Important

Initiating change or improvement, be it using Six sigma, EFQm, or any other approach usually faces resistance. Changing somebody's habit might be one of the most difficult things to be done. It was really interesting today, during the presentations session, to have this discussion when Graeme metioned how tough it might be to tell somebody that their performance is bad.

For any approach to an organisation, I think, a culture change is very necessary. It might have to be done as a first step in the development process. This culture is the fertilizer in the soil that the change seed will be planted in. Without such culture, any approach will be very expensive and hard to implement  if not impossible in some cases.



November 11, 2010

Continuous Six Sigma

According to the Level I have learned in Six Sigma so far, I would imagine six sigma practices like a hurricane shape. It starts with principles practice and expand practicing the same principles with time; particularly, the "Do Plan Study Act" process. It starts with studying the process and defines the variation and improves a little bit. Then in an improved stage, you do more of the process study and then more of the improvement and so on.


November 10, 2010

Expanding Control Limits

Going through the idea of resetting the control limits to include some of the special causes is an interesting one. However, practically, how can that be done? Is it by just ignoring the special causes that appear in the chart? Or is it by changing the subgroups (the data collected) to include the special causes?

I think whenever a mangers faces special causes and try to collect data again it will result a new control charts that will cause the quality to fall. By doing this the limits will expand and reducing quality fall.


November 09, 2010

When Do We Collect Data?

One of the basic steps to create charts is to collect data from the process through taking samples (voice of the process). These data will be presented in two charts; one represents the average and the other represents the range. Next to that calculations are done to define the control limits so we can judge the process. 

Sometimes collecting the data in two different days might result two different results. That brings a question to mind: How long are these charts valid for? Is it up to the manager to decide? or they are only done when a fault is suspected? 


November 08, 2010

Interrelated Models

It is interesting how all dimensions of excellence in business are interrelated. All excellence models aim at improvement and continuous learning. 

Six Sigma comes to provide the same essence and to serve the same aim. Its process includes a continuous learning while improving a process. On the other hand, applying Deming’s Plan-do-check-act cycle, a part of continuous learning is actually undertaken even though it is aimed at a particular process or project within an organisation. 

I think that it is important for better understanding to search for which of the models contains the other. Moreover, it is useful to identify what is a tool and what is a concept, Learning organisation and Six Sigma for example.


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