All 2 entries tagged Sigma

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January 10, 2011

The Big and not so red Button

Once more an incalculable amount of time has passed between my blog entries. (Well, not exactly incalculable, if you've spotted the date of my last entry). The reason? Work, work and more work. Removing time consumed by the return of swine flu to my household, and time to recover from term 1 exhaustion halved my holiday time, so all remaining time was allocated to either paid work or assignments, leaving little time for internet activities such as blogging.

But enough about how time is such a hard thing to come by and onto the min topic of my blog. My recently submitted PMA. Its seems that every time a PMA is finished, the joy of pushing that big and not so red button is immense. Not only does it signify that the completion of hours and hours of effort, but it is also a button that makes you reflect about everything you've learnt throughout the module and PMA work as you quickly think over everything you just submitted wondering wht else you could have done.

For me, my lasted submission was that of my Six Sigma project. My chosen quastion: Improving the design of a paper air plane. Up till now, I have never once though how much thought and effort could be put into something so simple as making paper airplanes. From the early stages of designing my taguchi experiment to undertake, to making the planes and analysing the results, every step of the way made me think about what I'm doing, why, and how. Why choose an angled wing? why change the wing size? why include noise factors? How should I test them? How do I ensure accuracy? How do I interpret the results? What do the signal response tables show? There was so much to consider at every stage, I never would have guessed that so much could be learnt from n exercise so simple at a first glance.

After pressing that Big submit button I realised that I had learnt more than I expected during this PMA, and that practical approach of this topic meant not only was I able to learn about six sigma tools, but actually putting some of them into use made me understand them. Never have I ever spent so much time on paper air planes, and never hve I ever expected to learn so much from them.

November 17, 2010

Welcoming the World of Six Sigma

Well, I have to admit that my entries of late have been sparse. Infact, sparse is most probably an understatement. There is a very good reason for this though. Long days of study mixed with the occasional even longer day of necessary paid work has left me with little time for blogging. This has, however, given me time to gather my thoughts about the past few days.

We have recently started our module of PIUSS, or Process Improvement using Six Sigma for my few readers who aren't familiar with MBE acronyms.

The question we started with is "what is six sigma?". Our introduction to the topic, compounded with some excellent elearning exercises run by PMI (Project Management Institute) answered this for us. While at thge beginning, the idea of six sigma as a tool for improvement seemed quite vague, our understanding developed through the excercises and we quickly became aware that rather than a set method of process improvement, six sigma provided a toolbox (a rather large one at that) from which a variety of tool could be used within a structured systematic approach to improving a process that is suited to the organisation. In terms of six sigma, improvement is encapsulated by the ideas of reducing variation within a process and thus stabilising the process, and reducing costs of the process. The elearning excercises put all this into perspective by demonstrating six sigma implementation within a set example, showing the various stages of the improvement cycle (DMAIC) and the tools used for each step. We were introduced to project charters, SIPOC charts, SPC charts, histograms, fishbone diagrams, and many many more.

Putting our knew found knowledge to the test, the week so far comprised of the simple enough exercise of the creation of a process to build mecano airplanes. 14 stages of the process, 7 operators, 1 plane, lead time of above 5 minutes per plane. Simple production line. But could we improve this? Time for bring in Six Sigma. The next day I can only describe as chaotic semi organised fun! Despite the tools and processes being fresh in our minds, it became apparent that introducing improvement even in such a "simple" process was a challenge. Our first challenge was a lack of direction. Despite being part of a group of strong willed and intelligent people, nobody jumped forward as leader. In part i think this was down to using the terminology of "leader". To me it seemed nobody wanted to take this title that can be seen to infer a higher hierarchal importance than other team members. Despite this problem, we trudged on. Facing challenges of communication after splitting into 2 teams to address seperate problems,  challenges of time management with too long spent idly discussing, and challanges of bad organisation in test runs. Despite all this, when the time came we managed to demonstrate an improvement on the original process! For me this showed that the tools of six sigma can be very affected, even in situation where many challenges are faced and the process of improvement does not run smoothly. This exercise also made it apparent that the socio-emotional links within the team are crucial. Solving these psychological problems of team integration and communication would have given a vastly improved results.

Moral of this story for me: People. People are vital to any process. Ensuring an environment in which socio-emotional barriers to an improvement process are minised will greatly increase its chances of success.

January 2023

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