Attending the Quality, Reliability and Maintenance module was a highly educative and enjoyable experience. Though I had been exposed to the concept of quality in my Production Engineering course, the learning in this module was a lot more in-depth. Also, Reliability and Maintenance was something I had not studied before, and getting to know more about the same has changed my thinking and understanding of these two fields.
I was part of Group 1 Team 4, and the topic of or mini-project was to 'compare and contrast' Deming's philosophy and Six Sigma. Doing research on these two topics, as well as doing a presentation on the same greatly improved my understanding of Six Sigma in particular. I had not been able to fully grasp the intricacies of Six Sigma before reading up and presenting the topic as my individual part of the overall presentation. The following is some of the things I learned through the mini-project, which I was not aware of previously:-
- The actual meaning of 'sigma levels' became clear through attending the lectures and the reading on the topic. The manner in which every process will produce certain measurable results which can be plotted to get a normal distribution curve, with different percentages falling between different sigma levels is what primarily came to light. The aim of employing six sigma is to make improvements to the process such that a large percentage, 99.99966% to be precise, meets specifications.
- Though achieving the above mentioned level of performance may be unrealistic in most real-life scenarios, Six Sigma sets down a framework for reducing variations in processes, through the highly useful DMAIC procedure. Through DMAIC, companies can be in a better position to reduce variation in processes and achieve the goal of satisfying customer requirements and improving profitability.
- As far as Deming's philosophy is concerned, there is a point which I feel are not applicable in today's highly competitive industrial world. Monetary incentives are almost the easiest and most effective way to motivate employees in an organisation, with every employee getting the chance to earn a better living by improving his/her work- something which also ultimately benefits the organisation. The rest of his 14 points though hold true even today, and they give a holistic view of how an organisation should work if it wishes to improve its quality levels.
- A company looking to use Six Sigma must make use of the consideration to human factors which Deming explains in his 14 points. Developing a hierarchal structure, with emphasis on discipline in terms of collection and analysis of data must not create a 'closed box' atmosphere amongst employees. They must be given the freedom to think out-of-the-box. The greatest breakthroughs in production processes in particular are made by operators who may not have the highest amount of theoretical and statistical knowledge, but given enough freedom to experiment, can make use of their experience and ground-level perspective to provide suggestions which can lead to radical improvements in the process.
Being present in the last day of the seminars was again an experience which helped me understand different perspectives and opinions on topics such as TQM, ISO 9000, Lean, and EFQM. All in all, the module lectures and seminars have helped me develop both a theoretical and practical understanding of the subjects of quality, reliability and maintenance. I now feel I am in a much better position to employ the various tools and techniques covered in this module in the industry, something which will surely help both me and the organisation in which I work achieve success.