Six Sigma is a popular approach for improving manufacturing quality, but small and medium-sized businesses often struggle to implement it due to a lack of resources. PRIZ Guru offers analytical and problem-solving tools to assist engineers at any step of the Six Sigma DMAIC process, including defining problems, collecting and documenting data, analyzing processes and systems, generating innovative solutions, making decisions, and effectively managing these projects. The Six Sigma process involves continuous problem-solving, and the PRIZ Innovation Platform is a comprehensive system designed to enable engineers to operate as professional problem solvers.
SMB’s are Struggling to Implement Six Sigma
Continuous process improvement is crucial for keeping your business alive. The Six Sigma concept has become one of the most influential and popular approaches for improving manufacturing quality.
Developed over 30 years ago, the Six Sigma strategy has been successfully applied by large corporations such as Motorola, General Electric, and Honeywell.
However, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) often struggle to implement Six Sigma due to a lack of resources. Successful Six Sigma management requires special groups of engineers, which can be costly, and many SMEs do not have the budget for it.
PRIZ Guru offers analytical and problem-solving tools to assist engineers at any step of the Six Sigma DMAIC process, including defining problems, collecting and documenting data, analyzing processes and systems, creating innovative solutions, making reasonable decisions, and effectively managing these projects.
Six Sigma is a method of improving production processes so that the quality of products is nearly always perfect.
We can compare Six Sigma to traffic in a tunnel. When a tunnel is narrow, traffic becomes dangerous and drivers must reduce their speed and exercise caution. Even then, accidents may still occur. However, if a tunnel is wide and well-maintained, the probability of an accident decreases. A wide tunnel provides a safe path for traffic.
Six Sigma is a safe “path” for manufacturing processes that ensure the production of reliable, high-quality products.
The Six Sigma strategy was first developed and implemented over 30 years ago at Motorola. While many companies have successfully implemented Six Sigma, it is mainly big corporations that benefit from its advantages, as shown by this list of Six Sigma companies.
This is understandable as Six Sigma is an expensive undertaking. Only big and rich corporations can afford to keep a dedicated department or group of talented engineers who work solely on Six Sigma projects. Startups and SMEs typically do not have the budget for Six Sigma and related strategies.
To help startups and SMEs overcome this problem, the best solution is to train all or at least a majority of engineers to think and act as Six Sigma professionals, and to provide them with relevant instruments. The use of automatic tools is key to success.
For example, the statistical software JMP – many manufacturing companies successfully use it. With JMP, everyone in the company becomes a statistician, even if they have no deep knowledge of statistics. This system helps engineers perform professional analyses and issue reports.
At PRIZ Guru, we offer analytical and problem-solving tools to assist engineers at any step of the Six Sigma process. PRIZ Platform complements the efforts of engineers to succeed as professionals.
The Six Sigma process involves continuous problem-solving. The PRIZ Innovation Platform is a comprehensive system designed to enable engineers to operate as professional problem solvers.
DMAIC – Five Steps of the Six Sigma Process
There are five sequential steps in Six Sigma projects: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. These steps are abbreviated as DMAIC.
The original concepts of PRIZ Innovation Platform are based on TRIZ but with a practical orientation (T-theory is replaced with P-practice). The PRIZ Platform offers various creative thinking tools to help solve problems that are adapted to modern requirements for managing innovation projects, including tasks and meetings management, proper documentation, and reporting.
The purpose of this step is to estimate customer needs, define the problem, and establish project goals. PRIZ Platform offers several tools for achieving these objectives.
Problem Statement – The AI-assisted tool helps analyze details of the current situation and distinguish between a failure and a genuine problem that needs to be solved. It is crucial to identify the correct problem to solve and avoid wasting time trying to fix a failure. Keep in mind that a problem can be solved, while a failure cannot be fixed.
Think about a future – 9 Windows is a creative thinking tool that helps us envision the future of a product or service based on its history. It allows us to think in terms of space and time.
The purpose of this step is to provide a detailed description of the components and products of the system or process.
How a system works – If you think you know how your system works, think again. In order to solve problems and implement Six Sigma, it’s crucial to truly understand your system. This is where System Functional Modeling (SFM) comes in as a powerful tool. By using SFM, you can gain a deep understanding of your system and identify real problems. It will also help you define problematic and functional components and create a plan for system improvements. Learn more about SFM in our documentation.
Root Cause Analysis is often performed after CEC, usually using the 5 Whys method. It is important to define a Root Cause correctly. The traditional definition of a Root Cause as the reason for a problem is problematic because it focuses on a single reason that might not be fixable. Instead, the definition should be: a root cause is something that, if changed, will solve the problem. Therefore, a root cause is not the source of a problem, but rather the subject of a problem-solving effort. Based on this concept, with the help of 5 Whys AI-assisted PRIZ tool we are able to generate multiple potential solutions.
The purpose of this step is to generate solutions and innovative ideas.
40 Inventive Principles is one of the most effective tools to generate solutions. For success, it is important to create and analyze the relevant contradiction. Please keep in mind that to solve a problem means to eliminate the contradiction. Otherwise, the proposed change is a temporary containment.
Effective Brainstorming (EBS) – is a very popular instrument for solution and ideas generation. The point is how to classify the ideas and make a decision. PRIZ platform proposes an effective way to group the ideas according to an implementation and validation complexity level (easy or not easy) and rank the ideas within the groups with Round Robin Ranking (RRR).
Blockers definition. Often, the implementation of excellent ideas does not result in expected improvements. This happens because some ideas might block the effectiveness of other ideas. While all ideas are good, some of them act as blockers (barriers) to others. Perception Mapping (PMap) is a semi-automatic tool for defining blockers. The idea with the highest blocking rank is not necessarily the most important but should be completed first to “free up” the effectiveness of the rest of the ideas.
Once we made the changes to address problems and improve operations, it’s essential to bring the process under control to ensure its long-term effectiveness. To do this, you should:
Identify and document the new work standard.
Develop a quality control plan to ensure that the entire team is working with the same techniques and metrics.
Confirm that failures due to the targeted cause have been reduced.
Use statistical process control (SPC) to monitor process execution and identify any issues that arise.
Determine additional improvements, if needed, to meet process objectives.
Integrate, document, and communicate the lessons learned.
The main purpose of this final step is to manage the implementation and future progress. Here, you document the new changes and ensure that you fully understand how to sustain the improved process.
Task management is a method for managing project progress that reduces time waste and avoids uncertainty.
Documentation and Reporting – PRIZ Platform offers project data documentation and automatic report updates, eliminating the need for email or PowerPoint presentations. Project details can be published in PRIZ Hub for information purposes and to avoid recurring problems in future projects.
What did you think of our process improvement guide? Do you have any tips we may have left out? Let us know in the comments below!