6σ, where and why?
From 1900s to 2000s, what is that one thing that has changed drastically from the market point of view? As a buyer you now have millions of options to choose from, which you didn’t have earlier and as a producer, you now face mammoth competition in the market. These are times when customer is not ready to wait or compromise on the product he is being offered as there are ’n’ number of other places he can go and buy the same or similar product from.
What are companies doing?
Companies have tried to adopt lean manufacturing as a basic principle to reduce their cost and for optimum utilization of raw-material. This approach was quite useful in a developing country like India at initial stages as the customer was not yet aware and could only comprehend difference between products with respect to cost.
In recent times, customer is well educated and well informed about the features a product offers and how its competition is different with respect to specification, all thanks to Internet. Companies which provided just cost optimized products, with a little sub-standard material began losing market share and that is when terms like quality assurance and customer service came into being.
Today the market still stands changed, wearing yet another uniform, waiting to challenge the companies. The prime focus has now diversified, with points like customer retention, after sale service, customer specific products and buying experience have come into being and are proving to be a game changer. Companies have started accepting and implementing the 6 sigma approach of customer satisfaction as it would ultimately result in a happy customer with better profits.
Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process — from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service.
In simple terms 6 sigma is a quality assurance approach which measures standard deviation (the sigma symbol), it generally states that: there should be only 3.4 faulty products in every million products that are examined. If this level of quality is ensured then only it is 6 sigma certified and customer can buy the same without much hesitation.
6 sigma was originally introduced by Motorola in 1986, with a basic principle in mind to improve profits and make customers happy. From then many new alterations and updates have been made with major contributions from GM. Due to its success it has been modified and used in many other industries as well. Industries which are process oriented have also used these standards to give high quality services and have certified themselves to generate trust among customers.
6sigma transcends to “almost” perfect product, with better control and monitoring over functions and last minute inspection checks. With constant delivery of high quality products and better after sales service, any product can be converted to a brand and become synonyms to the product category (this topic is for another time, though).
The process industry has used 6sigma in a DMAIC approach:
This approach defines the process in which a project is selected and defined for improvement wherein 6 sigma can be implemented, it is then measured along various parameters from where profits can be generated and defects can be minimized. The points collected after the above analysis are then put to use, through this quality control checks are used to constantly provided high grade products.
You will be surprised to know that the famous Dabbawalas in Mumbai have been certified by 6 sigma. These people deliver more than 200 thousand Dabbas every day on time, with the freshness of good and hygienic food. They have been able to maintain good quality, both in their service and in their food. They were also selected to be the case study of Harvard and have been praised by a lot of agencies for their exceptional management skills.
In conclusion, it can be said that in today’s era of technology and internet, the customer is well aware of different products and options he has. To capture such a customer, companies need to put in efforts to maintain good quality systems and promote “zero defects” approach in their product. The customer is intolerant and won’t hesitate to move on to your competitor if you fail to provide him what was promised.
I would love to hear your opinion on how quality standard in a product can make or break a company’s name in the market and how companies are striving for better quality in their products. Till then, keep reading. Cheers!