Six Sigma

Sigma is a unit of statistical measurement, which in this context is used to illustrate the quality of a process. The sigma measurement scale (ranging from two to six) describes defects in parts per million. To simplify the concept, consider applying six sigma to written text. If defects were measured in misspellings, four sigma would be equivalent to one misspelling per 30 pages of text; five sigma, one misspelling in a set of encyclopedias; while six sigma would find only one misspelling within an entire library (small sized, of course).

Most companies produce products that "weigh in" at four sigma. This standard of quality is considered average and acceptable among consumers. However, many companies are looking to change standards because reduced defects will result in reduced costs. A six sigma company generates and substantially saves money by functioning on the highest level of efficiency. As new customers begin purchasing from a company known for its high quality goods, revenues increase. Furthermore, the company makes more efficient use of all resources and production line waste drops off.

Six Sigma was first conceptualized as a quality goal in the 1980's by Dr. Mikel Harry and others at Motorola. In 1985, Dr. Harry presented a paper describing the relationship of a product's early-life field reliability to the frequency of repair during the manufacturing process. Originally, the objective behind six sigma was to eliminate the cause of a problem before it became necessary to identify and repair defects. However, soon after it was implemented, six sigma was also found to reduce defects in non-manufacturing operations such as order entry.

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Successive Inspection

This is a method by which all workers in a process are charged with the inspection of the work already done in the process. This program can reduce or eliminate the need for dedicated QC personnel. An added benefit of this system is that many defects that would be impossible for a QC person to spot at the end of the process can be caught within the process by the workers.

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TBC - Time-Based Competition

TBC means that companies are turning to time for long-term competitive advantage. The companies are trying to run faster and faster to beat the competition. Winning firms will be those that implement their strategies well and do so before their competitors. To be a true time-based competitor, a firm must reduce the entire cycle time by time compressing activities that lie along the entire supply chain (from raw material to customer).

A company that wants to provide a fast response for its customers must begin by creating a fast response among its employees. The faster a product gets to market, the sooner customer feedback can be processed to help designers in the next round. These cycles of creating information and then acting and acting again are the heart of a time based company. The focus on reduced time to market affects companies financially, as the faster a company brings its products to market, the sooner its revenue starts coming in. In addition, a shorter time to market together with less waste and duplication of effort strongly suggest that company's resources have been used more efficiently.

The companies that have aggressively implemented time-based competition include such prominent names as Honda, Toyota, Citicorp, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Federal Express.

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TEI - Total Employee Involvement

TEI means harnessing the knowledge and creative powers of all employees, individually and in small teams. TEI usually aims at a complete transformation of organizational culture and has major implications for organizational structure. Training and education are essential. It is important to drive out fear of making suggestions for change, trying out new methods, being blamed for problems that are inherent in the system, or losing one's job because of quality improvements. The secret to TEI is to define a goal and vigorously support all attempts to achieve it.

Some typical TEI elements are:

A recent survey by the TEAMwork for America Initiative revealed that 96% of large employers use employee involvement tools. The themes such as considering employees to be the most valuable asset and employing a participative management style are associated with America's best business practices.

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TPM - Total Productive Maintenance

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is the Japanese approach to maximize the effectiveness of the facilities that we use within our businesses. In general, TPM aims at getting the most efficient use of equipment and establishes a total PM system including maintenance prevention, preventive maintenance, and improvement-related maintenance for the company. The essence of TPM is teamwork which requires the participation of equipment designers, equipment operators, and maintenance department workers to focus on their facilities, their everyday problems and their environment in order to improve product quality, increase equipment availability, and equipment reliability. As implied by the total in TPM, effective TPM requires the involvement and participation of every employee - from top management to shop floor workers in maintaining facilities and equipment within the company and also promotes PM through management and small group activities.

According to Herbert R. Steinbacher and Norma L. Steinbacher, five components are necessary for a true TPM strategy:

  1. Maintenance Prevention - designing or selecting equipment that will run with minimal maintenance and is easy to service when necessary.
  2. Predictive Maintenance - determining the life expectancy of components in order to replace them at the optimum time.
  3. Corrective Maintenance - improving the performance of existing equipment or adapting new equipment to the manufacturing environment.
  4. Preventive Maintenance - using schedules or planned maintenance to ensure the continuous, smooth operation of equipment.
  5. Autonomous Maintenance - involving production employees in the total machine maintenance process.

Bringing the whole company together with TPM enables the company to actually achieve goals such as zero breakdowns, zero defects, and as a result of increasing equipment efficiency, increasing productivity, improving company profits, and creating a safe and satisfying workplace environment for employees.

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TQC - Total Quality Control

Total Quality Control (TQC) is based on the principle that as quality improves, productivity improves and cost are reduced. The implementation of TQC includes several steps - determining what the company wants to improve; analyzing the situation and composing a statement of the problem to be addressed; analyzing the problem; developing measure to address the problem; tracking results; standardizing processes that effectively solved the problem; and making continuing plans for quality improvement.

The successful implementation of the TQC strategy depends on several factors that have to be considered by the companies. These factors are as follows - actions must be guided by principles of continuous quality improvement; decisions must be based on facts, data, and statistical information; organization members must be dedicated to serving extended customers; quality progress must be measured against valid customer requirements; and teamwork must be rewarded.

The positive impact of the TQC strategy arrives from the fact that this is a management tool which is looking not only at the quality of the product but of every single system in the company. The TQC concept affects positively inventory through reducing rework and scrap and moving products through the plant more quickly. The mastering of the TQC management strategy also increases facility's productivity, reduces costs, increases market share, and enhances the overall profits of the company.

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TQM - Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management (TQM) can be defined as a total commitment to the continuous improvement of a company's processes in order to maximize assets, reduce waste and rework, and satisfy and retain customers. TQM is an endless process of continual improvement. This management system was co-developed by W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran. At the heart of TQM are the ideas that true quality can be achieved only through constant measurement and monitoring and that total quality requires a continuous, cohesive effort by every person in a company. Its strategy requires systematic changes in management practice, including the redesign of work, the redefinition of managerial roles, the redesign of organizational structures, the learning of new skills by employees at all levels, and the reorientation of organizational goals.

In adopting Deming's 14 basic principles (points) in their company, managers will need to stop depending on inspections to achieve quality; create a constancy of purpose to improve service; make quality the ultimate measure of success; stop awarding business solely on price; constantly improve service systems; adopt training programs; provide leadership; drive out fear; break down barriers among staff areas; eliminate slogans and targets; eliminate numerical goals; remove barriers to employees' pride in their work; institute a program for retraining and education; and take action.

The successful implementation of TQM can result in a quality perception as well as customer service leadership, helping to ensure both customer retention and new customer growth. This concept can directly improve the productivity of a company of any size, whether it is a start-up, a struggling young company, or an established firm looking to gain an edge on competition.

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Taguchi Methods

Taguchi methods were originally developed by Genichi Taguchi for the purpose of simplifying quality control procedures in Japan. The concept behind these methods is basically a form of experimental design, where the experiments are meant to provide near optimal quality characteristics for a desired process.

The major benefit of these methods is the result of the simplicity involved. In Japan, they are used by technicians on the manufacturing floor in order to improve their processes as well as their product. This use is in direct contrast to that in the USA, where the main manufacturing goal is to optimize a certain objective function. The true and most effective goal of Taguchi methods is to reduce the sensitivity of engineering designs to uncontrollable factors or noise. This has the effect of moving design targets toward a "middle of the road" area, so that external variations and disturbances effect the performance of the design as little as possible.

Much of the criticism of these methods comes from those who believe that Taguchi methods are technically deficient. Taguchi methods are not just a statistical application of experimental design. Instead, it integrates statistical design of experiments into a powerful engineering process. From a managerial standpoint, these actions permit large reductions in tolerances for both manufacturing parts and assembly processes. This, in effect, can reduce manufacturing costs substantially. The concept of associating quality characteristics with cost through the Taguchi loss function was a major advance in quality engineering, as well as in the ability to design for cost.

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In response to global competition and heightened customer demands, an increasing number of U.S. companies are abandoning their hierarchical style of management in favor of a new style based on employee involvement and teamwork. Where the traditional management style emphasizes individual achievement, the new model, which is the fundamental underpinning of Total Quality Management (TQM), requires collaboration and communication throughout the organization. Teamwork is a way to motivate employees and boost the firm's profits. By empowering staff members to use their talents in a combined effort, the entire organization benefits.

Team building involves training groups in process analysis and customer awareness. Group interaction provides a forum for the identification and resolution of many issues that affect individual and collective job performance. For a team-building program to be successful, companies should create groups in each work area. Companies should also have a council with a facilitator responsible for monitoring the effort. The council assesses work processes designed by company teams and helps teams achieve the company's TQM goals.

The successful implementation of the teamwork approach also requires some specific guidelines in the interactions among the team members. A team holds all members accountable for a specific purpose, and its work is collective and is actually performed together. Team members have a clear understanding of the role that they play in the overall attainment of the end goal. Most importantly, team members work in a mutually supportive atmosphere, with each member owning the team goal and each player contributing his or her own specialized skills for the good of the team. Teamwork has been paying off in companies, with many firms benefiting from productivity increases, improved morale, and important cost savings. In addition, the quality of products and services has been significantly improved by companies using the team approach.

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Waste is any process step or procedure that could be eliminated without harm or that could be done more efficiently, that is, faster or cheaper. Waste is a relative concept: whenever we discover a process improvement, than old process is seen to be wasteful. The most obvious forms of waste are mistakes and blunders, defective products, scrap, rework, and the like. But there are others just as harmful, that are not obvious. People have to observe carefully how they work and ask whether anything they are doing could be speeded up or eliminated. Professor W. Zangwill of the University of Chicago says that the closer you look, the more waste you see. Elimination of waste makes it easier to see additional waste in the remaining activities. His suggestive conclusion is that most work is waste. The relentless attack on waste should become a central management strategy at any company.

The development of Just-In-Time manufacturing at Toyota was essentially a search for waste reduction. Another system for waste reduction is, for example, Five S (proper arrangement, orderliness, cleanliness, cleanup, and discipline). Here are some of the better-known lists of waste (these were mostly drawn up for manufacturing, but the principles are universal; there is some duplication among these lists):

Toyota's Seven Wastes (Ohno):

Canon's Nine Wastes:

Schonberger's Non Obvious Waste:

Additional Wasteful Activities (Tim Fuller):

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Visual Control

Visual Control is a tool or principle which is used to allow users to visualize the whole picture of a situation. There are several categories of visual control :

If a manager would like to see how his or her employees perform in a particular project, and whether certain jobs are falling behind schedule, a visual control system can be used to show him or her the details of daily work progress. In this way, it will ensure that actual or possible troubles can be quickly spotted and the manager can take immediate action to correct the shortcomings. Only by employing accurate visual control charts can you see what is normally unseeable. Thus, visual control makes the task easier for everybody.

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ZD - Zero Defect

ZD is a program designed to reduce or eliminate the number of defective parts or services to a near zero level. The ideal goal of the program is to achieve a situation where no defective items or services are produced. In situations where a zero defect situation is not feasible, the program works to improve the process to work towards reaching the ideal goal.

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