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Six Sigma Systems
FAQ - Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma Training
Definitions & general questions: Program & implementation questions: Results questions:
What is a black belt / coach / six sigma expert? What implementation options are there for six sigma and lean manufacturing? What kinds of business results will six sigma and lean manufacturing yield?
What is a greenbelt? How quickly can the investment be recovered? What drives the magnitude of the business results?
What is a champion? Does this program build analytical skills? Will Six Sigma Systems, Inc. guarantee results?
How do six sigma and lean manufacturing relate? Does this approach build future leaders? How quickly can the investment be recovered?
What differentiates this program from other programs?
What kinds of issues should be considered prior to launching a program?
How do you integrate six sigma into other initiatives?
Is this applicable to mid sized and small companies?
Does six sigma apply to administrative operations?
Are these the newest and hottest tools?


Definitions and general questions:

What is a black belt / coach / six sigma expert?

A black belt (depending on companies and providers also known as a coach, expert, catalyst etc.) is a practitioner of six sigma tools. These individuals drive business results through the application of tools on projects. Typically they will work projects full time for the first 4-6 months of participating in the program. After the initial project work they may remain in the organization as full time process improvement experts or utilize the tools in other functions.

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What is a six sigma greenbelt?

A six sigma greenbelt is typically trained less intensively than a black belt. In many organizations greenbelts work projects on a part time basis and are supported by black belts. While greenbelts may contribute to the pervasiveness of six sigma in the organization, required support, project selection and adequate training should be carefully considered to ensure adequate return on investment.

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What is a six sigma champion?

Six sigma champions are used in many organizations to provide "program management". Champions support project and candidate selection and handle any administrative, reporting related activity. They act as an interface to operational leadership.

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How do lean manufacturing and six sigma relate?

Both tools kits support the reduction of waste in businesses. Lean manufacturing focuses on "making value flow", i.e. providing an easy to follow, uninterrupted product flow with minimal waste. Six sigma focuses on variation related or lack of process knowledge related waste such as quality issues, tampering leading to amplified variation in the product delivery process etc. If applied in an integrated fashion the tools are complementary and should be used in a "hand and glove" approach.

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Program & implementation questions:

What implementation options are there for six sigma and lean manufacturing?

There are multiple implementation methods for six sigma and lean manufacturing. The appropriate method that drives the highest ROI for a client organization depends largely on the business and the business environment that is being operated in. The following questions are often worth considering prior to deciding on the appropriate implementation model:
  • What performance level is the organization currently achieving?
  • What is the goal for performance?
  • What is the required time frame?
  • Which level of the organization is supporting the initiative?
  • What kinds of results are targeted?
  • What kind of talent is available in the organization?
  • How concentrated will the effort be?
  • What are the key leverage points in the organization?
  • What are the key business metrics for the organization?
  • Which implementation method best supports breakthrough improvements for those metrics?
  • What is the budget (monetary as well as resource related)?
Based on the answers, one of the following implementation methods will prove to be the most effective:
  • Organization wide training and project work
  • Target area (like engineering, manufacturing, billing etc.) training and project work
  • Target candidate training and project work
  • SigmaNow
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How quickly can the investment be recovered?

Our implementations are cash flow positive within 2-3 months from program start. This measure of cash flow timing includes employee salaries, travel, training facilities etc in the cost structure. The training itself represents the smallest portion of the associated cost. Given the ROI of the program and almost immediate positive cash flow, a positive impact on financial performance should be expected within one quarter.

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Does this program build analytical skills?

The program builds analytical and logic skills simultaneously. It is used by many organizations as the platform to generate analysts that generate business results of multiples of their salaries consistently.

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Does this approach build future leaders?

Our clients utilize particularly the Masters Program to groom future organizational leaders. The Masters program gives individuals the opportunity to improve large-scale cross-functional processes with an integrated tool kit at exceptional speed. It therefore provides future leaders with:
  • A clear understanding of the business across functional areas
  • A framework and tools to deliver breakthrough performance
  • Exposure to current leadership in the organization
  • Change Management experience through leading organizations through rapid change
  • Confidence through driving business results
  • Mentoring and coaching network


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What differentiates this program from other programs?

This program is focused on driving business results. In comparison to many other initiatives it is not a training program with the hope for increased productivity in the future, but rather it focuses on driving business results directly. Projects and candidates are specifically selected to accelerate business performance. Training is provided as a means to drive business results versus being a means of it's own. These programs have been implemented without negative cash flow or negative profitability implications for the implementing organizations.

In addition, this program provides leadership a platform for goal accomplishment. Providing tools to employees enables stretch goals to be accomplished with the current pool of employees. An integrate six sigma and lean manufacturing program, if properly implemented, will drive not only tools, but motivation and immediate success into the organization.

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What kinds of issues should be considered prior to launching a program?

Instructor qualifications should be carefully analyzed when considering suppliers. While many providers may present an "A-Team" during the sales cycle the actual training and project mentoring may be conduced by far less qualified individuals and in some cases sub-contractors. While some degree of training can be standardized, specific project and business related issues may not. In that case lack of instructor qualifications may jeopardize the project outcome and in some cases even lead to cynicism in the organization towards the program. Availability of the provider team to aid in project work may also be a worthwhile consideration prior to selecting providers. For consistency purpose it may be of value to ensure a high degree of consistency in the instructors pool.

While some training elements are also "standard" in any six sigma program, the specific tool application may differ widely. Some providers will custom develop supplemental topics specific to the clients business while others may opt not to provide this service.

Leadership commitment is of utmost importance in ensuring high returns of a six sigma and/or lean manufacturing program. These programs may be successfully implemented in organizational pockets, however, if cross-organizational project are to be other functions need to be involved in the implementation of the program.

One key characteristic of successful candidates is a significant time commitment towards the project work. Without time to actually drive process improvements, results will be meager. A program initiative of this magnitude should not be taken lightly and treated as "just another additional initiative". It is a platform for business transformation that will yield breakthrough business performance if treated as such by leadership.

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How do you integrate six sigma into other initiatives?

Many initiatives that have historically been implemented have some value to the organization. Unfortunately many initiates receive a bad reputation as a result of improper implementation and the "silver bullet" fallacy the attempt to make any initiative the silver bullet to all business opportunities. No one initiative however will be able to achieve such a requirement. For more information on this topic, please refer to our white paper section of this web page. It contains one of our recent articles specifically on this topic. (The Foundation for Successful Process Improvement Programs)

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Is this applicable to mid sized and small companies?

Yes, six sigma and lean manufacturing is applicable to smaller organizations. Although popularized through the implementation at GE, AlliedSignal, Motorola and Xerox, Six Sigma Systems brings tremendous value to smaller organizations. As additional larger companies, such as Ford, move towards six sigma as a key platform for process improvement, we have also observed an increased requirement put on to suppliers to "participate". A key difference in the application of Six Sigma in small businesses is the type of implementation model that is most appropriate. While many large organizations favor a company wide initiative, this approach may be sub-optimal for smaller organizations. (Also see our section on Implementation Methods).

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Does six sigma apply to administrative operations?

Six sigma is applicable to administrative applications. One key issue associated with administrative processes is that a key source of variation in system performance is the human factor. While most employees desire to deliver high performance, leadership needs to provide a process that fundamentally enables high performance. Furthermore, many processes with humans as primary processors and measurement tools require a robust process specifically addressing "human" noise since the presence and impact of noise in such a system is significantly amplified. Lean manufacturing and six sigma provide the tools to improve existing administrative operations and supply a robust process. It is also complementary to High Performance Work Team environments providing the tools to address more complex issues.

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Are these the newest and hottest tools?

An interesting fact about most six sigma tools is that they are not new. The application of the tools and their practical, integrated and results oriented application is "what"s new". Some of the tools date back as far as the 1920s and 1930s (SPC, DOE for example). In fact tools like DOE are one of the drivers for the increase in agricultural output over the last 80 years.

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Results questions:

What kinds of business results will six sigma and lean manufacturing yield?

Not using"creative accounting methods" an integrated six sigma and lean manufacturing implementation should be expected to deliver returns above 500%. A difficulty in comparing programs and providers is the "creative accounting" used in some instances. None-the-less, applying sensible accounting methods a good implementation is guaranteed to deliver an ROI superior to other available process improvement activities that we are aware of.

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What drives the magnitude of the business results?

The actual business results achieved are largely dependent on the following factors:
  • Involvement, participation and ownership of leadership.
  • Project selection.
  • Candidate and Team selection.
  • Program Provider.
    • Comprehensiveness of the program.
    • Instructor qualifications.
    • Delivery method.
  • Implementation model.
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Will Six Sigma Systems, Inc. guarantee results?

We will guarantee the results of our program. We are happy to accept payment terms that will ensure our clients receives breakthrough business results when implementing a six sigma & lean manufacturing program through our organization.

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How quickly can the investment be recovered?

Our programs turn profitable and cash flow positive within 2 - 3 months of program start. Our program is therefore truly 'self-funding'.

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The winners of The Six Sigma Excellence award for world class revenue cycle.




The winners of The 2009 Global Six Sigma & Business Improvement Awards were announced at The Gala Awards ceremony & Dinner on Wednesday October 14th 2009, held at The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, Orlando, Florida.
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