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Cycle Time Reduction For Six Sigma Projects

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 3/22/2013

Six Sigma follows an approach of standardization: "Limit defect to 3.4 per million opportunities." Followed by companies across the globe, the method of Six Sigma is based on cycle time framework. This framework says, " Six Sigma standard should be achieved in the shortest possible cycle time."

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    A business management strategy that seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by the removal of defects and any variations in the manufacturing or business process is referred to as Six Sigma. Originally implemented by Motorola, the strategy limits defects to 3.4 per million opportunities. The goal of any organization should be to achieve this standard in the shortest possible cycle time. Cycle Time Reduction for Six sigma Process 

    The factors that lead to long cycle times vary from organization to organization but there are a few common factors that would result in the cycle time of a project getting extended in almost every case.

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    Insufficient Data

    The process of Six Sigma quality is sometimes started for a process in which the historical data is insufficient to draw any conclusions that would hold valid over a period of time. In such cases, incorrect interpretations may be made from the data available that may not hold true in the long term, or with slightly altered circumstances. All manufacturing or other processes exist in a certain environment that can constantly change. If the data on which the process for Six Sigma is started have been through a short ideal period, this may show figures that are very optimistic and not sustainable in the long run.

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    Frequent Reviews

    A review of any kind made for implementation of a Six Sigma process will have to be done at periodic intervals. Every review brings its own recommendations for changes which further increases the cycle time for the process. If reviews are held very frequently this would contribute to the process being lengthened in order to have time to implement the changes. Reviews have to be qualitative and performance bound if they are to have any meaning.

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    Changes in the Project

    Any project can undergo changes that may not be under the control of the team in charge of the Six Sigma process. These changes may be due to technological advances, changing market perceptions, or simply to cost escalation. There are sometimes changes that are dictated by key personnel leaving the organization, which may cause a hiatus in the project.

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    Policy Changes

    There are times when the project requirements change because of policy changes by the management (here is a link to such a policy), or priorities being shifted elsewhere. This could be a result of financial restraints, governmental policies, or dictated by competitors’ moves.

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    Employee’s Attitudes

    A process of Six Sigma requires the complete cooperation of every person involved in the process. Quite often, and especially where organizations are heavily unionized, it would mean that the entire labor force has to agree to every step of the process. The process would make heavy demands on their expertise and abilities, and this is something that unions are traditionally against. Convincing them of the process through industrial management studies or otherwise can be a time consuming process and thus add to the long cycle

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    Do Not Begin Prematurely

    It is therefore imperative that the Six Sigma process is started only after sufficient data for the process has been obtained either through actual observation or through computer simulation if this is possible. Reviewing of projects should be based on actual targets achieved, and milestones should be established for this. Changes in the project and policy changes cannot really be controlled, but a good Six Sigma team would be able to take it in their stride by swift implementation to forestall such changes. If ultimately the project does change drastically, it would mean a clean slate and a fresh start for the process. Unions and employees have to be brought on board at the beginning of the process and information has to be shared if cooperation is to be expected.

    So, then, keep these factors at the forefront of your thinking at all times and you will be able to implement the Six Sigma process with a short cycle time.

    Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons