Six sigma for “excellent” companies

The new strategic business methods; to be excellent and competitive, a company must consistently focus on incrementing its production, increasing customers’ trust and the efficacy of its investments.

Prof. Gabriele Arcidiacono

To be excellent and competitive, a company must consistently focus on incrementing its production, increasing customers’ trust and the effectiveness of its investments.

In this scenario, “management by process” becomes a lever for the pursuit of the strategies and objectives of corporate effectiveness and efficiency, finding the best road to embark on in terms of time, costs and quality in converting input into output.

In this context Six Sigma is an industrial strategy method that, through process analysis, focuses on quality, cost control and the rationalization of all the phases leading to the product or service. Through constant monitoring of the evolution of the VOC (Voice of Customer), systematic calculation of the company’s numbers and deep and detailed knowledge of its internal processes, this methodology allows tackling the sources of performances and implement focused improvement actions.

One of the main success factors of Six Sigma is the focus oriented not only on reducing costs - especially non-quality costs - but also on identifying valid opportunities for improvement. Consequently, a weak point in a given process becomes a chance for improvement, provided that the Six Sigma leader and the company’s top management know how to create proper acceptance along the entire corporate ladder. Hence, choosing the right projects, properly structuring them, involving key persons and giving them responsibility over certain actions helps facilitate implementation with fast, effective results.

The great potential of Six Sigma is fully exploited thanks to the architectural rigor of DMAIC which, through a just compromise between analyses and synthesis - although it privileges quick interventions in order to yield immediate financial returns, project by project - avoids “immediately jumping to conclusions”. In my personal experience, companies that best capitalize on the advantages of adopting Six Sigma are those capable of bringing the individual projects to term with pragmatism and timeliness (within 3-4 months). To be able to encompass the entire company (albeit by degrees), these projects must also not be extemporaneous but rather performed with certain continuity. For this specific aspect, Six Sigma is a very valid instrument to attain Excellence not only for the large multinationals, but also for small-medium enterprises. The secret lies in knowing how to manage and build a road to pursue, adapting it to the specific needs of the entity in reference.

Implementing models of excellence in terms of “process/product innovation”, in the course of these years I have come to understand the actual need and the strong demand by Companies for support in this field. Hence, it would be desirable to have more resources available, especially in Italy where investments are few (compared to the average in other European countries) and where the relashionship between economy and university is still very modest (and not only if I compare this to what I personally experienced at Boston’s MIT). Without getting into detail regarding the deficiencies of the current situation, today hope is tied to the institutional interest and support shown, among others, also by the Minister of Innovation and Technology Lucio Stanca. During the recent International Forum “Innovare per Competere” (“Innovating in order to Compete”), I was able to express these considerations of mine to him in order to see potential partnerships between the academic and production worlds incentivized.

So it is clear that the future and the progress of society lie in the hands of PEOPLE and more than ever in “knowledge”. The ability to manage competences, create innovation, enact a cultural renewal, be able to react and foresee changes and improve communication within the company are some of the keys to success in order to attain Excellence through Six Sigma, a methodology that in my experience at General Electric Nuovo Pignone ten years ago until today, has evolved not only for its increasingly vast field of application, but also for the quest to integrate and best exploit the peculiarities of similar methods that are, in some cases, complementary, too. It is not by chance that the new frontiers of Design & Process Excellence are called Lean Six Sigma, EFQM & Six Sigma, etc. So, each one of us, based on our respective roles, should work in this direction… *

Gabriele Arcidiacono Professor at the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technologies at Marconi University in Rome. Ph. D. (1997) and Visiting Professor in 2000 at the MIT in Boston (USA). Professor and Scientific coordinator for Innovation at the il Sole24Ore Business School (Master in Business Management and Corporate Strategy, Operations and Supply Chain Management, Project Management).

As Consultant and Trainer he has implemented and developed the first Six Sigma program in Italy (at General Electric). Since 1996 he is the reference person for the major companies (Italian and foreign) for Lean Manufacturing, Lean Six Sigma, Design for Six Sigma, World Class Manufacturing.

Author of 9 books (among which “Manuale per Green Belt” published by Springer has sold over 12,500 copies in the last 4 years) and over 90 scientific memoires. He received the Robust Engineering Award 2002 from Genichi Taguchi (San Diego, CA, USA).

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