There are a lot of engineers, designers and process improvement personnel who would like to be trained in the art of Six Sigma. In todays economy many employers balk at spending training dollars as they are not sure on the ROI (Return On Investment) on a methodology which they are not sure of. Well here is a mini primer on how to have a Skunk Works Six Sigma initiative in your immediate area of operations.

First Define your problem. For instance let us imagine you are in charge of improving the yield on a new production line just installed in your plant. The management is not happy with the existing yield of 70%. So the definition of the problem is low yield and your process improvement should show an increase in yield which is measurable. Your first task should be to measure and baseline existing condition. You must understand your equipment, product and the way the existing yield is measured. Let us say for example you are having a low yield due to product not being to specifications on the length of cut.

Now Measure your output. Using a CMM you could measure representative samples to study the output of the system

Now try and analyse the distribution of your measurements. Minitab is one of the most popular software used for Statistical Process Improvement. You can download a free evaluation copy which will be functional for 30 days

For this example you can use the quality tools for a normal distribution

Look at the chart and see if the process is repeatable. For instance if you have a CP of 1.33 and above you are definitely in the ball part for picking up the low hanging fruit

This is the Analyze phase.

Next see if the process is centered. You may be able to improve the yield of the process just by centering the process. This is the Improve phase

Now that you you have the tools in place continue to monitor and Control the improvment

This is DMAIC ( Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve & Control) in a nut shell

Start with a small project , publish your results and show the management the gains you have made with almost no investment

They may be encouraged to fund you for more projects

Alternatively you may be so encouraged by your performance that you will continue with Skunk Works and even pull in your colleagues

The company will prosper and so will the Team

It is a win win situation

My future posts will continue to expand on the theme with more story telling

Till then go around the shop floor and see if you can find any areas for improvement

And feel free to comments, ask questions and offer suggestions for future posts