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Importance of Six Sigma in Quality Management

February 3, 2021

By Simpliaxis

Dale Carnegie once mentioned that “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.” The statement is so true in the regular context too. Imagine a long dreamt holiday tour to your dream destination. The hotel you stayed in provided the best hospitality and took extra care of your needs and requirements. In the given situation, though you might have paid more than the economy room available in another hotel, you would only remember the Quality of hospitality and your experiences, while the amount of money you spent might fade away from your memory with time. Therefore, it can be quickly concluded that the Quality of products and services produced by any organization would certainly gain preference over the number of such goods and services. Let us understand what Quality Management is and how tools such as Six Sigma help in Quality Management. This blog would also highlight the importance of Six Sigma in Quality Management.
 

Quality Management is Inevitable!
 

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.” – John Ruskin, a famous English Art Critic of the Victorian Era.

While John Ruskin mentions, Quality is a result of intelligent efforts, William Deming Edward, the famous statistician, engineer, and management consultant from America noted that “Quality is everyone’s responsibility.” However, both these quotes indicate that Quality Management is a continuous and holistic aspect that has to be managed by any organization irrespective of the business vertical the organization is operating in.

The above paragraph mentioned two important features of Quality Management. The first aspect is that Quality Management is a continuous event. Any organization, essentially, needs to manage Quality regularly and continuously throughout its value chain. Under no circumstances can any organization bear to get complacent about the aspect of management of Quality. The Quality of the product or service is the primary determinant of the organization’s success and retention among its customers and stakeholders.

The second fact highlighted in the above paragraph is that Quality Management is a holistic event. Drawing from what W. Deming Edward mentioned, management of Quality is the responsibility of each individual involved in its value chain. Therefore, Quality Management depends on the holistic effort of every individual representative of the organization. Giving honest and constructive customer feedback to the organization also contributes towards holistic Quality Management. While we have been discussing Quality Management, let us understand the basics of Quality and how Quality can be managed?
 

What is Quality Management?
 

Philosophically, the term quality can be defined as an attribute or a specific property or characteristic of any object. Such a feature or property, or characteristic, is a distinctive attribute that differentiates the object, person, or element from the rest of the population. In the organizational context, Quality is defined as creating a standard of something (products or services being produced or manufactured), which is then taken as a benchmark to measure or compare other things of a similar kind.

Organizations are responsible for producing either goods or services. Each such production of goods and services need to have a benchmark of Quality. This benchmarked Quality would be the strategically defined and accepted Quality or standard that the organization desires to achieve. Quality Management is the holistic term that includes all the activities required to maintain this expected benchmarked standard or Quality during goods and services. Further, Quality Management activity ensures that the production process and the Quality of goods and services produced are consistent and standardized.
 

The four essential steps of Quality Management include:
 

  • Quality Planning
  • Quality Assurance
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Improvement
     

This entire cycle depicts the efforts required in Quality Management.
 

Six Sigma in Quality Management
 

Quality Management is a process that involves the steps mentioned above. However, this fundamental aspect of Quality Management requires expertise and specifically designed tools and methods. Six Sigma is one such scientifically designed tool for the management of Quality. To understand the role of six Sigma in Quality Management, let us first understand what six Sigma is?
 

Six Sigma
 

Six Sigma is defined as a method or a set of techniques or precisely a scientifically crafted tool that helps improve and standardize an organization’s processes. The concept of Six Sigma was given by an American Engineer named Bill Smith while working with Motorola. However, this concept of Six Sigma gained prominence because Jack Welch implemented Six Sigma at General Electric in 1995, and the company gained majorly due to this implementation.
 

Importance of Six Sigma
 

The concept of Six Sigma has gained prominence because of its consistent results and Quality Management techniques. The importance of six Sigma can be estimated by the way it tries to manage the process. The two essential aspects which six Sigma ensures include:
 

  • Increasing the production capabilities of the organization by managing the processes of the organization effectively and efficiently
     
  • Decreasing the process variation which practically leads to process standardization and quality standardization of the products and services
     

These two aspects help the organization in many ways. The importance of six sigma implementation, thus, includes:
 

  • Standardization of production and delivery processes 
     
  • Standardization of Quality of production
     
  • Reduction of process variation
     
  • Reduction of defects in the process and process management
     
  • Reduction in losses due to redundancies and inefficiencies in the processes
     
  • Improvements in the Quality of products and services produced due to increased standardization of the process
     
  • Improvement in the efficiency of the processes
     
  • Improvement in profits due to the reduction of losses and increase in efficiency
     
  • Improvement in terms of employee morale and increase in the number of motivated employees due to increasing in the efficiency of the processes and reduction of redundancies (redundancies reduce the employee motivation to work and achieve. Reducing the redundancies would also ensure that the talent is recognized and rewarded timely and effectively).
     

The above points clearly state that implementing a technique like Six Sigma in Quality Management is inevitable.
 

Importance of Six Sigma in Quality Management
 

The detailed discussion in the above sections has made us understand that Quality is probably the most important aspect of any product or service produced and supplied by any organization, at least in the common business parlance. However, we have also understood that Quality is an integrated aspect of the product’s entire value chain or service manufacturing and delivery. Therefore, we can easily infer that Quality is integrated within the organization’s product or service, whereas ensuring the Quality of the product and service is an ongoing process throughout the value chain. 

Since Quality Management is a process, techniques such as Six Sigma intend to impact the entire production process gain importance. The effect could ascertain Six Sigma’s significance in Quality Management that the tool of Six Sigma has on every single step involved in the organization. Driving from the points mentioned under the section, the salient importance of six Sigma in the Quality Management process can be summarised as below:
 

  • Six Sigma helps in designing and implementing the processes of an organization so that the redundancies are eliminated. Redundancies include the multiplication of efforts at various stages of the organizational processes due to poor designing and layout of the process flow. An example of this can be the inclusion of bureaucracy in the clearance of material invoicing and order. Such redundancies affect the processes by delaying the process and increasing the efforts of the employees.
     
  • Since redundancies are eliminated, waste of resources is reduced substantially. Here resources include time, material, human, and even machines, among others.
     
  • Elimination of redundancies also leads to effective process creation and management. When the process is recreated by reducing the redundancies following the Six Sigma principles, the process automatically leads to standardization.
     
  • Effective process creation and management lead to the discovery and elimination of defects. When redundancies are eliminated, and processes are standardized, the discovery of defects at every step becomes easy. Therefore, quality control and quality checks can be integrated within the production process efficiently, thus eliminating defects and reducing losses in a continuous process.
     
  • While eliminating defects and reducing losses becomes a continuous process within the value chain of production, quality control can be streamlined and standardized to a great extent. It would surely help the organization in reducing the variances in the processes.
     

Implementation of Six Sigma in the Quality Management and quality control processes would help the organization in various ways, as mentioned above. Most importantly, all these benefits would lead to increased profitability, efficiency, and organization effectiveness.
 

Continuous Feedback
 

Continuous Feedback is the DevOps life cycle’s turning point as it helps to analyze the improvements made by the continuous testing and integration phases. 
 

Hence it is imperative to do this phase between the operations and development of the next version of the existing software application. It is consistent by analyzing the software operations results to estimate the modifications’ outcome on the final product. It also enables the customers to share their experiences upon testing these applications. By promptly assessing the feedback, the developers begin working on the recent changes to get positive responses from customers to release the new versions of the software application. Hence learning this turning point phase of the DevOps lifecycle is vital to becoming the best DevOps professional to get highly paid.
 

Continuous Monitoring
 

Continuous Monitoring is the crucial phase of the DevOps lifecycle as it finds the root cause of any issues. It is by recording the vital information on the software’s usage to detect the many problems like “server not reachable” or “low memory,” among others. This phase involves all the DevOps lifecycle’s operational factors with integration within the software application’s operational capabilities.
 

It is easy to know the trends and identify the problem areas to maintain security and service availability by processing the recorded information. It is the operations team that has more involvement in this phase than the development teams. They play a major role in checking the system for rare behavior, supervising user activity, and finding bugs. This phase enables solving many issues by fast rerunning the application through all its previous stages of the DevOps lifecycle. 
 

The practical DevOps tools used for this monitoring phase include Sensu, Splunk, ELK Stack, and NewRelic to enable overall control to oversee the production server, system performance, and the application. These tools help the operations team for active engagement to increase the applications’ productivity and reliability. Also, it helps to monitor the application’s performance and the server to check the system’s functioning proactively. 
 

Continuous Deployment
 

Continuous Deployment is the most active DevOps lifecycle phase to deploy the completed application code appropriately into the production servers. It is more important after the application goes live to receive high traffic. 

Configuration management is the primary process to execute frequently the fast and continuous deployment of new code in this phase. It helps to establish and curate the consistency of the applications’ performance and functional conditions. 

Many containerization tools like Ansible, Puppet, Chef, and others are the useful DevOps tools used in this phase for configuration management for correct Continuous Deployment of new codes into the servers. These tools help produce consistency across many stages of the DevOps lifecycle from development to staging, testing to the production environment. They also help for scaling up and down instances softly to offer an error-free production environment. They package and replicate the same dependencies and make applications easy for running on various computers.

 

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