Comparing nonmanufacturing with traditional applications of Six Sigma

R.J.M.M. Does, E.R. Heuvel, van den, J. Mast, de, S. Bisgaard

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    The Six Sigma approach has in the past been predominantly used to improve manufacturing processes. However, Six Sigma is now increasingly applied to a wide variety of nonmanufacturing operations also. This is an important development—there are potentially more benefits to be achieved in those areas than in traditional manufacturing, where decades of good work have already paid off. The key to understand how Six Sigma can be applied more broadly is to recognize that nonmanufacturing operations are also processes; they process inputs from suppliers and provide outputs to customers. Consider, for example, accounting. A company’s accounting department receives numbers and other information from internal suppliers (departments), processes the data and provides weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports (products) to customers (key managers). The accuracy of these reports, their clarity and timeliness, are primary quality characteristics. Any quality problem concerning the reports can have serious adverse consequences, often much more so than similar quality problems on the factory floor. In this column, we will discuss the use of Six Sigma in nonmanufacturing processes/operations by reviewing eight projects conducted in Dutch industry and facilitated by a team from the University of Amsterdam. The projects are listed in Table 1. In our discussion, we will try to highlight how these nonmanufacturing projects compare with more traditional applications of the SixSigma methodology. It is our hope that this will help practitioners see that, with only minor modifications, Six Sigma can also be applied in nonmanufacturing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)177-182
    JournalQuality Engineering
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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