Case Study Six Sigma At 3m Inc
“There are many examples of successful Six Sigma applications.However, too often companies push the Six Sigma methodology over impact.“In the appropriate setting, process management activities can help companies improve efficiency, but the risk is that you misapply these programs, in particular in areas where people are supposed to be innovative,” notes Benner.“Brand new technologies which produce products that don’t exist are difficult to measure.But I think it always has to be leavened a bit with a focus on innovation and [customer relationships].” Brushing aside criticism that 6S inhibits rather than encourages innovation, Forrest Breyfogle, CEO Smarter Solutions, says: “this could be the case in an organization’s Lean Six Sigma deployment, where focus is given to the search for projects and their completion.In these organizations, primary focus can be for black-belt or green-belt certification upon project completion.“One exception will be incremental innovation such as product extensions (for example, multiple colors of post-it notes are innovations, but very different than a groundbreaking radical innovation like the ipod).Such incremental innovation may actually increase because it is easy to measure in the short term, and managers can demonstrate improvement in metrics like time-to-market or costs,” adds Benner.
He says that losing sight of the overall objectives of creating value can result in a series of tactical projects strung together that fail to connect into a strategic high impact program. Benner feels that once Six Sigma has been implemented in an organization and the initial benefits have been achieved, it is increasingly costly to find more opportunities for improvement, and these improvements may not yield the benefits of the initial improvements.
She thinks that 6S practices can be valuable in areas like manufacturing, where the activities are routine (and likely to stay that way) but need to be more efficient.
However, she says that these practices can be “dangerous” in areas of organizations that are responsible for innovation or creativity, such as research or new product development, or in organizations that need to be consistently innovative to compete in an industry,” Benner points out.
Some of the quality experts are also of the opinion that Six sigma hardly has any role to play in this era of invention and innovation, while others feel that Six Sigma works very much in synchronization with innovation and hence can be a tool to effectively execute innovative techniques.
“To be successful, a company has to know how to do both – innovate and execute,” says Mike Nichols, prominent quality analyst and president of American Society for Quality.