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Using Six Sigma to Solve a Serious Design Challenge

December 3, 2018

A company had been deploying Process Six Sigma (DMAIC) and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) for a few years.  The company was showing many benefits from this deployment.  Most important among these benefits was a significant improvement in cost performance which was showing up in the Net Earnings of the company, several complex problems had been addressed, and benefits were becoming visible from work done with both the company’s customers and suppliers.

The government played a strong role in how the company’s products were designed and used through the enforcement of rules and regulations setting performance requirements for those products.  The governing rules and regulations were very specific and if the company’s designs did not meet them the company’s products were not permitted for sale in this government’s jurisdiction.  The initial BIG problem for the company was that it could not meet these requirements without adding hundreds of millions of dollars of cost it did not have.  Additionally, market studies showed that if this cost were added customers would stop buying the company’s product.  The company was unsure what to do because they did not have a design that would meet the government’s requirements and time was getting short.

Until this time most of the company’s efforts had been focused on DMAIC and the benefits that had been accruing from those projects.  The DFSS tools were used and many good projects had been done, but DFSS projects were not as visible as DMAIC projects had become.  So, with time running out and a major market at risk the company decided to see if application of DFSS tools would deliver the result that the company needed.  It was a big gamble and the leadership of the company was very nervous.

The DFSS consultant assigned its best practitioner to act as the MBB for the design team.  The company assigned its most knowledgeable and experienced designers to be on the team.  For four months they labored.  The fruits of these labors were outstanding.  The team developed a design that was fully tested and ready to go well in advance of the government’s implementation date.  The product was easy to produce.  The product design used many of the older product’s design elements reducing risk.  Additionally, the project eliminated the need to spend several hundred million dollars, and that made everybody, the company, the customers, the suppliers, and the shareholders extremely happy.

This project proved to the company that DFSS tools applied the right way to the right design requirements was capable of delivering staggering benefits to all the stakeholders of the company.

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