A company wanted to improve its bottom line. After many discussions and benchmarking visits, the CEO decided that Six Sigma was the most effective approach available. The company began to deploy Six Sigma the following year. Initially, measuring Six Sigma project results in cost savings was the outcome that drew the most attention. But, it was quickly seen that the potential of Six Sigma was so much more. The company decided to go beyond cost savings and pursue the goal of delivering perfect products to customers. Further, the company believed that if it could use Six Sigma to support the success of its customers the company would create a competitive advantage in the market place that would be hard for others to match. By using Six Sigma to solve customer problems, the company would change the competitive landscape by connecting its products with an effective problem solving process and tools that customers would see as a product differentiator.
After becoming firmly grounded in the Six Sigma process and tools, the company began exploring with customers the big issues causing them the most concern and having the biggest negative impact on their business performance. Following these investigations it was clear that one of the customers’ biggest costs was the energy needed to operate the company’s products. The decision was made to find some customers who would be willing to let the company help them reduce energy consumption. When customers found out what the company was asking to do and that it would cost the customers only the time needed to be on a Six Sigma team, finding a willing partner happened fast.
The company assigned a Sponsor, Black Belt (BB), Master Black Belt (MBB) and team members to the customer’s project. The customer assigned a Co-Sponsor, Co-Belt and team members.
Over the course of a few months the project was completed with results that stunned all involved in both companies. The customer reported that energy costs were reduced by several million dollars. The savings came from a combination of improvements. Some of these improvements were relatively obvious, others required the analysis of complex details, the strength of Six Sigma.
Following project completion, the company’s annual quality improvement award was given to the team, including the customer’s participants. Even more importantly to the company, the customer ordered more products and signed up for more Six Sigma projects. Further, this proved to the company that done correctly, using Six Sigma with customers is a competitive advantage that goes far beyond the cost saving characterizing many Six Sigma efforts.