MOST DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS embrace change about as readily as they rush into a game of bowling ball soccer. They've seen bowling balls painted black and white to look like soccer balls and hesitate—with good reason—to kick or head a ball until they’re sure it really is a soccer ball.
Evidence of these sorts of soccer games can be found m the plethora oftools, technologies and methodologies on the continuum to perfection: quality circles, continuous improvement/ ISO 9000 standards/ total quality management, business process reengineering, -concurrent engineering and so on. One aerospace firm reported a 20-year journey to culture change.
Culture change is a long-term effort—not easily grasped or accepted by engineers, who tend to have Concretethought processes. There is no magic formula for the rapid realization of remarkable results. Instead, changing and molding an enterprisewide culture involve a long-range, visionary, evolutionary and revolutionary journey with top management commitment.
Jack Welch at General Electric (GE) was one such leader. The 1998 GE annual report states: "... more than three quarters of a billion dollars insavings beyond our investment (in Six Sigma quality) with a billion and a half in sight for 1999."
Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) is gaining ground as a discipline practiced by design teams of major corporations. However, it is not an easy or rapid transition to make and is often fraught with pitfalls. Here we share the challenges encountered and lessons learned by Six Sigma professionals we surveyedfrom several organizations such as GE, Allied Signal/ Raytheon/ Delphi Automotive and others who have embarked on the journey from a deterministic to a probabilistic design culture and who are beginning to reap the benefits of this change (see note).
What is Six Sigma?
It may be easier to start with what Six Sigma is not. It is not a quick fix. It is not a Betty Crocker recipe. It is notsomething you hire a consultant to do. And although the number of hits on "Six Sigma" your favorite search engine will return is increasing exponentially each day, it goes way beyond the latest quality slogan, cliché or fad.
GE was one of the early adopters of Six Sigma and defines it as:
A highly disciplined process that helps us focus on developing and delivering near-perfect products andser-vices. Why "Sigma"? The word is a statistical term that measures how far a given process deviates from perfection. The central idea behind Six Sigma is that if you can measure how many "defects" you have in a process, you can systematically figure out how to eliminate them and get as dose to "zero defects" as possible. Six Sigma has changed the DNA at GE—it is the way we work—in everything we do and inevery product we design.
A gathering of lessons learned
Most of the individuals we interviewed indicated DFSS is not yet firmly entrenched in their firms' culture. For the most part, DFSS is only used in selected design groups. Several firms also indicated it is a tool
used only when particular requirements are to be analyzed.
Several notable exceptions use DFSS on every project. Thesefirms report the most substantial success from their organizationwide adoption of DFSS. It would appear from these data there is a critical level of utilization and application at which time the additive effects become multiplicative.
The 15 lessons learned illustrate how some corporations achieved and now retain the cutting edge in their never-ending collective journeys to corporate renewal andindustry viability. The lessons are grouped into four categories:
• Group one: DFSS, a growth strategy.
• Group two: DFSS, a way to serve customers.
• Group three: product-process fusion through DFSS.
• Group four: the DFSS engineering organization.
The sidebar, "Challenges to the Successful Implementation of DFSS/" contains questions to consider if you decide to implement DPSS within your...