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The Six Sigma Line: Breaking Better


By: Rick Ring

Welcome to the Six Sigma Line! This series of blog articles addresses topics that we find interesting and provides potentially useful information to anyone trying to enhance their business skills.

Here at Purdue, we have seen Six Sigma principles applied in many different ways. What works for a bank may not work for an aerospace manufacturer, a shipping company, or a clothing retailer, etc. In our blog, we may suggest one method over another, or have a take on certain tools, but there are many paths to the same place. Because of this, everyone’s unique experience is valuable, offering a distinct perspective on how to employ Six Sigma methods. The goal of this blog is to bring those experiences out and explore successful (and unsuccessful) approaches that we’ve encountered in the business world. We’ll also draw attention to interesting thoughts and favorite resources.

For instance: One of my favorite web sites is qualitydigest.com. They offer multiple points of view on every case study and anecdote they cover. Do you favor Lean over Six Sigma, or vice versa?  Most likely, you’ll find support for both views on this web site. Do you think that all variable data needs to be normal (or forcibly so) before certain tests can be applied? Maybe not?  Again, you probably will find folks that support both views, which is critical to expanding your knowledge of quality control.

George Goble once said, “If you build a better mousetrap, you will catch better mice.” That’s the theme of this post: getting better, whether at your business, golf game, mouse-catching, or anything else you wish to improve upon. And isn’t Six Sigma all about getting better?

Before we tackle the heavy duty stuff, let’s talk about three basic ideas you can try out at work or home to improve your skills without taking a course, studying, or attending a lecture.

First — Write. Write some training material. Write a work instruction. Write down an idea. Write yourself notes. Write anything–blogs, memos, personal letters, poems. This kind of reflection helps you focus on the subject and synthesize what you’ve learned.

Second — Teach.  Just preparing the material is a learning experience.  Teaching anything to anybody makes you learn more about the subject.  Instructors learn just as much from teaching students as their students learn from them. To practice putting Six Sigma principles to use, look for opportunities to bring what you’re studying into the workplace.

“ The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer. ”

Third — Count. Counting helps us gather information about the subject in question and understand where a problem lies. If you count something interesting, you may learn something interesting. Too many errors? Start counting. Count where. Count when. Count what was wrong (Some folks call this “statistics”). Start training yourself to take stock of a situation mathematically.

The bonus here is that by writing, teaching, or counting something, you’ll not only improve yourself, but also may even help others at the same time.


About Purdue’s Online Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Certificate Program

Purdue University offers comprehensive online Lean Six Sigma (LSS) certificate programs designed for working professionals with varying levels of Lean Six Sigma experience. The online Lean Six Sigma certificate courses prepare professionals to satisfy the immense demand for Lean expertise, skills and certification.

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About Rick Ring

Rick Ring served as a lead project specialist in quality for Purdue University’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), leading and/or facilitating multiple Six Sigma projects and Lean kaizen events. Rick holds two Six Sigma Black Belt Certifications, one from the American Society for Quality and the other from the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, and has taught both public and on-site LSS courses. As an instructor, Rick stands ready to assist students on their quality improvement journeys.

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