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Joseph A. DeFeo

Six Sigma

Continuous Innovation Using Design for Six Sigma

Gain a clear understanding of customers’ needs and translate them into a product or service to meet them

Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 17:00

Designing for customer needs always leads to higher quality products and services, as well as innovative outcomes, because an effective design process uncovers hidden customer needs. Adapting the most effective models of continuous innovation can create the habit of innovation. Continuous innovation using the design for Six Sigma (DFSS) models and tools is a powerful engine for planning quality into products. Juran referred to the quality-planning design steps as a framework for planning new products and services. Planning an effective solution for an improvement project may require one or more steps of this quality planning process.

New designs or innovations happen when one discovers hidden customer needs. Traditionally, the main activities to capitalize on these insights were executed sequentially. Unfortunately, this approach results in a minimum of communication between the departments, which in turn often leads to problems for the next internal customer department. To prevent this, activities are organized as a team from the beginning of the project.

Creating new products and services contributes to an organization’s vitality. Many have adopted methods to improve the salability of their designs. Today, DFSS is a systematic methodology for providing the means to attain new services and innovative designs. It forces people to think outside the box and has been used within new product introduction processes for a variety of physical goods. It has also been used to develop high-quality news services.

There are two basic types of innovation. Type I is something completely new, which happens rarely and often by a lucky accident. Although lucky accidents are good, Type II innovation presents a less chancy and more common path. It involves building on or combining things that already exist. It can create dramatic breakthroughs and change the way we live.

Getting beyond our “boxed” selves is a skill that can be learned and improved with technique, practice, and courage. Letting go requires a systematic methodology. Designing innovative and superior quality services and products requires gaining a clear understanding of customers’ needs and translating them into services aimed at meeting them. In competitive business situations, success often comes to the best innovators. To create continuous innovation, an organization must design to meet customers’ unmet needs.

Evolution of design and innovation methods

Quality by design was a concept first outlined by Joseph M. Juran in various publications, most notably Juran on Quality by Design (Free Press, 1992). It stated that quality must be planned into products, and that most quality crises relate to the way quality was planned in the first place.

Concurrent engineering was a popular new-product development process in which all individuals responsible for development and production were involved at the earliest stages of product design. One of the earliest forms of design for quality was the design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA), a methodology (and later a software design) that helped guide design teams through this critical stage of product development with cost information, even before design models are created.

Design for manufacture (DFM) is a systematic approach that allows engineers to anticipate manufacturing costs early in the design process. DFM methodology encourages individual engineers and concurrent development teams to investigate additional processes and materials, and to develop more economical designs.

Design for assembly (DFA) is a methodology for evaluating part designs and the overall design of an assembly. It is a quantifiable way to identify unnecessary parts in an assembly and to determine assembly times and costs. The outcome of a DFA-based design is a more elegant product with fewer parts, which is both functionally efficient and easy to assemble.

Sustainable design is a method of designing physical goods that comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. The intention is to prevent negative environmental impact by identifying potential impacts and applying creative or best practices to prevent or mitigate them.

The evolution of many lessons learned has led to the development of DFSS. It is focused on creating new or modified designs capable of significantly higher levels of performance. DFSS actually focuses on both sides of quality: the right features and the fewest failures.

Design for Six Sigma—DMADV steps

Experience with applying the five DMADV steps—design, measure, analyze, design, verify—has led us to believe that it is useful to define a step to select the project before the team actually begins its DMADV journey.

The select phase in DFSS is more strategic than for quality improvement or in define, measure, analyze, improve, control (DMAIC) projects. When a major opportunity is identified, leadership will determine whether it is best served with a new design or a redesign of something that exists. The project opportunity and goal statements are prepared and included in a team charter, which is confirmed by management. Management selects the appropriate team of personnel for the project, ensures that they are properly trained, and assigns the necessary priority.

A project begins with the define phase when it is officially launched by the management team. A key task in the define phase is to create the initial business case that validates the selection rationale and establishes the business justification through reduced product cost, increased sales, or entirely new market opportunities.

The measure phase in the DMADV sequence is mainly concerned with identifying the key customers, determining what their critical needs are, and developing measurable critical-to-quality (CTQ) requirements necessary for a successfully designed product. These needs become the measurable CTQ requirements that must be satisfied by the design solution. The project team may use several means to set the goals for each CTQ requirement. The result is a combination of customers’ stated requirements, and requirements that may not be generally addressed or known by the customer.

Another tool employed by some design project teams is the set of quality function deployment (QFD) matrixes. As a group, the matrixes are tied together, with the means of one matrix becoming the objectives of the next. In this way, nothing critical is lost, and no extraneous matters are introduced. The QFD matrix is meant to highlight the strengths and weaknesses that currently exist. Keeping this matrix up to date provides a running gap analysis for the team.

The main purpose of the analyze phase is to select a high-level design and develop the requirements that will be the targets for performance of the detailed design. The design team develops several high-level alternatives that represent different functional solutions to the collective CTQ requirements. As more design information is developed during the course of the project, the design may be revisited and refined.

During the analyze phase, DMADV analysis tools enable the design team to assess the performance of each design alternative, and to test the differences in performance of the competing design alternatives. These analyses are accomplished using graphical analysis and statistical tools. One of the significant advances affecting this process is the availability of several statistical analysis tools. This availability has also made it necessary for individuals who would not normally use these tools to be trained in the use and interpretation of the results.

The design phase builds on the high-level design requirements to deliver a detailed, optimized, functional design that meets operational manufacturing and service requirements. The design team is also concerned about the processes that must be developed to provide the service or build the product. Product designs may be revised as needed to ensure reliable, capable manufacturing and operations. The goals of the design for performance must be verified through testing of prototype and preproduction models, or initial pilot samples or pilot runs.

The purpose of the verify phase in the DMADV sequence is to ensure that the new design can be manufactured or service delivered and field-supported within the required quality, reliability, and cost parameters. The operations process is typically exercised through one or more pilot runs. One of the considerations of the design team is to ensure that the project documentation will conform to the internal requirements of the quality system.

The design team should ensure that appropriate testing in a service and field support environment is accomplished to uncover potential lifetime or serviceability issues. These tests will vary greatly, depending on the product and industry. A final design scorecard should be completed, and all key findings should be recorded and archived for future reference. The team should complete a final report that takes a look back at the execution of the project. Identifying and discussing the positive and not-so-positive events and issues will help the team learn from any mistakes made, and provide the basis for continuing improvement of the design for Six Sigma sequence.


About The Author

Joseph A. DeFeo’s picture

Joseph A. DeFeo

Joseph A. DeFeo is president and executive coach with Juran. He is recognized worldwide for his training and consulting expertise which enables organizations to achieve superior results. For additional information, visit www.juran.com.