Total Quality Management or Six Sigma Research Proposal

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Total Quality Management or Six Sigma

Six Sigma-Based Quality Model at General Electric

The contemporaneous business community is faced with numerous challenges, the most significant ones referring to the changing needs and behaviors of the customers, the increasing needs of the staff members or the strategic approaches implemented by the competition. Organizations strive to find ways in which to fight the external elements which jeopardize their success within the market, and in this order of ideas, a primary goal has been that of significantly increasing the quality of the operational processes, as well as the quality of the final products and services offered to the customer.

A primary method of achieving the above mentioned desiderates has revolved around the implementation of the Six Sigma model. It basically strives to create a business environment based on high quality and lack of error. It has been analyzed and improved along the years to offer entrepreneurs better chances of triumphs. The methodology was firs developed and implemented by Motorola, but along the years, it has gained significant reputation. It is based on the usage of numerous tools and the most significant two techniques of implementation are the Six Sigma DMAIC and Six Sigma DMADV.

A relevant example of an organization which has successfully managed to implement these concepts is Connecticut-based General Electric. The organization was established in 1878 and activates in the conglomerate industry. General Electric first implemented the Six Sigma model in the 1980s, and based it on the principles of the learning organization. In time, they come to enjoy the benefits of the methodology, mostly materialized in significantly higher profits.

2. General Electric and Its Industry

General Electric was established in New Jersey in 1878 and it has since proved its worth by sustaining numerous advancements which changed life as we know it. The company is currently headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut and employs and estimated number of 327,000 individuals. At the end of fiscal year 2007, the company registered revenues of $172,738 billion, out of which $22.208 billion were net income (Website of General Electric, 2008). This followed a continuously ascendant trend.

The company activates in the conglomerate industry, producing mainly aircrafts and aircraft appliances (both hardware as well as software). They also produce technologies to help the development of the manufacturing, medical and transportation sectors. The particular feature of this industry is that it is formed from large multinational organizations, which conduct various types of operations, sometimes even unrelated. Otherwise put, a company in the conglomerate business may conduct operations in various fields, and this is why it cannot be simply integrated into a particular type of industry. It is then safe to say that General Electric simultaneously activates in the manufacturing, medical, transportation or it industries.

Relative to the conglomerate industry and its implementation of Six Sigma, it can be observed that recent trends indicate an increased attention towards an improvement in quality. The Six Sigma model has been implemented at various organizational stages and has managed to retrieve successful outcomes. A specification that must be made however refers to the still challenging task of implementing the model as an integrated system across all operations handled by a conglomerate.

3. Six Sigma

The Six Sigma model emerged from the need to constantly improve the quality of the operations and outcomes within an economic entity. The definitions given along the years to explain the concept vary in form, but tend to revolve around the same ideas. Thomas Pyzdek (2003) for instance defines the method as a "rigorous, focused and highly effective implementation of proven quality principles and techniques. Incorporating elements from the work of many quality pioneers, Six Sigma aims for virtually error free business performance." The iSix Sigma Website (2008) on the other hand, offers a more scientific definition of the concept and states it to be a "disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving towards six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process - from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service."

There are two most important methodologies of implementing the Six Sigma: the DMAIC and the DMADV. The first stands for Define - Measure - Analyze - Improve - Control and the second acronym stands for Define - Measure - Analyze - Design - Verify. The DMAIC methodology is used to improve the quality of the already existent systems, but which encounter difficulties and consequently require incremental improvement. The DMADV methodology is used to create new processes or products at Six Sigma levels selected for quality improvement.

Both DMAIC and DMADV quality improvement methodologies are implemented by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts and are verified and approved by Six Sigma Master Black Belts, or the ultimate experts (the iSix Sigma website, 2008).

4. Six Sigma at General Electric

General Electric implemented Six Sigma as a response to the changing world. They saw the quality improvement tool as a useful means of addressing the emergent changes in the industry and the market, in order to consolidate their leading position. "Globalization and instant access to information, products and services continue to change the way our customers conduct business. Today's competitive environment leaves no room for error. We must delight our customers and relentlessly look for new ways to exceed their expectations. This is why Six Sigma Quality has become a part of our culture" (General Electric Website, 2008)

An important specification that must be made about the Six Sigma quality improvement methodology is that it does not argue to present the perfect recipe for success, but a model which must be adapted to the unique needs on each economic entity. Otherwise put, the model provides the manager with a theoretical framework, but for the methodology to retrieve the desires results, it must be customized to the particular needs of each organization.

General Electric has understood this condition and has strived to adapt the model to the requirements of all industries and organizations it operates, as well as integrate it at a generalized level, across all operations handled within the conglomerate industry. The organizations' understanding of the concepts has materialized in the following six principles:

Critical to Quality: Attributes most important to the customer

Defect: Failing to deliver what the customer wants

Process Capability: What your process can deliver

Variation: What the customer sees and feels

Stable Operations: Ensuring consistent, predictable processes to improve what the customer sees and feels

Design for Six Sigma: Designing to meet customer needs and process capability" (General Electric Website, 2008)

The conglomerate has implemented the model at various industrial levels starting with as early as 1980; its main focus was that of identifying the number of errors within a process or system. The statistical analyses then helped the Six Sigma Green and Black Belts, as well as the Six Sigma Master Black Belts to reduce the defects. They concluded that for a process to achieve the Six Sigma quality, that process could not incur more than 3.4 errors per 1,000,000 opportunities. "The 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 close to zero defects as possible. To achieve Six Sigma quality, a process must produce no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities, or chances for nonconformance. This means we strive to be nearly flawless in executing our processes and programs" (General Electric Website, 2008).

The first implementation models of the statistical concept were integrated throughout the Work-Out programs. Their role was to create a fruitful environment for a learning organization. It would see that the employees and managers would be constantly striving to learn new things and integrate them within organizational processes in order to achieve superior levels… [END OF PREVIEW]

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