Integrating Innovation into Design for Six Sigma

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Integrating Innovation into Design for Six Sigma

David Verduyn
C2C Solutions Inc.
2899 E. Big Beaver #226
Troy, MI 48083
Phone: 248-879-8040


Value attracts customers, Quality earns respect, and Innovation differentiates your product from the competition, as well as, attracts the competitor’s clientele while ensuring customer loyalty. Successful integration of these three all but guarantees a bright future. Somewhere in the late 20th century, many leading companies realized that the Product Development Process was as important as the product itself. In order to achieve these three goals Design for Six Sigma initiatives were born.

To date, there are numerous “versions” of Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma, to mention a few: MAIC, DMAIC, DMADV, DMEDI, DIDOV, IDDOV, etc. The best approach a company can take is to understand the critical elements contained within each version, and then customize what you have learned to fit your corporate culture. This article (and roadmap) illustrates a “macro” perspective of common elements found within various Design for Six Sigma Programs. These elements are integrated into a unique and simplified graphical roadmap titled “Concept to Customer” Roadmap.

The “Concept to Customer” Roadmap

This “Concept to Customer” roadmap involves a set of structured and logical activities that focus on the customer, cultivate innovation, ensure robustness, maintain reliability, reduce cost, and ultimately increase value for the end customer and shareholders. Many companies today understand the relative importance of these three elements, and are introducing rigorous methods to achieve them in every aspect of their business.

Notes on the “Concept to Customer” process in Figure 1:

  1. The order of events and the extent to which each proposed step (represented in Figure 1) should be practiced will be debated forever. It is the authors’ opinion that this roadmap represents a logical flowchart that integrates common Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) Methods and tools, into a “user-friendly” roadmap.
  2. There are several “entry points” into the “Concept to Customer” process that are dependant on the project objectives and where you are in your engineering and business situation.
  3. To illustrate all the possible paths one could travel in the “Concept to Customer” process would yield a spaghetti chart. The most common paths are illustrated with red arrows.

Download the PDF of Figure 1

Figure 1
Click here (595 KB) to view a full size "Concept to Customer" Roadmap PDF (new window)

The Concept to Customer Roadmap can be summarized and broken up into 5 main Stages:

  1. Define the Opportunity and Understand your Customers: Since the customer defines quality, a meticulous knowledge of each of your customers must be understood and documented. Numerous techniques are available to understand your customer. Steps A, B, C, and D focus on understanding your customers better than they understand themselves.
  2. Form Really Does Follow Function. Functions are the most important aspect of any Product or Service. Value is measured by the ratio of Functions to Cost (F/C). Maximizing this ratio and engineering the most appropriate set of functions to respond to the customer’s requirements must be very well thought through. Steps E, F, and G focus on formulating the right “model” of your product or process, then introduce steps to ensure a reliable delivery.
  3. Innovate or Die! Technical challenges and a harsh competitive environment make innovation mandatory. Most people think only “special” people have the ability to innovate. Wrong! Numerous methods exist to greatly enhance the ability of anyone to generate unique and elegant ideas. Steps H and I introduce numerous techniques to generate, evaluate, and synthesize new ideas.
  4. Robustness Leads to Loyalty: A robust product or service is one that behaves consistently in the presence of factors that cannot be controlled or are too expensive to control. Companies who consistently deliver robust products have many loyal followers. Steps J and L introduce methods to ensure robust products and manufacturing processes.
  5. Maintain the Gains: Once your product and process has been designed, production controls and continuous improvement activities are needed in order to ensure capability and eliminate unforeseen waste. Steps M and N illustrate popular techniques for the above.



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