Six Sigma in an R&D context

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Six Sigma Methodology | Six Sigma Model | Six Sigma Approach > Best Practices > Six Sigma in an R&D context

Six Sigma in an R&D context
Is it possible to use Six Sigma to improve the quality of R&D processes? Or do R&D activities naturally defy systematic improvement efforts?

Six Sigma in Development
Maarten Peters
The DMAIC-process as the basis of Six Sigma offers a structural problem-solving methodology.
The Define phase is typical one of the phases and is also critical for the development process with 'Voice of the Customer' as an important input. If there is no customer, there is no market for a product.
Typical development process ends with the Implementation phase and the Control phase (producing the product) is in many cases outside the scope of the Product development team but it is the scope if you look at it from a company perspective.
So yes Six Sigma as a problem solving methodoly is applicable to product development.

Six Sigma in an R&D Development: Design For Six Sigma
Six Sigma methodology can be used in R&D. However, the DMAIC format may be difficult to use, unless there is a specific process in place for research activities. Another format of Six Sigma- DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) can be used in the development stage. Generally DMAIC is used for existing processes and DFSS for new ones.

Six Sigma
It is indeed possible to improve results of R&D function via the deployment of DFSS (Design For Six Sigma) methodology and tools.

Six Sigma in R&D
James Gunn
Six Sigma is about reducing variance in a process, which doesn't sound like a good thing in R&D. And while you may repeat certain design tasks for products of a certain type, the work content of the process will depend on the nature of the product. As someone who was doing busines process improvement before someone called it Six Sigma, I wouldn't use 6 sigma in R&D.

Six Sigma in a R&D Context
Leopoldo Araujo
Well, it depends on your approach...
If you are targeting "to improve the quality of R&D processes" I will assume you already have some targets on your R&D. Measuring and analysis against those targets must bring opportunities for improvement.
If the approach is about improving the outcome of each exercise on R&D, DFSS is a method to apply when executing. Are you managing a portfolio of projects? Then you may see the set of projects under the optics of the previous paragraph...

Design for Six Sigma in R&D Context
The approach should be DFSS (Design for Six Sigma). This will provide a detailed process flow and tools to be used in each phase of development.

The Relation between Six Sigma and R&D
Jagdish B Acharya, Consultant, India, SIG Leader
@James Gunn: R&D aims at finding causes of variance. Six Sigma aims at reducing variance. So in a way Six Sigma starts after R&D has found causes of variance.
In other words: R&D looks at variance to find causes and Six Sigma controls causes (factors) to reduce variance.

Ger de Waard, Management Consultant, Netherlands, SIG Leader
TRIZ is a problem solving toolkit: the principal TRIZ tools directs you to find all the ways of solving a problem, to find new concepts and the routes for developing new products.

TRIZ has simple general lists of how to solve any problem; these TRIZ solution triggers are distilled from analyzing all known engineering success. There are also tools for problem understanding, for system analysis and for understanding what you want.

TRIZ offers systematic innovation; by learning TRIZ and following its rules you can accelerate creative problem solving. Companies that successfully apply TRIZ are using the success and knowledge of the whole world, and are not dependent on the spontaneous and occasional creativity of individuals, or groups of engineers, within their organisation.

TRIZ is not just powerful for technical problem solving but is also successfully used on a wide range of management issues. TRIZ can be applied by using DfSS (DMAD(O)V approach.

Special Interest Group Leader
Jagdish B Acharya

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