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In today’s world of global economic competition, the quality of products and services is paramount in realizing profitability and sustainability of customers. Quality management is the management of all activities and functions required in the process of determining the quality policy and its implementation. The impact of globalization and the advent of modern technology has changed the world of business and how customers conduct themselves in the market. As a result of the global challenges, organizations have been forced to develop strategies that will ensure they remain competitive in the market. Therefore, today’s challenging environment does not leave any room for error since it will result in massive losses for the organization. Consequently, the use of six sigma has become part of the culture for many organizations.
The Key Concepts of Six Sigma
According to Turner, the concept of six sigma is not a “cliche or slogan,” but a disciplined process through which organizations ensure that they develop and deliver quality products to consumers (65). The practice of six sigma revolves around six key concepts. First, it focuses on critical to quality, where the company produces according to the requirements of the customer to avoid over production and surplus. Second, the company focuses on defects by ensuring that it delivers exactly what the needs are without any defects. Third, companies that apply six sigma focus on process capability, which means that they only process what they can deliver.
The fourth concept of six sigma is a variation, where companies ensure that before they produce, the customer is given preference to see and feel the product before it goes into the assembly line. This helps the company to make any changes or variations to suit the customer’s needs and preferences. The fifth concept of six sigma is focusing on stable operations, where the company ensures that it maintains consistency in the production process. Finally, sixth sigma is designed to address customer needs and process capability (Kass & James 125).
The Use of Six Sigma at General Electric Company
The concept of Six Sigma was first pioneered by Motorola and the followed by General Electric, where they focused on using scientific approaches in solving production problems such as quality of products and time spent in manufacturing. When applying the principle of Six Sigma, companies identify the cause of problems in production and then implement solutions. The fundamental process elements of Six Sigma is commonly referred to as DMAICT (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control and Transfer).
General Elctric Company is a leading company operating in the automotive industry. In addition, it also has interests in insurance, construction, education and real estate. In the line of production, the company applies Six Sigma and lean manufacturing since the two concepts use similar approaches of continuous improvement. When using Six Sigma, the company uses the key deliverables of DMAICT, where the company defines the opportunity by engaging stakeholders, identifies the root causes of production problems, measures performance and analyses the root causes of problems. Furthermore, the company develops implementation plans of solving problems and standardizes and controls the production process (Turner 115).
General Electric Company is a company devoted to maintaining excellent standards in its operations. The company sets its quality standards with the employees and clients in mind since it believes that they are vital stakeholders of the organization. The quality standards of General Electric Company Co. are deeply engraved in its guiding principle: “a customer focused organization that aims to meet and exceed the client’s expectation”.
When the company is setting its quality standards, it makes use of an Integrated Management System (IMS) which is critical in developing objectives and targets. The IMS incorporates manuals that contain procedures of product development to divisions and projects. In addition, the company sets its targets and standards in line with the ISO guidelines (Kass & James 315).
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The use of Six Sigma has enabled General Electric Company to maintain consistency in satisfying its customers, by producing what they require at the right time. Some of the principles of Six Sigma include: specification of value by as required by customers, identification and creation of value streams, striving for perfection and pull production.
The Assembly Engineering Manager observes: “after they implemented the process of Six Sigma, General Electric Company realized tremendous growth.” (Turner 67). Before the introduction of Six Sigma, the company had an enormous storage rack for storing the waste material as the company produces hundred of construction materials on a daily basis. The production process was slow since there was a lot of inventory which took so much space. However, after the introduction of Six Sigma, one of the benefits the company realized was the elimination of waste material and too much inventory. This created a lot of space for work, and the company decided to redesign its factory layout. The Assembly Engineering Manager points out that the process of Six Sigma enabled them to align their machines in a more effective way to enhance performance and productivity.
Another significant benefit of Six Sigma is that it enabled General Electric Company to manage its Takt time and machine time. This has enabled the company to manage surplus production because their production is demanded driven by customer orders. The company has also invested in software that automatically updates data on machine performance. Furthermore, Turner observes “the use of six sigma has enabled the company to monitor its machines, thereby making it easy to identify any breakdowns (98)”.
As a result of using Six Sigma, the design departments of General Electric Company have been redesigned to enhance performance of the entire design process. Since the introduction of Six Sigma, the design department has been extremely busy and productive. Owing to the successful implementation of the process of Six Sigma in General Electric Company the company has decided to design a manual assembly line in its affiliate in the U.K.
How General Electric Company Ensures Compliance of Its Six Sigma Standards
In ensuring that the company’s standards are complied with, the company regularly performs internal and external audits to monitor the quality of its products. Since the company values customer satisfaction, it ensures that employees are adequately trained to be competitive. Furthermore, the company believes that standards can only be complied with if employees are well trained since this will result in quality and improved performance.
General Electric engages in “continuous improvement” of its operations to ensure that company standards are complied. This involves developing and periodically reviewing its projects in the construction industry. The company has developed a quality control plan to address issues of non-conformance, workmanship and quality assurance of its projects.
In the course of its operations, General Electric is keen towards maintaining a free and secure environment through its HSE standards. In ensuring compliance with the HSE practices, the company has developed a recognition and reward scheme that issues certificates and cash to the most cautious employees. This helps in motivating employees, thus, reducing faults and failures within the company (Turner 200). The company also makes use of project consultants by conducting regular inspections on a weekly and monthly basis to make sure that the HSE system is effectively implemented. In addition, the company ensures compliance with its standards through quarterly system audits at their head office, normally conducted by ISO approved agencies, thus, making the company fully compliant with ISO certification requirements.
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