Why Six Sigma Will work in Service Environments

Although Six Sigma has its roots in manufacturing, it works just as effectively in service industries. It’s no secret that service environments, such as financial organizations, healthcare providers, retail companies, and hospitality organizations have a harder time applying Six Sigma principles. However, the core principles of Six Sigma allow it to cost-effectively translate manufacturing-oriented Six Sigma tools into the service delivery process.

Service organizations have different root causes of problems and a unique set of processes and metrics. Thus, the tools and methodology required to achieve the improvements of Six Sigma are significantly different. While problems in the manufacturing setting may lie within a process, the issue in a service environment often is the process itself. Service industries are full of waste–and ripe for the benefits of Six Sigma. It is easy to apply relatively simple statistical and lean tools that will reduce costs and achieve greater speed with less waste in service processes. There are numerous case studies that demonstrate how Six Sigma can be used in service organizations just as effectively as in manufacturing-and with even faster results.

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In a service organization, the critical factors in quality and efficiency are flow of information and interaction between people, especially interactions with customers. Transforming the process of these flows will yield quality results. At the heart of every service business are the opinions, behaviors and decisions made by people. Analyzing and modifying human performance in service environments is as complex as any manufacturing situation. Six Sigma achieves documented bottom-line strategic business results by initiating an organization-wide culture shift. Until a process focus–rather than a task focus–is developed, the scope and endurance of improvements will be limited. Analyzing and modifying human performance in these environments is complex, but Six Sigma provides the tools and methodology required to achieve significant long-term improvements.

Service managers trained in Six Sigma become skilled at advanced process analysis and problem solving techniques relevant to the “real world” of service environments. They learn to identify and eliminate poor decision-making processes, standardize practices, reduce cycle times and manage the risk of the extensive changes required for breakthrough process improvement in people-oriented transactional processes. Successful Six Sigma services projects will lead to improved customer satisfaction, increased profit margins, reduced costs, and lower turnover. Six Sigma tools can be used in many service environments, even service areas within a non-service industry. Areas such as procurement, call centers, surgical suites, government offices, R&D, and many more will all receive benefits from implementing Six Sigma process improvement.

Six Sigma will help a service environment become a customer-centered organization, gain control over process complexity, and improve response time on signature services.

Peter Peterka is President of Six Sigma US. For additional information on Six Sigma Green Belt or other Six Sigma Certification programs contact Peter Peterka.

Author: Peter Peterka Google

Published 09/1/2008