This article outlines some of the key ‘best practices’ when using iGrafx to help accomplish process excellence through using a Six Sigma methodology. This article assumes you are familiar with the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) methodology and techniques.
Overview of DMAIC using iGrafx
iGrafx applications provide functionality to accomplish many of the techniques used throughout the DMAIC methodology. The attached diagram (PDF file) outlines key areas where iGrafx may be used.
The iGrafx® Process for Six Sigma (PfSS) application provides specific functionality for Six Sigma techniques, including integrating with Minitab® or SAS JMP® for statistical analysis for Design of Experiments (DOE) or detailed analysis of simulation data, as well as help with data fitting and process path analysis.
Even if you are not using PfSS, other iGrafx applications provide useful functionality in accomplishing Six Sigma goals.
First Things First: The Define Phase with iGrafx
After you have established a project charter with a Champion, clearly defining the problem that is critical to the customer or the business, you are ready to proceed with your Six Sigma project. Ensure you carefully approach the Define phase. A best practice in Six Sigma is both looking broadly enough to avoid a point solution, and yet staying focused and knowing when to stop. Be as rigorous as you can be in problem definition, narrowing down to Critical To Quality (CTQ) metrics if possible.
The following table illustrates the correlation between tools within the Define phase and iGrafx functionality.
Tool / Technique
Quick Command (see the iGrafx Help system (Help menu > iGrafx Help for more information)
File > New > Lean Six Sigma Tools > SIPOC Diagram (or in a diagram: File > Components, right-click, New > From Template, then Lean Six Sigma Tools > SIPOC Diagram)
File > New > Process > Cross Functional Process, or File > New > BPMN > BPMN Basic Collaboration (Depending upon your mapping methodology)
From a Diagram: File > Components; Right-click, New > Prioritization Matrix
Cause and Effect Diagram
File > New > Cause and Effect > Cause and Effect Diagram (you may use Manufacturing/6M's or Transactional/4P's templates too)
From a C&E Diagram: Cause and Effect > Export to FMEA Sheet
As a best practice, you may not want to jump into process diagramming or data gathering right away. Don’t try to ‘boil the ocean’ with every problem or endless data analysis. Complete a SIPOC diagram to understand the overall process and define key process inputs and outputs (KPI and KPO). From the SIPOC, decide if a process map with ‘value classifications’ (e.g. non-value-added work) defined, or maybe a C&E Matrix or C&E Diagram (Ishikawa fishbone), is the best next step. The key is to throw a wide net around the problem as it’s defined, looking at all possible root causes, and continue to narrow down to the CTQ’s and what’s Critical To the Customer (CTC).
Another best practice in the Define phase: Stop and correct the problem if it’s clear how to correct it. Often times, particularly in service processes, the cause of the problem(s) are clear. Simply by rigorous process mapping showing where non-value-add work occurs, or careful use of cause and effect tools, you may have identified and come to consensus on the problem. The rest of the methodology isn’t needed; stop. Correct the problem. Start up another project if problems remain, and are critical to the customer and/or the business.
A key best practice in Six Sigma projects is ensuring that those who must be consulted or informed of project status know of the progress you’re making. Use your iGrafx repository to store all of your Six Sigma project data in a central repository. This will promote data sharing and re-use, automatically publish the latest data to those who should see it (based on permissions you control), keep a revision history, allow team collaboration, and even tracking of project status and completeness.
The iGrafx Platform can be used during this phase to capture key risks, requirements, supporting resources, RACI information, measurements, and other key process characteristics as well. This can help keep senior management informed of why the Six Sigma project is critical to success, and provide them dashboards to understand and align processes and improvement efforts to key strategies, goals, and measurements of the enterprise. Similarly, those key enterprise-level characteristics are available to you as the Six Sigma practitioner, ensuring you are understanding and aligned with key enterprise goals as you embark on improving the enterprise through your project.
Assuming it’s necessary to move on to the Measure and Analyze phases of Six Sigma, it’s time to use other tools in your toolkit. Take measures from a good measurement system; use SPC or Pareto charting. Pull out your statistical application (e.g. Minitab or JMP) to turn numbers into information.
You will, of course, be updating the Process Maps, and perhaps the FMEA and tools you used in the Define phase. You may want to go to the next level of detail in C&E Diagrams; remember that iGrafx can create hierarchy and you can ‘drill into’ a single cause by linking from the text to another C&E diagram.
If you have iGrafx simulation tools (e.g. Process for Six Sigma), you may even be extending your process map into use as a simulation model, to establish DPU and RTY metrics, working towards Process Capability. This is particularly helpful where detailed measurements are not practical.
Once you reach the Improve phase, and have identified alternatives or ideas to fix the problem, it may be time to pull out simple decision-making tools in iGrafx like the Pick Chart, or use a powerful tool like the Discrete Event Simulation (DES) in Process for Six Sigma (PfSS). You can use simulation to experiment on the process in a virtual reality, answering ‘What-If’? questions without having to impact the actual process. If the situation warrants it, with PfSS you can run a Rapid DOE to try many alternates and log the results to your statistical application for further analysis.
Once again, a best practice is to not ‘boil the ocean’. It can be tempting, particularly with powerful analysis tools, to perform endless experiments on the process to seek the ideal goal. Remember to keep in mind the Define phase work you’ve done, and keep focused on CTQ’s. Review your iGrafx and other data if necessary to remind you of your goal.
When you have reached conclusions on how to improve the process, and are ready to propose solutions, the iGrafx simulation data can build a business case for change. You’ll have statistics to quantify expected outcomes, and know that you have been able to try various alternatives quickly to understand and find optimal solutions.
You will, of course, still be updating the Process Maps, and perhaps other iGrafx-created data, during this phase as well. Again, a key best practice is keeping people informed of progress, and ensuring people know they have the latest data.
In Control, you want to ensure the problem is under control and stays resolved. Ensuring that everyone executing a process understands what they are supposed to be doing, and have the right data and tools to do the job, is critical. Use the iGrafx and other data you’ve created to help train people, and ensure they have access to what they need.
With the iGrafx Platform, you have a central repository that can manage the life cycle of a process, and ensure that the entire enterprise has access to the latest approved process and other data for their use. You can also ensure that the new process is reported enterprise-wide and that you have met and continue to meet enterprise strategy and goals with the improved process.
iGrafx provides you a toolset to help you be successful in your Six Sigma efforts. Through use of key best practices, such as choosing the right tool or technique at the right time, sharing information beyond your project team, collaborating to get the work done, and aligning to enterprise requirements, you can gain the most effective use out of Six Sigma methods.