The newly immediate access to information, products and services brought upon our way of life nowadays, continues to change the way customers normally conduct business. Our current competitive environment leaves no place for mistakes. We must surprise our customers and always look for new ways to exceed their expectations and anticipate their needs. This is why Six Sigma has become a common method in the way companies do business today. Six Sigma is a finely tuned process that allows focus on developing and delivering almost-perfect products and services.
The meaning of Six Sigma in itself is a term that measures how far a process deviates from perfection. The central idea behind it is that if you can measure how many “defects” you have in a process, you can figure out how to fix them and get as close to “zero defects” as possible. A process must produce no more than 3.4 defects per million chances or opportunities to be considered Six Sigma. An “opportunity” is defined as a chance for not meeting the required specifications. Samsung has perfected its approach to product, process and personnel development using Six Sigma as a tool for innovation, efficiency and quality.
Samsung started out in 1938 as a small trading company in Su-dong near Daegu city, founded by Lee Byung-chul. He had only forty employees to start with and the company’s major business was the production of noodles and the distribution of groceries within the city. From those humble beginnings Samsung has evolved into a brand of global leadership in various industries including IT, shipbuilding and engineering, amongst others.
Samsung Electronics Co. (SEC) was the name given to the company in 1969 after deciding to enter the electronics business. In 1970 they produced their first television set and began exporting only two months later. Since that time, the company has used tools and techniques such as total quality control, total process management, product data management, enterprise resource management, supply chain management and customer relationship management. Six Sigma was added to upgrade these innovations and improve SEC’s competitive position in world markets.
As the basis for its Six Sigma optimization, the company began by pursuing a widespread goal of developing its internal assets; especially people, to put innovation in the forefront in the development and design of products, in the manufacturing of those products, marketing and the growth and care of it’s workforce.
Starting initially in manufacturing operations and R&D in 2000, the company stretched to transactional business processes and the entire supply chain, eventually obtaining substantial savings and financial benefits in all 16 of its business units in South Korea and internationally. After only three years of implementation, the number of Master Black Belts (MBBs), Black Belts (BBs) and Green Belts (GBs) quickly reached 15,000. The initial corporate goal of 100 MBBs, 3,000 BBs and 30,000 GBs by 2004, meant that SEC was obviously serious about developing Six Sigma capability in their workforce.
No individual or operation in SEC was exempted from the training, and that included staff members in management, personnel, accounting and procurement. The implementation of an intranet site available worldwide to SEC provides reference materials, benchmarking prospects, reports to senior administration and enhancement for Six Sigma projects whose team members span several continents in occasions. Inclusive organizational learning is advanced as the Six Sigma methodologies are applied consistently from location to location.
Ten years later, the methodology’s philosophy and approaches continue to be integrated still more deeply throughout the company by developing the internal specialists needed to teach, implement, maintain and grow this competence in the future.
There are many aspects that can clearly show the benefits of Six Sigma implementations, such as improved customer loyalty for example. Surveys show that the reasons given by most customers for not returning to a business are discontent with the experience and employee attitude. Frequently a company will not even know they have an unhappy customer as they will simply take their businesses elsewhere.
Another aspect that is commonly overlooked is the need for an environment that harnesses employee motivation. A business needs its employees to act in the right manner, but employees must be properly motivated to do so. Organizations who are willing to fully participate with employees have constantly showed large increases in productivity. Sharing Six Sigma problem solving tools and procedures will acknowledge for employee progress and help produce a climate and environment for employee motivation.
Product innovations are what make companies like Samsung so competitive in today’s electronic market and the synergy between Six Sigma and supply chain management depends highly on project discipline, sustaining results, well-established HR frameworks and obviously, qualitative results. Samsung is one of the most amazing examples of what Six Sigma implementations can do for a company and a measurable success that expands for over half a century, attests to those claims.