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  • Writer's pictureChris Butterworth

Industrial Problem Solving

Manufacturers lose most of their profits due to Quality problems. Consider that for a moment. Do you think that is true at your workplace?

The Cost of Quality model tells us that a typical manufacturer loses up to 20% of revenues due to Quality problems. These losses come from defects found within the company as well as those which made it to your customers.

Quality problems, ordered by costs, follow a Pareto distribution. This is something like the 80 / 20 rule: 80% of your failure costs are caused by 20% of your problems. Dig deeper and you will find that there are just a few problems that need solving in order to put large sums back to your bottom line. This is very important. You have hundreds of Quality problems just like every other manufacturer. But the lion's share of your losses are generated from just a few problems.

This is why Six Sigma was so successful in many companies. Black Belts returning a million dollars back to the bottom line every year makes for a successful program.

What makes the Six Sigma Black Belt so successful is that they have an analytics advantage over other improvement practitioners.

Consider manufacturing: this is a complex physical process. We move materials through many workstations where each station does something physical to the item. The final product is the result from a large multi-variable system.

If your yield is , say, 95%, you struggle to determine what caused the 5% that failed. Brainstorming only gets you so far and isn't successful often enough to be a strategic approach. If there is a correlation between final product Quality and some upstream process variable, you will find this through one of several multivariate techniques.

You start with data and you look to understand the patterns in the data. You don't need to be a Black Belt or a Statistician. It helps to have a technical background but the most important element is curiosity. If you're curious, you'll connect the dots.

Many organizations that started a Six Sigma initiative found that they were solving costly problems that had been around for years.

Does your organization have Six Sigma Black Belts working on the tough problems? If not, you should hire or train for these skills.


I've been a Six Sigma practitioner for close to 30 years now and have lead many projects which resolved costly Quality problems and put a lot of money back to the bottom line where it belongs. I can help your team by supporting or leading a project and I can provide the training to be successful.

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