Using Six Sigma statistical thinking to improve business processes
A Cummins case study

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Page 4: The role of data

There is a range of data that provides the raw information about business processes. Data, for example, might illustrate how a process is running, include accounting information, technical process data and customer information. This performance data can be entered into spreadsheets, although this data might help to provide a better understanding of the business, it does not always contribute to making business decisions.

Six Sigma involves converting data to information and then creating statistical images of the process. These pictures help to show how results vary within processes and provide a basis for understanding this variability. It is then possible to identify the gap between the ability of the process and the level of performance desired by the customer.

At its very basic level, when put together, data can be used to illustrate average or mean levels of performance. For example, on average it may take 30 days for a company to meet a particular customer need. However sometimes that need might be met in 20 days, while at other times it might take 40 days. In order to improve the process, it is important to understand the causes of this variation. By understanding the critical inputs that cause the variation it may be possible to reduce this variation to align with customers' needs.

By listening to the voice of the customer, and then using data to quantify the variation, work can take place upon identifying the critical elements causing the variation. This leads to improved business processes and therefore increased customer satisfaction.

Cummins | Using Six Sigma statistical thinking to improve business processes