Design For Six Sigma (DFSS)

Design For Six SigmaMost people are familiar with the normal Six Sigma methodologies that are used to help make improvements to products or services within a facility. In fact, the standard Six Sigma process has become the industry best practice for most process or product improvements.

When you are creating a new product, however, the standard Six Sigma process just doesn’t work. This is why the Design for Six Sigma, or DFSS, was developed. This set of processes is similar in some ways to the process improvement part of Six Sigma, but as you will see, there are quite a few important things that really set it apart.

Design or Re-Design

The biggest thing to keep in mind when learning about or using DFSS is that it is made to help you with the design or re-design process. This means that it will typically take much longer to go through a single DFSS process than it would for a Six Sigma project that is simply focused on improving one part of a product.

In most cases, you will be working with a customer to come up with the specifics of the product that they need developed. You may also, however, just be working based on data that has been gathered about what will make a successful product. You will need to analyze every CTQ (Critical to Quality) metric with the new product, rather than just one or to like you would for a normal Six Sigma process.

DFSS Lifecycle

Whenever planning a new product or service, you will want to go through the DFSS lifecycle to ensure everything is planned out properly. This can be compared to the DMADV (Design, Measure, Analyze, Design Verify) process from traditional Six Sigma concepts.

The steps to the life cycle are:

  • Product Introduction (AKA Define) – This step includes surveying the customer, gathering data, doing research and evaluating the marketability of the product.
  • Measure – Here you will need to learn about the exact wants and needs from your customers or potential customers. In this step you should develop a full list of the CTQ’s that will be required for the development of the new product
  • Analyze – This is where you will look at your design ideas, and compare them to your CTQ’s to determine whether or not you are meeting all the customer needs. If not, you’ll need to go back and make some changes. If you are, you can continue on through the process.
  • Design – Once you have the basic concepts approved and understood, it is time to develop the more technical and detailed design of the product.
  • Implement – Creating prototypes and pilot models will be done in this stage. These should be working versions of the product that can be tested and evaluated to ensure they are meeting all customer needs.
  • Completion – You have now completed the DFSS process and can hand the production off to the manufacturing team. They will create the product according to the specifications so that they can be delivered to the customer.

Managing the DFSS Process

As you can imagine, going through this lifecycle will take a significant amount of time. Unlike the traditional process improvement steps of Six Sigma, which tend to progress quickly, you’ll need to make sure you are continuously working to ensure things are moving forward.

It can be tempting for people involved in DFSS projects to delay or procrastinate because the deadlines are often many months away. Keeping everyone on task is very important, so that should be part of your planning.

Using, for example, visual task boards to assign specific steps to specific people can be very helpful. Another great option is to print off small vinyl labels with an industrial label maker or other items that can be placed directly on the planning documents so people can easily see who is doing what. Take some time to come up with your own way of managing the processes and you will be able to ensure that the entire process is completed without any delays.

Additional Resources