The answer is yes and no.
First, it’s important to understand where Six Sigma came from. The term itself refers to having less than 3.4 defects per million. It’s pretty well impossible for any FM organization to have that kind of volume for anything. The concept was designed for manufacturing where if you are turning out a hundred thousand screws or half a million boxes of cereal a day, the math works.
Luckily, Six Sigma is more than just math. Born out of Mororola’s desire to improve their product, Six Sigma uses disciplined management processes to achieve improvements. You can use those management process and apply them to your operations. It’s useful to note that this is really just a different take on existing Quality Assurance principles.
The Six Sigma process that applies is called DMAIC, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. Once you get beyond the mathematical origins of Six Sigma and use these principles, you can easily identify areas for improvement, make change and improve results.
Lets look of these five steps in the process to see how they apply to facilities management
This means defining what your customer needs for your product to be successful. In some cases you may link it to customer needs and expectations or you can link this to internal requirements and processes. The idea is to define exactly what the parameters are in the finished product, or the outcome. In the case of the screw it may be thread pitch, shoulder length or the diameter of the head. All of these are important, a customer because if they aren’t right, the customer can’t use the product. For Facility Management, this may be response times to work orders, accuracy of name plates, backlog of preventive maintenance, turn around time for key services, etc.
Once you’ve defined what the outcome should be, you need to measure it. This way, you can see trends and identify when the measured result didn’t meet the defined target outcome. You certainly won’t be able to get the less than 3.4 defects per million, but you will be able to identify the problems – where the service didn’t meet expectations.
Once you have defined and measured, you now have information to analyze. This is very similar to other Quality Management approaches and you can use all the same tools, such as root cause analysis, fishbone diagrams, problem solving teams and more. The key is to identify the cause of the poor performance, not just know that there is a problem. By knowing what caused the problem (communication, backordered parts, lack of resource planning, cumbersome process, indecipherable handwriting, etc. The key is to determine what you need to change so the problem won’t happen again.
After you’ve analyzed, you now know what to do to improve. This is the key step, since just knowing the problem won’t change anything – you have to actually develop and implement a fix. Whether it’s retraining, changing processes, verifying information, managing resources better, keeping stock of key parts or any number of other solutions, you must find out how to fix it and make the changes. Of course there are times when the improved results don’t justify the cost of the solution – that’s also part of the analysis.
Making the change to improve results is the first step. Ensuring that the change sticks requires control. Especially in the early stages of implementation, there may be resistance, there may be hiccups in the implementation that need adjusting or those involved may stop bothering to follow the changes. With control, which includes monitoring and testing in addition to measurements, you ensure that the improvements you worked hard to make are not only implemented, they are sustained.
So, the answer is really yes – Six Sigma can be applied to Facilities Management. If you want to take the time and formally learn the fine points and useful techniques for applying Six Sigma, follow up with training. If not, apply the steps provided above and focus on making improvements using the principles.