“In the appropriate setting, process management activities can help companies improve efficiency, but the risk is that you misapply these programs, in particular in areas where people are supposed to be innovative,” notes Benner.“Brand new technologies which produce products that don’t exist are difficult to measure.
While some management professionals feel that Six Sigma hasn’t lost its sheen yet and is still serving the purpose it was initially designed for, many are opposed to the idea and consider 6S as a mere appraisal tool which has been over-rated mostly as a result of marketing and overexcited public relations.
They say that the days of 6S glory are over and its’ no more an easy sell now.
In addition, if all the companies within an industry are undertaking similar Six Sigma-type improvements, it can be hard to gain any upside advantage from Six Sigma, she says.
Commenting on the limitations of Six Sigma and its applications, Benner says that while ground breaking innovation is not possible with 6S, she says that incremental innovation can be achieved.
But I think it always has to be leavened a bit with a focus on innovation and [customer relationships].” Brushing aside criticism that 6S inhibits rather than encourages innovation, Forrest Breyfogle, CEO Smarter Solutions, says: “this could be the case in an organization’s Lean Six Sigma deployment, where focus is given to the search for projects and their completion.
In these organizations, primary focus can be for black-belt or green-belt certification upon project completion.
“It is difficult to measure the potential sales in the future of new technologies that don’t yet exist, products that have not yet been developed, for customers you don’t yet know.
So the shift in attention to measurable improvements can dampen innovation into new areas,” says Benner.
“There are many examples of successful Six Sigma applications.
However, too often companies push the Six Sigma methodology over impact.