Removing hypotheses for fault-finding in Six Sigma to revolutionise quality management
Written by Dan Somers (pictured, right) CEO of Warwick Analytics
“DMAIC” is the five-step approach that makes up most quality processes such as the Six Sigma tool kit, to help drive costly variation from manufacturing and business processes. The five steps in DMAIC are Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control. “8D” is similar.
Each of the steps is linear meaning that a bottleneck in one step directly impacts the others. If issues are ‘easy’ to resolve (in terms of finding the root cause) then the process can be relatively quick. However with the increasing complexity of new products and processes, combined with the lack of clean and reliable data, the process can be a lengthy or even insolvable one, particularly if the problem is a new one.
Hypothesis testing in this context can mean anything from an educated guess to using one of the well-trusted root cause analysis frameworks such as Fishbone Diagrams and ‘5-Whys’. The engineer needs to act as a data scientist, setting up hypotheses and using sophisticated statistical tools such as multivariate analysis or logistic regression to try and solve such issues.
But what if there was a way of obviating hypotheses from the Define, Measure and Analyse phases?
This hasn’t been possible until now, but with current advancements in analytics, in particular non statistical techniques and root cause analysis software, the options have now opened up.
Software such as SigmaGuardian from Warwick Analytics is not dependent on hypotheses and analyses any and all of this data from across the entire enterprise and supply chain - although it doesn’t need to be clean or complete. The software identifies the ‘fault region’ corresponding to the root cause of costly faults and provides recommendations based on the most economical fix. Because it is based on information theory and is ‘non-statistical’, it won’t give a wrong answer - as with the case with an incorrect hypothesis or with dirty data - it always reduces the search space of the problem.
Rather than taking months to identify faults, this new breed of analytics can work in quasi-real time, in just a few seconds.
Manufacturers already using advanced analytics software such as SigmaGuardian, in conjunction with their Six Sigma techniques, are showing up to a 75% reduction in the cost of fixing yield issues and a 50% reduction in warranty resolution lead time. If this were rolled out across a manufacturing enterprise it could save between 1.5% and 8% of overall sales.
Notably, the technology from Warwick Analytics was applied at Motorola (i.e. the home of Six Sigma) to support their quality processes. It was used to eliminate two of their most prominent audio and battery No Fault Found quality issues for a particular mobile phone model.
Previously, even after the Analyse phase and extensive hypothesis tests, the issues were costing Motorola a significant amount in terms of returns, replacements and reputation –the typical costs associated with COPQ.
The results of the SigmaGuardian non hypothesis analysis picked out the key parameters – all within tolerance – that were contriving to cause the root cause of the issue. Furthermore, the ‘fault region’ was also quantified, meaning that it was possible for the manufacturing engineers to easily identify and predict when the failure would occur again. The product was also redesigned in the next generation to improve the yield inside the factory. As a result of using the advanced analytics, the issues were no longer in Motorola’s top 50 warranty failures.
The software can also be used in the final ‘Control’ phase of DMAIC as it can also act as an Early Warning and Prevention system (“EWAP”). This helps to prevent defective products from being produced and predicts maintenance requirements. By identifying fault regions, engineers can work out corrective actions such as remanufacture, redesigning the product or to specify precisely the products in the field which require corrective action, and the lowest fix, without having to recall the entire fleet or batch, or implement an expensive workaround.
Many Six Sigma specialists are already realising the opportunities and advancements they can make by incorporating non hypothesis software into the Analyse phase of their existing techniques and quality processes. Used on a stand-alone basis the software will effectively identify fault regions in manufacturing processes, but used in the right hands as part of a sophisticated Six Sigma toolkit it will positively transform the manufacturing industry forever.
Cainiao Network Launches Customer-Centric Logistics
As the logistics division of the Alibaba Group, Cainiao Smart Logistics Network has decided to provide its Southeast Asian customers with unsurpassed service during its annual shopping festival. Based on customer feedback surveys, the company will expand its real-time customer service support and speed up delivery times. ‘By expanding and deepening our services, we aim to provide a stronger logistics infrastructure that can bolster the booming eCommerce sector, support merchants’ expansion into new markets and diversify retail options for consumers’, said Chris Fan, Head of Cross-Border, Singapore, Cainiao Network.
Who Is Cainiao?
According to TIME Magazine, Cainiao ‘is far from a typical logistics firm’. The company controls an open platform that allows it to collaborate with 3,000 logistics partners and 3 million couriers. This means that merchants can choose the least expensive and most efficient shipping options, based on Cainiao’s real-time logistics analytics. The company’s goal is to ship packages anywhere in the world in under 72 hours—and for less than US$3.00.
For countless small business owners around the world, from coffee-growers to textile-weavers, this could change everything. Usually, it costs about US$100 to ship a DHL envelope from Shanghai to London in five days. Cainiao aims to change that. Said its CEO Wan Lin: ‘The biggest barrier to globalisation is logistics’.
What’s Part of the Upgrade?
Throughout the Tmall festival, Cainiao’s logistics upgrade will be divided into four critical segments:
- Real-time customer service support. Cainiao has launched a direct WhatsApp channel for customers to receive logistics updates and ask questions.
- Expansion of air freight parcel size and weight limits. Packages can now be up to 30 kilograms or 1-metre x 1.6 meters to help ship large items such as furniture.
- Daily air and sea freight connections. Shipping frequency will almost double to seven times weekly to maintain resilience and efficiency.
- Compensation for lost or damaged packages. Customers will be reimbursed up to RMB 2,000 (US$311).
Where is the Company Headed?
From June 1st to June 20th, the finale of Tmall, Cainiao will ensure that its customers feel confident in the company’s ability to deliver their packages. Despite global shipping delays due to COVID, the show will go on. Said Fan: ‘This series of customer-centric logistics upgrades reaffirms our goal of pursuing value-added services to enhance customers’ shopping experience while mitigating challenges posed by external factors’.
Furthermore, Cainiao has recently expanded its Southeast Asian operations, achieving revenue growth of 68% year-over-year. In Malaysia, the logistics operation has partnered with BEST Inc. and Yunda; in Singapore, the company has partnered with Roadbull, Park & Parcel, and the Singapore Post. And if its recent measures help retain and grow its customer base, the company will be well-poised to lead the industry in resilient and customer-centric global logistics. ‘COVID-19 made everyone realise how important the logistics infrastructure backbone is’, said Wan. ‘And it gave us a peek at what Cainiao should look like in three years’.