The DFSS Vision

Mark Kiemele

Much has been written about Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) and why many companies are using it. Compared to traditional Six Sigma (or the DMAIC process), DFSS seems a little harder to grasp, especially in the realm of financial accountability and results. Hence, we have put together some data that we have acquired through various conference presentations on Six Sigma and interviews with distinguished practitioners, as well as some of our clients who have implemented DFSS.

Advantages of DFSS

These are some of the major points stemming from our research on DFSS:
  1. DFSS has provided at least a one sigma gain in quality at launch over previous designs. This is a major improvement, although many companies believe that if they are not at Six Sigma capability at launch, DFSS is a failure. What other methodology besides Six Sigma can make that kind of gain and claim? If a company has DFSS, they ought to be using it.
  2. DFSS should decrease time to market by at least 25 percent. A conservative interval estimate is a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction in time to market.
  3. DFSS leads to cost savings due to total resources utilized, which is highly correlated to time, in the 20 percent to 40 percent range. Note that this is only resource savings—there are other savings as well, e.g., the savings due to a 30-fold reduction (from, say, four sigma to five sigma) in defects.
These three DFSS facts are highly correlated, and if we improve in any one area, there is a synergistic effect among cost, quality and timeliness.

Additional Benefits of DFSS

Other advantages of DFSS include:
  • Better Six Sigma models that are reusable or easily updated based on new data. Two-thirds of most designs have already been done, and only one-third of the designs truly focus on brand-new features, implying that we must do a better job of using previous designs. Using the DFSS methodology and the DFSS scorecard will make this much easier.
  • A disciplined approach to implementation accountability in Six Sigma (more on this later).
  • Better and more consistent data collection. The DFSS scorecard demands this and is the implementation vehicle.
  • Interfaces are accounted for up front when DFSS is used. Because of the systems approach of DFSS, interfaces are more formally addressed from the start, which is important because most of the glitches occur in the interfaces.
  • Using data and the DFSS scorecard, we can zero in on the most likely causes of failure rather than relying on conjecture. The DFSS scorecard will give clues as to how we can get over the firefight faster—90 percent of firefighting should be avoidable, and it is usually parameter drift that ultimately leads to the firefights. All of this contributes, of course, to the ultimate reduction in risk, which is what we are really striving for.
Implementing DFSS

When dealing with DFSS, organizations must stress implementation accountability as much as financial accountability. When emphasizing the importance of DFSS, company leadership must emphasize the importance of being faithful to the DFSS process. That means the disciplined and meticulous use of the DFSS tools, such as QFD for understanding the Voice of the Customer and translating that voice into meaningful parameters that engineers and practitioners better understand, and the likes of other DFSS tools such as transfer functions (i.e., models), expected value analysis, robust/parameter design, tolerance allocation, sensitivity analysis and others. If companies do not want to use the DFSS tools, they will not garner the benefits. It is as simple as that.

In DFSS implementation, one has to have the faith that if we use these powerful tools, we will ultimately reap the benefits. That is what the experiences at GE, Lockheed Martin, Seagate, Dupont and others are showing. Unfortunately, there is much going on in the marketplace today that indicates many companies want to avoid the hard work of DFSS and get to the savings directly, i.e., that there is some magical potion that will automatically bring in the savings. Not so. We have some phenomenal tools for DFSS in our modern era that we have not had before, but if we don’t use them, we really can’t expect the results. "New" tools include having established concepts, having a "new" or easier way of implementing them and making them accessible to the masses—namely, through better hardware and software.

Companies talk about wanting culture change. Without more and more powerful tools (witness the introduction of the horse, the wheel, the printing press and the computer as historical evidence), culture change will be ultra slow, no matter how badly we may want to change. Breakthrough improvement will not happen without powerful tools. So in an evolving era that seems to be once again migrating to the need of feeling good about things in order to bring about change, we need to remind ourselves that the tools are indeed important and must be used to facilitate change. In deploying DFSS, implementation accountability is as important as financial accountability because use leads to results. Besides, implementation accountability is easier to track.

DFSS in the Product Development Process

Companies should not abandon their new product development process altogether and replace it with IDOV (the Identify, Design, Optimize and Validate phases of DFSS). Rather, they should take the best of the DFSS tools, techniques and methodologies and integrate them into their new product development process. Of course, utilizing the Lean principles, they also need to streamline their new product development process and eliminate non-value added activities whenever possible.

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