Six Sigma–Mastering Process, not Product Technology


In the final section of the sixth chapter of their book Six Sigma:  The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations, the authors Ikel Harry, Ph.D. and Richard Schroeder talk about the difference between product technology, which focuses on the invention and introduction into the marketplace of new products, and process technology, which focuses on the constant improvement of processes which develop those products for the marketplace.
Their observation that the United States has focused on product technology, and that Japan has focused on process technology is connected with the “invented here, perfected there” syndrome, where many inventions such as the transistor, the video camera or the fax machine were created in the United States, but not commercialized successfully until the Japanese took those inventions and implemented various process improvements or kaizen.
Nowadays, the pace of technology change is such that, if you have good product technology you may create a new product, but that market advantage only lasts a short period of time until one’s competitors have done their reverse engineering on your product and introduce their version with improvements that may outshine yours in the eyes of the public.   It is only those companies that have good process technology that can maintain a leading edge by the constant “raising of the bar” that such technology makes possible.
In the next chapter called “Unmasking the Hidden Factory,” the authors show how a company can go from focusing on product technology (the typical focus of a factory) to emphasizing process technology using Six Sigma.   That next chapter is introduced in the next post.
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