Six Sigma–Application to the Service Industry

Of course, the authors of the book Six Sigma:  The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations come from the manufacturing sector, but in the twelfth chapter of their book, they talk about the application of Six Sigma to the service industry.

This application of Six Sigma was not immediately recognized, however, in retrospect it should have seemed obvious.  The reason is that 90 percent of those employed in the manufacturing sector are not doing manufacturing itself, but rather service work, such as finance, marketing, sales, distribution and purchasing.   Industrial organizations that first apply the Six Sigma Breakthrough Strategy to design, engineering, and manufacturing will find an opportunity to further increase market share by applying the strategy to the service portion of their company.

Two areas of improvement in the service industry are cycle time, for example, the amount of time it takes to admit a patient into a hospital, and customer satisfaction.

In fact, the application of Six Sigma to transactional processes is even more straightforward than it is for manufacturing and engineering processes.   Also, critical-to-quality characteristics are easy to gauge when you consider the customer’s standpoint, who expects reliability and consistency.   Improved cycle time improves quality because it improves customer satisfaction.

The “unit of product” can vary tremendously–a line of code in software, a guest registration form, a cash register receipt, to give a few examples cited in the chapter.

In the next post, I discuss how the authors suggest applying Six Sigma to a commercial process such as the processing of an invoice or purchase order.


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