Six Sigma in Engineering

Unlike the other functions in a corporation, engineering has a more defined definition. Whether civil, industrial, electrical, mechanical, or chemical, any company or department engaged in engineering work falls under engineering. While engineering is often part of a larger project’s organization, a metal building maker has its engineering department. Engineering isn’t usually considered a support service like IT or human resources. Hence, the application of Six Sigma in engineering is not only focusing on improving the quality, but it must comply and integrate with the regulations.  

Six Sigma project teams are most likely to work in the engineering space since the project at hand is engineering in nature rather than because they are looking for help with a workflow or a compliance issue. However, when an engineering challenge arises in a project that isn’t primarily an engineering project, Six Sigma teams should seek advice from a process expert in the field.

Benefits of Six Sigma in an Engineering Environment

Successful Six Sigma engineering projects receive all of the benefits mentioned in previous articles, including defect reduction and cost reduction. When properly implemented, Six Sigma can help engineers and teams fulfill project deadlines and budgets, especially in civil engineering.

Engineering projects typically have a large number of moving pieces. Both the design and construction phases are required for civil projects. During both phases, teams must manage expenses and resources, meet regulatory standards from various government and commercial organizations, meet customer requests, and maintain safety, to name a few considerations. On the surface, the DMADV (Design for Six Sigma) and DMAIC (Six Sigma) methods slow down the entire engineering process by requiring teams to examine all requirements, comprehend project specifics and schedules, and identify difficulties to be worked through. Using the same practice on every project speeds things up without sacrificing quality.

Six Sigma also has advantages in terms of safety. Engineering procedures in all industry segments pose a threat to workers’ safety. Even if a facility is already built, if engineering integrity is poor, dangers remain for future users. Other risks are associated with industrial and chemical engineering, particularly for engineers and people who deal directly with machinery or chemical processes. Engineering-related professions, such as the construction industry, have some of the highest rates of workplace accidents in the United States, and data for other countries are similar. Implementing Lean Six Sigma techniques aids in creating consistent quality throughout engineering processes, enhancing safety at the process level and later on.

Another advantage of Six Sigma in engineering is that the approach is well-suited to most engineering teams’ mindsets. Engineers are trained to think in numbers; therefore, they are less likely than people in other industries to object to a data-driven approach. Engineers also prefer a step-by-step strategy applied to all projects because they recognize the importance of consistency. As a Six Sigma specialist, you may have to fight fewer battles in support of your methodology because of this type of approach’s acceptance.

Challenges of Implementing Six Sigma in an Engineering Environment

Despite the fact that Lean Six Sigma approaches are well aligned with engineering mindsets, Six Sigma specialists face obstacles while applying the method in this industry. Working on engineering projects can provide a variety of challenges, depending on the organization’s culture and the mindset of the subject matter experts.

When working with a highly educated group, you may encounter the issue of expertise. This is true in practically every specialized industry where people have spent years studying and earning unique qualifications. This issue may arise, for example, in the healthcare industry with physicians, in the legal field with lawyers, or in the financial field with CPAs. The issue of expertise arises when someone believes they know something because they have the necessary education or experience. They don’t require a Six Sigma approach, nor do they require group brainstorming or statistical analysis. “I have two degrees and 20 years of experience. I’ve dealt with this type of situation before, and this is how you handle it,” someone may offer.

In these situations, the Six Sigma expert must take two steps. To begin, the Six Sigma expert must determine that someone with that much experience and education has a great deal of information and insight to provide. Just because you’ve been trained in Six Sigma doesn’t mean you’ll be able to employ it in every case.

The rule of thumb in Six Sigma is when the solution is already known. Therefore, Six Sigma is not the best approach.

As a Six Sigma specialist, you must distinguish when a key is genuinely known and when someone believes they know the best option.

Six Sigma specialists who are not also engineering professionals may confront internal hurdles when working in this business, in addition to challenges posed by individuals within the firm. Any engineering process will involve a lot of technical concepts, such as mathematics and science. Six Sigma specialists don’t have to be experts in their industries; for example, to work as a Black Belt in the healthcare field, you don’t have to be a doctor. However, you must be able to comprehend processes and how they work. In the engineering industry, this may include the capacity to swiftly acquire at least the fundamentals of the science or math involved.

Six Sigma professionals in engineering sectors must also grasp that engineering is not solely concerned with constructing structures such as bridges and buildings. Those kinds of projects fall under civil engineering, and industrial engineering is frequently far more related to industrial processes.

Tips for Using Six Sigma in Engineering

  • Teams and Six Sigma specialists must understand every project’s compliance and safety standards to thrive with Six Sigma in the engineering business.
  • Encourage and collaborate with highly educated and experienced subject matter specialists who may not accept the methodology immediately.
  • Work with various complicated and technical ideas and swiftly assimilate new information.
  • Understand the importance of engineering in all sorts of projects, particularly in diverse engineering sectors. Avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach to varied initiatives outside the Six Sigma consistency.

Learn how to strategize and implement the Lean Six Sigma toolset in an engineering environment with our signature Lean Six Sigma courses.