Six Sigma for Technical Processes

Clyde M. Creveling, Prentice Hall, 2006, 358 pp., $34.99 (book).

It is hard not to feel as if every new Six Sigma book will become a dust collector on your bookshelf. After all, with so much in print about the subject, surely there aren't any new ideas to be found. Six Sigma for Technical Processes, however, does a great job of disproving that notion by offering a new perspective on what is becoming an old conversation.

Creveling does not bore his readers by rehashing old ideas. Everyone knows Six Sigma is a toolbox of problem-solving techniques meant to be applied to any type of organization. Most quality practitioners do not need to read more about how to use the five whys or construct a Pareto analysis when a problem exists. What they do need to know is what Creveling provides: instruction for how to develop a technical process designed to prevent, if not totally eliminate, many problems before they occur.

This is a grand aspiration. After all, the problems faced by practitioners in the real world are far more complex than the simplified problems written about by many authors. Creveling tries to cope with that complexity by proposing a triangle of process excellence composed of a product development process, a project management plan and a collection of tools and best practices. These are a mouthful to say together in one sentence, but the author does a fine, albeit sometimes wordy, job of reducing the steps to bite-sized chunks.

Six Sigma for Technical Processes takes time to read and digest, but the book is loaded with new ideas worthy of consideration. I think you will be just as surprised as I was by how fresh Creveling's ideas are.

Reviewed by Tim Knight
Evergreen Park, IL

Commercializing Great Products With Design for Six Sigma

Randy C. Perry and David W. Bacon, Prentice Hall, 2007, 656 pp., $89.99 (book).

The purpose of this book is to assist people in identifying, developing and commercializing new products and services using the design for Six Sigma (DFSS) method.

The book is divided into five sections that take the reader through the DFSS process: getting started, preparing the business plan, obtaining the voice of the customer, developing the product or process, and analyzing the product launch and project postmortem. Each of the subsequent sections guides the reader through the details of using the DFSS toolset, including KJ analysis, quality function deployment (QFD), failure mode effects analysis and statistical optimization tools.

The main strength of the book is how it lays out a roadmap of the DFSS process, which is broken into six stages and shows the reader how and when to use the various DFSS tools, as well as how each tool logically links to the next. This is important because a lot of Black Belts run into trouble with how the tools relate to one another.

The book goes into much detail on KJ analysis and using QFD to translate customer needs into key process parameters. The book also emphasizes the use of financial analysis to scope out a project and stage-gate tools to monitor it, and uses Minitab and Excel to perform the needed statistical calculations.

The book could use improvement in two areas. The first is how it relates the roadmap to one of the established DFSS sequences. It is confusing to read about all of the known DFSS sequences, see where this roadmap could possibly fit one of them, and then proceed through the rest of the book using a totally different roadmap.

The second area that could be improved has to do with how the authors fail to relate DFSS to arenas other than manufacturing. The development of a new candy wrapper is the main example used to explain how the entire DFSS toolset can be employed. This can lead people to believe DFSS is only good for manufacturing applications. Having examples from nonmanufacturing areas would have shown that DFSS can be used to develop new products or processes in other industries such as healthcare, insurance or financial services.

Overall, the book does a fine job showing how DFSS can be used in new product or process development. It is detailed enough that someone could use it to learn DFSS or as a reference while on a DFSS project.

Reviewed by Brian Cocolicchio
Teterboro, NJ

A Lean Guide to Transforming Healthcare

Thomas G. Zidel, ASQ Quality Press, 2006, 169 pp., $68.25 list, $40.95 member (book).

The healthcare industry poses unique challenges to managers and practitioners interested in process and quality improvement. Those looking for guidance could turn to this short book, which provides an overview and examples of how to apply lean methods associated with the Toyota Production System.

The book consists of 12 chapters that comprise a roadmap for implementing lean methods in healthcare, including the use of value-stream mapping, the Five Ss, mistake proofing, Six Sigma, conducting a lean event and a case study from Yale New Haven Hospital. Covering these topics in a short book prevents Zidel from providing anything but an overview of each subject. Anyone interested in analysis that digs more deeply will have to seek out other references.

Zidel is a Six Sigma Black Belt certified by the Juran Institute who held the position of director of continuous improvement at a major hospital for several years. That real-world experience allows him to take on a complex topic in a challenging industry while still making the book interesting to read, relevant and informative.

Reviewed by Ron S. Kenett
Raanana, Israel

Business Process Improvement Toolbox, second edition

Bjørn Andersen, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, 290 pp., $63 list, $37.80 member (book).

Systematic use of tools—statistical and others—for structuring and analyzing data to achieve quality improvements has been emphasized by quality greats W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran. The aim of Business Process Improvement Toolbox is to give readers practical insight into how different tools can create a coherent improvement system.

The first half of the book presents an overall business process improvement model. It deals with understanding and modeling your current business processes using performance measurement in improvement work, creating a business improvement roadmap and organizing improvement work.

The second half presents a toolbox related to the improvement model. For each phase, a selection of suitable tools is presented, along with their backgrounds, steps for how they can be applied and examples of their use. The final chapters contain two extensive case studies illustrating the full method and a number of templates that support most of the tools presented.

In this new edition, the structure of the first half of the book has been reworked, some new tools have been added, and a new, extensive case study has been included. Those changes make for an enjoyable and clear presentation. As a result, the book is a goldmine of structured support, suitable for employees and managers at any organizational level in any type of industry.

Reviewed by Bengt Klefsjö
Luleå University of Technology, Sweden

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