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From digital technology to Six Sigma

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In 1987, while working on a new integrated circuit package for Motorola, LK Lim (Lim Lip Khoon) was selected to train for a new process improvement methodology, which became known as Six Sigma.

The Executive Education Facilitator says during that time the United States company was facing intense competition from Japanese companies.

Motorola decided to compete with the Japanese companies – known for their impeccable quality. In order to do this Motorola created a quality improvement methodology.

“I was an engineer in Motorola, responsible for setting up a new product line, forming a new operations team and managing it in 1987. When you are in operations you are solving business process issues all the time – I kind of got into problem solving by default,” says Malaysia-based Lim.

To implement the methodology, which became known as Six Sigma, the company identified a group of talent within the company to do that – this group included Lim.

“I was one of the early group trained in Six Sigma. I was a bit fortunate, Motorola decided I was a talent they wanted to develop,” says Lim.

“Six Sigma gave us a systematic way to improve quality – that worked. I am still proud to have played a part in this quality improvement journey.”

Motorola was able to use Six Sigma to improve product quality and competitiveness against Japanese companies.

“We were already using Lean, which makes things faster, but we needed a set of powerful tools to improve quality,” says Lim.

The whole idea behind Six Sigma is really simple explains Lim.

When a business process is having problems you need to conduct fact-based root cause analysis. There are only ever two causes: the causes that are special and the causes that are common.

Special situations are rare and apparent. To solve them you use Toyota designed Lean methodology (for instance, an accident or an occasional inability to meet demand) says Lim.

When you work on improving quality you use Six Sigma, often these problems can be hard to see, as staff are often conditioned to work around them. To seek out the root causes, you need to observe the process, collect data and analyse for root causes.

Common root causes for poor quality are lack of standardisation, low competency, high mistake risks, large process variation, and complexity. Creative solutions are often necessary to eliminate the above mentioned root causes.

Having the good processes is very important to a business success says Lim.

“If you have very good people managing a lousy process you will have a high turnover. If you have lousy people managing lousy processes the company will fail.”

LK Lim is facilitating the Executive Education courses:



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