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Electronics Production | November 06, 2007

How 6-Sigma makes a perfect connection

Phil Crosby’s statement “Quality is Free”, paved the way for managers to make sound quality decisions, preventing costly errors while improving the bottom line. The recent glitches with the toys made in China have demonstrated yet again that outsourcing without control can have dramatic consequences.
What is Six Sigma?
Heavily inspired by preceding quality improvement methodologies, Six Sigma is a set of best practices developed by Motorola to improve processes by eliminating defects, i.e. nonconformity of a product or service to its specifications. As of 2006, Motorola has reported over US$17 billion in savings from Six Sigma, thanks to the commitment of the entire organization, particularly from top-level management.

As a continuous effort to reduce variation in process outputs, Six Sigma simply provides a DMAIC methodology for manufacturing and business processes to be Defined, Measured, Analysed, Improved and Controlled. The term "Six Sigma" qualifies highly capable processes, producing output that repeatedly fall within specification. Operating at “six sigma” performance level means that the defect level must be below 3.4 Defects Per one Million Opportunities (DPMO).

How Six Sigma helps the connectors industry?
The connector industry is very labour intensive. Hundreds of possible options make stock quickly obsolete. So with a market shifting to “on-demand”, the production systems must incorporate market-driven variations and still be 100% compliant with the product specifications. Supporting its partner EDA Inc of Taiwan --a connector manufacturer-- ADCO has taken Six Sigma to the core of project management for its customers.

Hardwiring the “Voice of the customer”
“In a reduced time to market, our clients are always in a rush, often desperate to find the right interconnect solution. Their core business revolves around their equipment, not the interface. Their in-house knowledge of connectors is either gone, or at best inadequate. Six Sigma helps in the questioning process, and ADCO designed a “Voice of the Customer” unique method to capture all the customer’s requirements in one phone call” says Delphine Juveneton, ADCO inside sales.

Turning the client’s wish list into employees’ obsession
“As customer’s requests are usually received before 11:00 AM (CET), they can be discussed right away with Asian R&D engineers (i.e. 5:00 PM China time). When matching an existing solution, ADCO typically issues a full proposal within one business day. Six Sigma helps aligning R&D people with customer’s requirements, even though they are 1,000’s of miles away.” says Philippe Rovere, Six Sigma Consultant at ADCO.

Achieving client’s expectations and beyond
EDA’s factory in China Guangdong province employs 1,500 people and operates in Six Sigma compliance. EDA production lines are staffed with skilled and trained professionals, following procedures clearly displayed above their slot. The pictures and measures allow each operator to conform to the Key Process Indicators (KPI), the measures that guaranty the output will be within the product specifications. “Six Sigma Quality Inspectors constantly monitor the line performance relative to DPMO (Defect Per Million Opportunities), drilling into the root causes and should defects reach a critical level, they are empowered to stop the line and investigate” says Chris ADRIEN, a former AMPHENOL Executive and founder of ADCO.

Six Sigma is key to just in time delivery. Custom connectors are delivered in 3 to 5 weeks, an outstanding performance compared to the 10 weeks --or more—with top brands. “Customer’s do not carry stock anymore; ADCO supplies the security stock to initiate production while the actual order gets delivered. While we handle the just in time planning, our clients concentrate on their core activities” says Karin Triviere, ADCO Back Office Manager.

Quick Wins and tangible results
Preventive Six Sigma actions did not just halve the cost of quality. The process efficiency helped absorb a 35% sales increase in 2006, while attracting key distributors such as ITT CANNON, EQUIPEMENTS SCIENTIFIQUES and GIZA TECHNOLOGIES. With lessons learnt from Six Sigma projects, EDA and ADCO have capitalised the benefits to invest in more demanding sectors such as HDMI modules, RF systems, Automotive interconnects and Fibre Optics Networks.

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