Needs and Strategies of a Six Sigma Control Plan

A Control Plan pertaining to Six Sigma Certification is typically a living document that evolves and transforms in line with immediate product or process requirements. This control plan may be designed for a process, any step in the process, a piece of equipment used in a process, and so forth. Here, we take a quick look at the needs and strategies related to a Six Sigma Control Plan.

Why is a Control Plan Essential?

A Six Sigma Control Plan offers a single point of reference relevant to the understanding of process specifications, characteristics, as well as standard operation procedures or SOPs. It lays down the grounds for the assignment of responsibilities for all activities within the processes. Overall, a well-designed control plan is instrumental in executing all processes smoothly, and making the project sustainable on a long term basis. 

A Closer Look at Six Sigma Control Plan 

Control is one of the final steps of the process improvement roadmap of Lean Six Sigma--Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC). It deserves mention that one of the most significant parts of the ‘Control’ stage is the creation of a well-conceived control plan to avoid the concerns of encountering negative business impacts due to process deterioration. A control plan usually includes the steps that have to be undertaken on a timely basis; especially when the performance measures fail to be within a pre-defined, desired range. 

In addition, an organizational system has to be firmly in place so that all process owners may take responsibility of the execution of the various parts of the control plan; particularly the ones relevant to their areas of operations. For enhanced service quality, this control plan needs to be constructed by the process owner and his designated team. This plan should be flexible enough to be updated in line with the evaluations and changes that take place after its implementation.

Factors to Consider while Creating a Six Sigma Control Plan

Input / Output to Processes

I/O in control planning or the effective handling of the inputs and outputs to processes involves the following:

• Planning of a favorable input/output performance range applicable to a certain time period.
• Measuring and reporting of feedbacks relevant to key inputs for impacting process’ output.
• Timely control and correction of conditions that tend to go out of control.

Overall, this attribute of a Lean Six Sigma control plan identifies the necessary actions that need to be taken up for achieving the desired output.

Measurements and Specifications

A control plan is directly linked to the maintenance of quality with regards to a product or service. Especially in this case, quality metrics have to be considered from the overall perspective of customers. The team assigned with the task of control planning generally uses the concept of gap models for studying the differences between the actual specifications and customer measures. The points to be addressed for the cause include:

  • Definition of quality features

  • Ways of measuring all features

  • Setting up of quality standards

  • Formation of control against produced standards 

By implementing these steps, operations ensure that the production/delivery of services and/ or products matches certain specifications.

Frequency of Sampling and Reporting Methodology

The frequency of performance sampling and reporting is dependent on the products and services involved. A proper frequency has to be established for taking appropriate and timely actions at all times. As sampling usually comes up with its own concerns, control planners have to be equipped for selecting the right fraction of the products, population, or services required for inspection. Also, diverse sampling techniques and the size of the sample has to be mastered for more accurate assessments and making use of the right techniques for conducting statistical sampling.

Involved Processes 

A control plan also addresses the requirement of vital processes. It sets the standards for representing the performance criteria, defines precise and preferable quantitative standards for performance tracking, and yields error-proofed steps. Wherever and whenever feasible, process automation processes need to be considered for gaining economic and physical benefits alike. Six Sigma and Lean tools and techniques are also useful in improving the processes relative to their overall performance.

Corrective Actions

Corrective actions respond to detected problems and usually result in the modification of the system, or fixing of specific problems for avoiding their reoccurrence. Timely corrective actions need to be taken for preventing production delays and other avoidable issues too. 

Recording of Information

The information recorded in the control plan needs to be well documented for the purposes of better testing, assessment, planning, and implementation. Individual plan sheets pertaining to different products and processes are often created for taking note of vital information like production, quality, customer service, shipping, etc. This step helps in the identification and correction of issues arising with the same. All recorded information serve as formal requests for the processes requiring modifications, and have to be classified in accordance to their impact, complexity and importance.

Control Plan Strategy

Successful Six Sigma control plans are based on carefully thought out strategies and minimize the necessity of tampering any process. They compile the actions that have to be performed for handling out-of-control conditions and raising appropriate indicators pointing to the need for any Kaizen activities. Additionally, these strategies describe all training needs for ensuring that team members are familiar with basic operating procedures. 

In a nutshell, a well-formulated control plan clearly describes all the actions that have to be taken, the ownership of processes, and a clearly documented approach for reducing the "fire fighting" syndrome for handling all variations. 

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Jenny brown