Developing an SME based six sigma strategy

Andrew Thomas (Manufacturing Engineering Centre, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Richard Barton (Manufacturing Engineering Centre, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Publication date: 1 June 2006



The effective implementation of the six sigma strategy within UK manufacturing industries, in particular SMEs, can be considered to be poor. SMEs cite high costs and complexity of implementation as being the major limiting factors as to its widespread use. This paper aims to describe the application of six sigma in an SME and to show how the company applied a cost‐effective six sigma methodology to eradicate a critical to quality (CTQ) issue. The paper seeks to conclude by developing a strategic framework for the widespread use of six sigma in SMEs.


This paper applies the six sigma strategy in an SME in order to eradicate a major CTQ issue. It identifies the approach employed, the tools and techniques used and shows the savings that were made through the structured application of the DMAIC procedure, which is at the heart of the six sigma approach.


Through the correct application of experimental design approaches, this paper identifies the optimum parameter settings that enabled the company to eradicate the CTQ issue and achieve significant improvements in quality and cost from a modest financial outlay.

Research limitations/implications

The design and implementation of an SME‐specific six sigma strategy and its application to a real engineering problem will enable companies to apply the techniques and to attain improvements in terms of cost and quality.


The application of the six sigma strategy and the resulting conclusions as to its effectiveness for industry are the real value of this paper. This paper will be valuable for quality professionals, design engineers and manufacturing specialists in a wide range of industries.



Thomas, A. and Barton, R. (2006), "Developing an SME based six sigma strategy", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 417-434.

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