Guest editorial

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 1 June 2004


Antony, J. and Seow, C. (2004), "Guest editorial", The TQM Journal, Vol. 16 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

Article Type: Guest editorial From: The TQM Magazine, Volume 16, Issue 4.

Enterprises in this first decade of the twenty-first century are perceived to be needing to excel on two fronts: strong in operational/service excellence and simultaneously in organic growth. Six sigma is a powerful breakthrough improvement strategy which can be used to meet these goals.

Today the applications of six sigma in all industrial sectors are growing exponentially. Although the original goal of six sigma was to focus on manufacturing process, today the sales, marketing, purchasing, customer order, banking, software, insurance, financial and health care processing functions have also embarked on six sigma programmes. The tools and techniques within six sigma methodology are not new, rather they have been around for many years. However there are two key aspects which differentiates six sigma business strategy from many other quality improvement methodologies. One aspect is the focus on quantifiable or measurable bottom-line savings in financial terms and the second is the disciplined and structured approach of using both statistical and non-statistical tools and techniques within the DMAIC (define-measure-analyse- improve-control) problem-solving methodology.

A process is a process, regardless of the type of organisation or business function. Since the purpose of six sigma is to gain knowledge on how to improve processes, its applicability has evolved beyond the confines of manufacturing from where it first originated. This is evident from the diverse range of papers in this special issue depicting its issues, influences, and viability in their respective contexts. The goal of any enterprise is to excel in business performance, not six sigma. Six sigma, as in any other approaches, works best if it is embraced to serve the enterprise, rather than the enterprise serving it: not to fit the problem to the six sigma tools and techniques, but the six sigma tools and techniques to the problem at hand.

The sequence of articles begins with a paper from Goh and Xie entitled “ Improving on the six sigma paradigm”. They argue in their paper that in the dynamic business environment of the twenty- first century, the common six sigma approach should be fortified by an “Eight-S” paradigm for sustained process performance excellence.

Pfeifer et al. illustrate the importance of integrating six sigma with quality management systems (QMS). They present the strengths and weaknesses of both six sigma and QMS, followed by the analysis of integrating these two approaches for greater competitive advantage. The authors make the point that the integration of these two approaches is a further step towards TQM.

Antony and Ban˜ uelas test the suitability of a multi-criteria decision technique called analytic hierarchy process (AHP) to determine the choice between a six sigma and a design for six sigma (DFSS) project. Two projects from two different industries were carried out in order to verify the framework developed by the authors. The authors in this paper have developed a set of criteria which will assist people in organisations to choose the correct methodology (six sigma or DFSS).

Wessel and Burcher explore the suitability of six sigma in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany. They have examined the existing framework of six sigma and have adapted it to make it suitable in an SME environment.
Motwani et al. present an interesting case study on the implementation of six sigma with Dow Chemicals. The authors in this paper present a business process change framework to examine the factors that facilitated or inhibited the success of six sigma initiatives at the Dow Chemicals company.

Knowles et al. provide an application of six sigma at a UK food manufacturer. The paper is a simple application of six sigma DMAIC (define- measure-analyse-improve-control)  methodology for quality cost reduction and improved process capability exercises.

Mitra provides a great discussion paper about the role for academia within six sigma education. He emphasizes the point that through designing appropriate curricula for disciplines such as business and engineering, higher education institutions (HEIs) can assure an adequate flow of qualified people to adopt the six sigma strategy. Moreover the current limitations of six sigma should be taught at the early stages of six sigma education.

Antony provides an academic perspective about the pros and cons of six sigma. This paper is very much complementary to Mitra’s paper.

Although six sigma has made an immense impact on industry, the academic fraternity lags behind in its understanding of this powerful strategy. I think it is the responsibility of academic community to bridge the gap between theory and practice of Six Sigma in the future.

This editorial concludes with our thanks to the editor of The TQM Magazine for enabling us to initiate such a call for papers and to the authors and reviewers for enriching this body of knowledge. We would like to thank the numerous reviewers for their hard work, valuable contributions and co-operation. We would also take this opportunity to thank all the paper contributors, without whom this Special Issue would not have been possible.

Jiju and Christopher co-facilitate an Internet forum “Six-Sigma” sigma.html), for the exchange of ideas and information by researchers and practitioners involved in the development and use of six sigma concepts for improving business profitability and achieving competitive advantage. We look forward to your participation in extending this discussion.

The guest editors

Jiju Antony is currently leading a Six Sigma Research Group at the Division of Management, Caledonian Business School, Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Six Sigma and Competitive Advantage (IJSSCA). He worked as Senior Teaching Fellow in the Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick until September 2003. He received a BE in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kerala, South India, M.Eng.Sc in Quality and Reliability Engineering from the National University of Ireland and a PhD in Quality Control for Manufacturing from the University of Portsmouth, UK. His work experience includes two years as a maintenance engineer, three years as a quality/reliability engineer and six years as a quality engineering consultant for a number of multi-national companies. He has published over 85 papers and three text books in the areas of design of experiments, Taguchi methods, total quality management, statistical process control, six sigma and service quality. He is currently working on a six sigma book encompassing ten industrial case studies carefully chosen from those companies which have been practising six sigma with great passion. His primary research areas include design of experiments and Taguchi methods for improving process quality, robust design for new product development process, statistical process control for variability reduction, problem solving using quality tools and techniques and six sigma for both manufacturing and service processes. He is chairing an international conference on six sigma this year in Glasgow, Scotland. For more information, refer to the following Web sites: ¼ 52

Christopher Seow is a Senior Lecturer in Operations Management at the University of East London Business School. He has worked in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the UK and has over 14 years of hands-on-experience. This covers all phases of operations and quality management in major organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors and in culturally diverse metropolitan areas. He is on the committees of international conferences such as IEEE, ICMIT, ICIE and ICQRIT. His current research pursuits are in business process in e-enterprises and the evolution of sustainable development.