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Six Sigma in education: To encourage quality education 14 December, 2011

A quality methodology for continuous improvement

Eminent Six Sigma expert, Dr. Sriram Devanathan, was the chief guest in the weekly discussion through A-VIEW envisaged by MHRD under the NME-ICT mission on December 14th, 2011. While interacting with the participating universities, Dr. Sriram, Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Amrita University, Coimbatore, said Six Sigma is a data driven methodology for systematically improving an organizations’ process quality and productivity. He stated, “The term “Six Sigma” represents a mathematical estimate of the quality level in terms of defective parts per million. The application of Six Sigma to a process helps to achieve the goals of better, cheaper, and faster.”

Dr. Sriram highlighted that to raise the quality of education, six sigma focuses on following areas; Improve People, Improve Processes, Improve Products and Improve Materials. “The prime importance in improve people will be on developing skills and capability and problem solving methods; while in “improve processes”, the emphasis will be on removing variability, improving stability and matching the process to customer needs. The “Improve products” area deals with designing to process capability and designing to customer needs. Finally, the key objectives in “improve materials” are to reduce variability, improve delivery time, and reduce cost.”

The main approach in Six Sigma project is characterized as DMAIC, an acronym that expands to: DEFINE, MEASURE, ANALYSE, IMPROVE, and CONTROL.

Define: This involves defining the project based on process maps, application area, desired improvement, likely benefits, etc. This phase is important in order to raise the chances of success in the later phases.

Measure: Emphasis on identifying key customer requirements, and key quality and process characteristics, collecting the associated data, and establishing the baseline level of quality.

Analyze: This involves data analysis to determine the key process variables that have the greatest impact on the quality metrics of interest in the project

Improve: Through data collection on key process variables, surveys, designed experiments, or other means, a systematic and thorough study is done to quantitatively model the relationships in the process, determine optimal process settings that guarantee a high level of quality, and recommend (and implement) corrective and/or improvement actions.

Control: Once the desired quality level is achieved, concrete measures are put in place to maintain the gains. This could be through control charts for monitoring key process and quality attributes, documentation, etc.

Dr. Sriram concluded with saying that the methodology is a proven one that is equally applicable to any field, whether it is manufacturing, finance, service, education, humanities, etc.

Around 12 Universities including Central University Karnataka, Punjab Technical University, IASE University, Gujarat Ayurved University, and Gautam Buddha University, participated.

There were few questions raised by curious participants, for example, how does JIT (Just In Time) methodology fits in with the Six Sigma concepts?

A-VIEW is an E-Learning platform, developed by Amrita University's E-Learning Research Lab, which is a state-of-the-art software for distance education and collaboration. It is available for free to all the educational institutes across India, and can be downloaded from the website address, www.aview.in or by sending an email to aview@amrita.edu.