Six Sigma Management

 

The construction industry faces a distinct challenge when it comes to customer service. Few other businesses have the customer standing right in front of them while the product in question is being assembled. Yet that is the case in construction, where many owners pay regular site visits to monitor — and sometimes micromanage — the building process.

 

For this reason, it can benefit contractors to pay close attention to customer service and, if necessary, think creatively of ways to avoid costly conflicts. One approach to consider is “Six Sigma” for construction management — a disciplined, data-driven methodology for improving any business process, but particularly useful in improving customer service.

What’s the

purpose of Six Sigma?

Will we find answers?

Implementing Six Sigma

in construction

management

Client Engagement
and Control

Six Sigma is all about identifying and eliminating defects. The word “defect” refers not only to mistakes but also to any result that fails to meet customer specifications or that could lead to a process likely to dissatisfy customers.

Companies that implement Six Sigma should expect to undertake continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process results. For contractors, these efforts could apply to every stage of a construction project — from sales to bidding to on-site operations and in-house financial management.

 

Like so many of today’s business-improvement models, the practice is also heavily focused on statistics. A tenet of Six Sigma is that every company’s processes have characteristics that can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled. Accomplishing this objective, however, calls for a total organizational commitment — particularly from you, the owner and other top-level managers.

 

How does Six Sigma work in construction management?

Businesses that undertake a Six Sigma program generally must choose from two primary methodologies. For improving an existing business process, you’ll navigate DMAIC, an acronym for define, measure, analyze, implement and control. For creating a new product or process, you’ll deal with DMADV, an acronym for define, measure, analyze, design and verify.

Because most contractors are likely looking to improve an established approach to customer service, let’s focus on DMAIC. It will ask you to follow five stages:

 

 

  1. Define the problem you’re trying to solve.
  2. Measure key aspects of the process.
  3. Analyze the data, looking for cause-and-effect relationships.
  4. Improve the current process
  5. Control the process going forward.

A carefully executed Six Sigma program should provide specific answers to what you can do to better serve customers. Eliminating defects means you’ll spend less time putting out fires and more time completing quality work. In turn, you’ll be able to stay within your cost estimates and thereby improve your odds of getting more referrals and repeat business.

 

Plus, Six Sigma’s “control” phase often allows contractors to tighten their financial management procedures. These could enable you to free up cash flow and better leverage the growth value of your existing customer relationships.

 

 

Are your construction company’s sales lagging? Are you losing time and money to conflicts and miscommunications with customers? If so, Six Sigma may be a way to overhaul your customer service process, untangle the snags slowing you down, and enable you to work more efficiently and profitably.

 

Of course, there are no guarantees. So, before jumping in, spend some time researching the deeper details of Six Sigma to make sure it’s for you. If it is, then set a budget for how much money you’ll invest in the effort.

The client must be properly engaged in the design process, with consistent and timely information delivered to and received from the design team.

 

At its most basic level, design can be seen as an iterative process, where, at each iteration, there are inputs, there is a design process and then there are outputs. At the end of each iteration the outputs are reviewed and then the process begins again. Typically, this is structured by establishing a series of ‘gateways’, at which the client assesses the state of development of the project and considers whether it satisfies their strategic objectives, that it is affordable, that value is being delivered, and that risks are acceptable. They can then decide whether to progress to the next stage.

 

If such a process is not introduced, there is a tendency for projects to gradually wander off course, with programme, budget and brief diverging.

 

This control process can be refined further by processes such as Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM identifies explicitly the decisions and information deliverables required at each stage of the project. This ensures that appropriate information is created and shared in a suitable format at the right time so that better decisions can be made.

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