Six Sigma Key Process Output Variable Overview
Key Process Output Variables are used to measure the effectiveness of projects that are designed to improve business processes.
For example, a project that was undertaken to increase the profit margins on t-shirts by using a cheaper fabric supplier, would evaluate the project's success depending on whether customers continued to buy them, or if sales decreased due to poor customer satisfaction.
The end-goal profit margins, number of sales, and customer complaints are examples of output variables (KPOV), whereas the decision to change suppliers is an example of input variables (KPIV).
This article will look at:
- What Six Sigma KPOVs are
- How to identify them
- The role KPOVs play in DMAIC processes
What are KPOVS
A Key Process Output Variable (KPOV) is an outcome yielded by a process and is defined by Key Process Input Variables (KPIV). Depending on their placement, KPOVs may also become KPIVs for the next stage within a process journey. KPOVs need to measured and tracked to ensure that any Six Sigma led tweaks to KPIVs are generating the right result (i.e. a more positive KPOV).
It is important to remember that KPOVs should be measured before any process improvements are made as this gives a base-line with which to make a comparison.
KPOVs can be summarised as:
- Business processes that produce an output
- Characteristics that have a big impact on efficiency and/or customer satisfaction
- Responsible for lower levels of quality and reliability when allowed to vary too widely
How Are KPOVs Identified?
KPOVs are usually identified by mapping out business processes, usually using the SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output and Customer) method. By identifying these simple variables, you can develop a richer picture of how your business processes interact. For example:
- Supplier – DIY Store
- Input – Buy wood
- Process –Build fence
- Output – Protects pets from wild animals
- Customer - Pets
Through the use of these Six Sigma modelling techniques, it is possible to build up a picture of the various inputs and outputs of a process. By estimating the importance of each characteristic on a scale of 1-10 - where 1 is unimportant and 10 is critically important – businesses can measure the extent to which input variables have an impact and cause an output variable.
The sum of these weighted scores is used to rank the output variables to determine which deserve the most analytical attention. Processes that are more central to a customer’s overall experience of doing business with your company will naturally be seen as mo9re important and so will have the largest number of important KPOVs to address and manage.
Six Sigma training can help your team identify the processes that define the way you do business, monitor and analyse them, and then suggest suitable, business-enhancing improvements. By tracking processes, you’ll also work towards defining minimum expectations for your business performance and identify the key areas that can be refined and improved.
KPOVs and Six Sigma DMAIC Process
Six Sigma methodology follows a rigid roadmap for process improvement and problem solving, which focuses on the stages of DMAIC (define-measure-analyse-improve-control). KPOVs are the focus of the entire process, but central to 2 phases.
- Key aspects of the project 'as is' are measured and applicable data is collected
- KPOVs are defined
- Measurement integrity of KPOV's is confirmed
- Measurement plan is developed and a baseline for performance is established
- Cause-and-effect relationships are verified, ensuring that all factors have been considered.
- Root causes of defects are investigated and the relationship between response variables and control variables is established
- Process capabilities for KPOVs is established
- Relationships between KPOVs and control variables are established
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