How Six Sigma Can Help With Your Instrumentation Decisions

Instrumentation is a process of using small measuring devices to achieve control in industrial processes. In industrial applications, many variables like temperature, pressure, distance, flow, and level can be sensed simultaneously. In some cases, these can be a series of interdependent variables in one single process and therefore need a complex microprocessor system. In the world of liquid handling, multiple instruments feature to enhance the efficiency of processes and eventually improve the bottom line.

Broadly, instrumentation is designed to achieve one or all of the following:

1. Increase production
2. Improve safety
3. Enhance quality
4. Optimize costs

While relating to core technical processes, instrumentation project goals relate to realizing greater efficiencies on essential business processes. Further, as technology advances, more efficient measurement instruments are coming into play. Which ones are right for your business? Can management concepts like Six Sigma then play a role in helping selection and creating greater efficiency? Let’s take a quick look!

At its core, instrumentation and control relate to analyzing your manufacturing capacity and modifying or putting in place devices that improve efficiency and keep your quality standards consistent. And that’s where Six Sigma – which is a framework for process improvements – comes in. Its implementations vary widely. In some organizations, Six Sigma is a systematic problem-solving approach while it is a governing philosophy for process improvement in others.

At an enterprise level, Six Sigma can:

1. Build new skills in quality management by reducing defects
2. Put in place systematic techniques in project management for better results
3. Improve your data analysis abilities, helping identify areas of opportunity for ongoing quality improvement

To put in place Six Sigma principles for your engineering, including instrumentation, you must:

Define Quality Standards

Quality is a central concept to Six Sigma, which stresses the importance of measuring the defects in a process and figuring out how to reduce them. The goal is to get as close to zero defects as possible. The methodology relies on data to assess the performance of a process. The accepted standard is no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. This level of precision is not possible in all your processes so the first step would be to identify your critical processes and then put in place the instruments you may need to get to a higher level of performance. Once defined, the process does best with a team of champions that are accountable for results.

Commit To Ongoing Improvement

One of the primary benefits an organization gains from a Six Sigma approach is a culture of continuous business process improvement. Creating evaluation dashboards that measure everyday processes to determine which ones need improvement, setting a percentage of improvement for fixed periods with the ultimate goal of reaching the 3.4% standard is good practice. This principle will help you plan your equipment needs accordingly and spread out costs.

In short, instrumentation teams can benefit from a well-designed Six Sigma approach that enables them to apply best practice tools to deliver efficiency-driven design projects. Using these principles, they can optimize manufacturing processes, ensure regulatory compliance, prepare and conduct formal design, code and equipment reviews. Ultimately, this makes for improved product quality by identifying manufacturing issues, developing advanced cost-effective solutions and reducing waste.