Dell Six Sigma

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This semester we chose to develop a Six Sigma analysis on the manufacturing process of computers at Dell, Inc. Our goal was to take the manufacturing process currently in place for the production of laptops and desktop PCs and maximize quality, efficiency, and the longevity of the computers. Historically, Dell has been known as an industry leader in supply chain management. They have been credited with developing supply chain processes that have come to be recognized as some of the most innovative not only in their industry but throughout all business sectors. All of these accolades made Dell an unlikely choice since there didn’t appear to be much room for improvement, at least from a supply chain standpoint. However, over the past few years Dell’s once firm lead on the personal computer market share has begun to deteriorate and they have since lost their hold of the leading market share to top competitor Hewlett-Packard. They are currently in second place in market share but just over the past fiscal year revenues have fallen 33% from the second quarter of 2009 compared to the second quarter of 2010. Some of this drop-off may be attributed to the economic recession; but regardless of external factors a 33% loss is not something to be ignored especially at a time when these types of losses could potentially become a growing trend. Our research indicated that over the past few years the amount of complaints Dell has received regarding faulty manufacturing and shortened life spans for their computers has been continuously growing; so we decided to focus our analysis on determining how to improve on Dell’s quality without diminishing their industry-renowned built-to-order process which is based upon speed and efficiency. Dell’s recent losses are a result of decreased quality and these have subsequently created a lack of trust in Dell’s brand. We set out to not only determine specifically what hardware or software issues these errors can be attributed to; but also in the process, re-strengthen Dell’s brand identity by increasing quality for their products. When we were choosing a company to study and run analysis on, Dell was not necessarily any of our group members’ first choice, primarily because of how successful their supply chain methods had been in previous years. We initially assumed there would be little we could do to improve the process. We began developing a decision by choosing three companies to pick from; Dell, Inc., Nike, and Herr’s Potato Chip Company. We made a decision after entering several different characteristics into the Decision Lens software and evaluating how strongly we felt about each. Our analysis was based on five criteria which we determined to be the most important for the success of this project. The first criterion was the availability of data. For this project, it was critical to have access to information with as much detail as possible. Such data includes process descriptions, mission statements, business plans, financial earnings, sales, marketing strategies and customer feedback. Without such data, it would have been difficult to evaluate and identify a process that would benefit from a Six Sigma project. All participants in this project recognized the importance of this criterion as evidenced by a 0.41 weight rating, the highest weight given to any of the criteria. The second criterion was the scope of potential improvement. If the company is already excelling in their processes and dominating the market, it would be difficult to find any room for improvement. One of the companies that we initially considered was Coca-Cola. We subsequently dropped the company from the list because as we could not find many areas we could improve upon. The next criterion was our familiarity with the product. We felt it was important to have at least some knowledge of the company and process before we began the project. Prior experiences with the company or product could be used to assist in our process...
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