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12th April 2019, Bally, PA

BRM implements Six Sigma methodology to reduce waste

The company is capable of producing lightweight, cost-effective, advanced woven 2D and 3D composite structures. © BRM

The company is capable of producing lightweight, cost-effective, advanced woven 2D and 3D composite structures. © BRM

Bally Ribbon Mills (BRM), an industry leader in the design, development, and manufacture of highly specialised engineered woven fabrics, has recorded a 30% reduction in waste, overall, during the first two years of the Six Sigma training programme implementation.

Six Sigma is a methodology, driven by data, by which manufacturing facilities can work towards fully eliminating defects. The central principle of Six Sigma is that data can be used to drive manufacturing to achieve at least six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit. By assessing process performance with Six Sigma statistical representations, manufacturing facilities are said to be able to greatly increase productivity, efficiency, and cost savings.

“Implementing Six Sigma methodology had had a significant impact on manufacturing, design, and customer relationships for Bally Ribbon Mills. The company is more able to design and manufacture products exactly to customer specifications, and with far greater confidence in finished products than ever before. This saves costs for both the manufacturer and the customers and leads to higher-quality products in use in critical applications such as safety equipment, automotive parts, aerospace components, and more,” the company explains.


BRM’s journey in best quality practices began many years ago with the implementation of MIL-I-45208 and MIL-Q-9858 for its military products. Trends in the automotive and aerospace industries in the 1990s drove BRM to implement additional statistical tools in its quality management efforts.

After sending its first employee for Six Sigma training, who then worked on a project that saw a 77% decrease in waste in the production of a single item, BRM began to broaden the scope of the methodology’s influence on its manufacturing processes. Over the next few years, the company leadership decided to expand its Six Sigma programme even further, sending additional personnel to be trained as black and green belts and Lean 6.

Currently, BRM is training and adding more certified persons each year to the programme. Similarly, instead of one computer station with a Six Sigma software license for statistical analysis, the company has multiple.


The greatest impact of implementing Six Sigma methodology has been the improvements in data collection and analysis. “Well-trained, quality assurance (QA) teams knowledgeable in Six Sigma methodology can use the same data than most manufacturing facilities already collect, and still get to a better confidence level, lower material use, less waste, lower lead times, and reduced overproduction compared with other QA methodologies,” the company says.

BRM began its Six Sigma implementation with projects that had shown to be highest priority in terms of risk of failure, highest waste costs, or greatest disruption to the manufacturing area. In these projects, the QA teams can perform statistical analysis on all hypotheses about failure causes and solutions, and by doing so can narrow down to workable potential fixes that reduce variation in final products.

In the past, most quality assurance work came about after a product was developed and had begun to be manufactured. This led to larger tolerances than necessary, and greater waste. Now, using Six Sigma statistical tools, the QA teams work alongside the design and manufacturing teams to design new machine setups and more precise production from the very beginning. As a result, the teams have seen great success in recent years. One project has reduced rejections by 80%, and another reduced the internal rejection rate by 92%.

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