Does size matter for Six Sigma implementation? Findings from the survey in UK SMEs

Kumar, Maneesh and Antony, J. and Douglas, A. (2009) Does size matter for Six Sigma implementation? Findings from the survey in UK SMEs. TQM Journal, 21 (6). pp. 623-635. ISSN 1754-2731 (

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The purpose of this paper is to identify the quality initiatives implemented in UK manufacturing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to perform a comparative analysis of quality management practices within Six Sigma firms against the non-Six Sigma manufacturing SMEs. To achieve the research objective, a survey-based approach is adopted by designing a short questionnaire addressing the issues of quality practices in SMEs. The paper encompasses the survey results from the first phase of Doctoral study to identify Six Sigma and non-Six Sigma companies. The response rate from the survey is 12.7 per cent out of 500 companies identified through the use of random sampling technique within the FAME and Dun & Bradstreet database of manufacturing SMEs. Data analysis was carried out using SPSS and Microsoft Excel. The findings from the study reveal that there is a significant difference in the performance of the Six Sigma/Lean firms against ISO certified companies. However, it is interesting to reflect on the findings of critical success factors (CSFs) of the sample firms. There is no significant difference in the perceived importance of the identified CSFs' variables in the Six Sigma and ISO certified SMEs. The focus of the study is only on UK manufacturing SMEs encompassing 64 firms. The small sample size and focus on manufacturing sector limits its generalisability to the entire SME population. Future study should focus on performing a comparative study of manufacturing and service based SMEs in UK or Europe. The novelty of the paper lies in conducting a comparative study on the performance of Six Sigma and non-Six Sigma UK SMEs and drawing out valuable lessons for academics, consultants, researchers and practitioners of continuous improvement initiatives like Lean and Six Sigma.