What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma isn’t a plan that sprung up out of nowhere, despite the quick & sweeping effect of the methodology on the major corporations across the world. It represents decades, and even centuries of innovation in manufacturing & statistics, harnessing the complete power of industry through efficiency, analysis, and quality control.

The Beginnings of Six Sigma

Walter Shewhart essentially used to project the amount of defective products his company’s supply chain could expect to produce using their current process via the help of the concepts of normal distribution or a bell curve. Using this particular method of analysis, they were actually able to identify an appropriate tolerance for instances of defective products. If the number of defects rose above this specific threshold (a prescribed distance from the sigma or mean), then the model by Shewhart offered some insights into necessary process changes that were previously far more difficult to uncover & fix.

This particular method of quality control had a profound as well as really lasting effect on American manufacturing. The U.S. government required that all of its contractors provide quite quantifiable proof of quality assurance following a similar approach to Shewhart’s by 1951. However, Shewhart didn’t formally create the management methodology itself, even though he provided the statistical framework that enabled the creation of Six Sigma.

Six Sigma in Management

Following WWII, American manufacturing hit a stumbling block. Beating out the U.S. internationally and, in many markets, domestically, the Japanese companies displayed quite superior, sophisticated processes and utter dedication to quality control. With the advent of electronics, that needed both precision & significant resources to produce, this gap simply became even more pronounced.

Motorola made the choice to prioritize quality control & simply focus heavily on refining their manufacturing process to compete in the 1980’s, this decision was led by their CEO Bob Galvin. This is exactly an engineer at Motorola called Bill Smith, widely hailed as the inventor of Six Sigma, made the connection between Shewhart’s method of defecting measurement and identifying & have to set specific improvement goals. This specific model gave Motorola a statistical & working method to further identify faults, analyze their processes as well as make ongoing enhancements. In addition, Smith devised a threshold of tolerance for defects, quite similar to Shewhart, however Smith’s was far more specific in his approach. His threshold was actually measured in DPMO or defects per 1 million opportunities for a defect to occur.

Furthermore, Smith arrived at a desired DPMO of 3.4 for Motorola, which is a six sigma deviation from the mean. And thus, Motorola’s Six Sigma methodology was born. Moreover, the method also encouraged absolute commitment to meeting this specific quality threshold. When it actually went unmet, advanced analyses would be put in place to determine which particular part of the process needed more refinement, then identify & implement a suitable solution.

The Six Sigma mode of constant process improvement through statistical analysis with great success was adopted by companies such as 3M, IBM, as well General Electric under Jack Welch. From there, the methodology picked up speed, with its principles still visible to the current day in contemporary leaders like Amazon and Boeing. To know more about Six Sigma contact Tromenz Learning or visit our website.

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