Six Sigma Definition

Six Sigma operates at a 99.9997% quality level and limits the number of possibility of defects to less than 3.4 defects per million, by banking heavily on statistical techniques. As a matter of fact, the quality and the productivity of the organization is improved by streamlining the processes. Unlike ISO-9001, which is a quality certification system, Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology meant for reducing the number of defects to a very minute amount and thereby enduring a boon to the market value of the company by unremitting progress.

Origin of the Term: Sigma is the Greek letter used to exemplify standard deviation in statistics. “Six Sigma” signifies the Six standard deviations from mean. Six Sigma is the registered trademark of Motorola Inc. and was originally formulated by Bill Smith at Motorola, in 1986. [Source: Motorola website] The various old processes like TQM were kept in mind while its formulation. The following table illustrates well the degree of Sigma level along with its DFMO:

Sigma level DFMO
One Sigma 690,000.000
Two Sigma 380,000.000
Three Sigma 66,800.000
Four Sigma 6210.000
Five Sigma 230.000
Six Sigma 3.400

Factors that Headed the Discovery of Six Sigma: The following were the main key points, which contributed to the discovery of Six Sigma methodology:

  • The increase in the corporate waste in the organizations decreased the profit margin because of which there was a demand of a process, which could fight the existing problem and reduce the corporate waste.
  • Old process like TQM proved to be unsuccessful or unsatisfactory for many organizations because of which organizations needed a methodology, which is more than just a process improvement program.
  • For better consumer satisfaction, companies demanded a methodology, which could improve the quality of their product.
  • Companies demanded a methodology, which would lower the number of defects and thereby save the overhead cost incurred while resolving the defects.
  • With the increased number of competitors in the market, companies were in need of a process, which would improve their market value and provide a better job satisfaction to its employees.

How it Works?
Six Sigma works on methodology based on two methods, namely, DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) and DMADV (Define-Measure-Analyze-Design-Verify).
DMAIC, meant for improving the process, states the following points:

  • Define the process and its requirements.
  • Measure the performance of the process after it is executed.
  • Analyze the difference in the current performance and the requirement and thereby identifying the factors responsible for it.
  • Improve the process by re-developing it, to eradicate the occurred problems.
  • Control the performance by implementing the new effective process under a controlled plan.

DMADV is also known as DFSS i.e. Design for Six Sigma and is used for creating new products and its design. It states the following points:

  • Define process design and its goals.
  • Measure the various factors involved with the design, such as consumer satisfaction, corporate waste, risks etc.
  • Analyze the capability of the design.
  • Design its details and plan for its verification.
  • Verify the design and thereby send it to the process owner for its implementation.

Effects of Six Sigma Implementation:

  • The quality improves by reduction in the number of defects.
  • The outcome of any process depends on collective data and facts rather than assumptions.
  • It increases the profit-level of the company.
  • It provides more structured and disciplined approach to solve the existing problem.
  • Rather than adopting the conventional cost cutting method, it prefers eradicating costs that provide no value to the consumers.
  • The net operational cost reduces.
  • By reducing the number of defects, it provides the company a hope for higher expectations.
  • It aims at understanding the need and expectations of the consumers and providing them the same with a better quality product.
  • The internal communication between the department increases, because of which the employees tend to be more aware of the techniques and strategies used for solving a particular problem.
  • It leads to a greater job satisfaction for employees. As a result of which, the internal communication within the organization increases.
  • The time consumed in the production reduces; thereby the delivery of the service is fast.
  • The organization is more productive; as a result, its market position improves.

Six Sigma has proved itself the best existing methodology in the market, to provide the companies a new dynamic approach to solve the problems and thus leading them to the pinnacles of success. The success story of many big and small companies who adopted the Six Sigma methodology has become a guiding plane for other companies, irrespective of their fields, to replace their old methodology by the same, to achieve the acme of success. For instance, DuPont, No. 1 Innovator in Chemical Industry and No. 1 in Biotech Patents [Source: The Patent Board(TM) and Nature Biotechnology] have acknowledged Six Sigma for their success. [Source: DuPont Annual Report]. Analogously, General Electrics, ranked 2nd in the ‘Global 2000’ list of companies [Source: Forbes website], has also credited Six Sigma for its success. Jack Welch said, “We found that Six Sigma isn’t only for engineers…Regional sales managers can use it to improve forecast reliability, pricing strategies, or pricing variation.”

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