Six Sigma

Six Sigma

When you see the term, “six sigma”, what do you think of? If you are unfamiliar with the term, you might think it’s a new video game or government outfit thought up by the military. In truth, Six Sigma is a term used for the measure of quality of a product by a company.

Within the business world, Six Sigma has slowly but surely become something that many learn in order to gauge how a product will do when presented and tried by their consumers. The process is actually used in a variety of different businesses, with the hope that they can detect and remove errors before the product goes to market and thus the consumer.

Six Sigma was originally a manufacturing process that began in the 1970s with communications giant Motorola. Heavy criticism from senior executive Art Sundry laid out fundamental problems with a number of items from the company, mostly the television sets that they were selling. Many of their consumers reported that Motorola televisions were horribly made and prone to falling apart soon after purchase.

The problem that Motorola and other companies faced was trying to discover any flaws that a product might have without tacking on huge costs for checking. The mindset was that to increase the quality of the product meant that the cost to do so would also increase, which would of course leave many scrambling to try and make up those expended costs through sales.

The basis of Six Sigma is based on a variety of different methods, but holds true to three things –

  1. Business success comes from the continuous efforts to ensure stability and predictable process results, which are of a vital importance.
  2. Characteristics of processes can be measured, analyzed, controlled, and improved
  3. To maintain this quality, the entire organization must be involved, including upper management.

Six Sigma has two different methodologies that can be followed:

  • DMAIC – standing for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control
  • DMADV – standing for Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Verify. Is also know as DFSS (Design for Six Sigma)

These methodologies follow the thought that project teams need to find define that the problem or compliant is with the process before measuring and researching the feedback received; then they analyze the findings before improving or designing the current processes based on the feedback and data discovered. They then make sure that any future process is free from the issues of before.

Employees who are interested in learning Six Sigma first have to become certified, with each level stating the current knowledge of the person holding the certification. There are three levels of Six Sigma certification rankings, known as belts –

  • Yellow Belt – beginner level
  • Green Belt – intermediate level
  • Black Belt/Master Black Belt – advanced; usually also train the lower belts or mentor Green Belts.

Six Sigma also has a secondary strategy known as Lean Six Sigma, which takes aspects of lean manufacturing while using the approaches of Six Sigma.

How is your organization using Six Sigma? Is it used in only one area of the organization or across all divisions? Are various areas of the organization aligned to different best practices making the adoption across the organization difficult?

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David Peterson

David G. Peterson is a business consultant and author of Handling the Remedy. He has extensive international experience managing projects and operations for large financial institutions. He has worked in North America, Europe, Middle East and Asia skillfully managing business and technical requirements, core systems enhancement and support, merger and acquisition integration's, business process reengineering, off-shoring and outsourcing.