How Six Sigma has become one of the best quality systems

Six Sigma is an amazingly effective production model that since its start has given gigantic benefits to those companies that implement it. It works by using certain tools and processes to create improvement in the production area of a company. Processes like the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control model or the Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Verify model, both of which are built based on what Six Sigma represents and tries to achieve.

Some think Six Sigma was born as a competitor to other kinds of systems, but it was developed independently, separated from other systems, without influence or direct competitors of any kind. But there is no problem having different models as long as they work and is good to have other quality management systems, like Kaizen or Lean manufacturing as it gives you different options and you choose what is better for you. You can also use multiple systems together as being different doesn’t mean they are not compatible. Six Sigma though, has become one of the most used and best quality management system and today we’ll go through the most important parts of its development, showing how it has changed since it started.

Six Sigma has been around since the early eighteenth century in Europe, back in the start of the industrial era. The first one to introduce the concept was Carl Frederick Gauss that introduced it as a conceptual normal curve metric. Later, Walter Shewhart would make a bigger step when he showed how three sigma alterations would generate the need to start a process of correction. Though the most important actor was a Motorola engineer that coined the term Six Sigma in 1980, to describe this process. Later Motorola would be the first one to officially implement the system in their company and later copyrighted the term and the system.

The influence of Japanese philosophy and culture in Six Sigma is really important, as they are always working to improve and perfect technology, thing that has caused them to be the developers of some of the biggest technological advances in the world. They would likewise perfect the Six Sigma concept, as it proved to be a worthy system, this caused the system to develop and become more consistent. It began when they started managing a unit of television manufacturing from Motorola in 1970. They decided to put a lot of emphasis in all the activities in the production process. Through this improvement process they managed to reduce defects when manufacturing T.V. sets to just five percent, a much lower number than the original ones made by Motorola.

Motorola was one of the main contributors to the development of Six Sigma as they added a lot to the system and process, making its contribution one of the most important. Bill Smith and Mikel Harry, wrote and codified a research report, which focused in the dependence between the performance of the product in the market and the adjustments that had to be made in the manufacturing process.

This report helped by showing that the lesser number of problems and difficulties in each of the stages of production, the better the performance and results of the process. The report was one of the main actors in the evolution of Six Sigma, as it was the event that gave ground to the utilization of logical filters as one of the main tools of solving problems in manufacturing. Bob Gavin, the CEO of Motorola at the time, became the main leader in the use of the system, and based in the logical filters he would later develop the four stage filters that are the skeleton of the Six Sigma of today. These four filters, as we mentioned before, are Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. Later Motorola would keep making efforts to improve the system and the process by setting goals for it, they even stated that by making way for improvisation in the Six Sigma process, they would manage to achieve products ten times better in quality.

logisctics_david kiger_six sigma
Image courtesy of Seika at Flickr.com

Other people and companies that helped developing the process were Unisys Corp in 1988 and Asea Brown in 1993. Asea Brown would make a big input in the developing process by introducing the idea of customer satisfaction to the system and making it one of the main emphasis of it.

So here is a small summary of the history and evolution of the Six Sigma process, it is always good to know how a system came to be and what were the reasons for its existence, as it gives a better idea of why it is good and how implementing it in your company may benefit it. Even since its introduction in the world of production and manufacturing, Six Sigma has proven to be an amazing quality management system and there is still plenty time for it to show how well it works. So if you have both the resources and the intention of trying a new quality system in your company you should give Six Sigma a shot.

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