What you need to know about Six Sigma

Currently, Six Sigma is a reference methodology for many companies to supply different customer needs. Through this method, quality could be measured and improved to get excellence in what customers want and require. On the other hand, with Six Sigma, companies could prevent different situations that affect clients, and also with this technique, those problems can be adjusted for the future.

The Six Sigma methodology could be implemented for any company and it can involve any area of the organization, like production, communications, management, sells, among others. To get success with this technique, companies have to make an investment in time and money. Knowing this, they can achieve multiple improvements in their processes removing imperfections in them and making better the customer experience.


After the World War II, some quality theories were adopted for different organizations to enhance their production. The most important theories in that time where PDCA, TQM, and SPC. The evolution of these theories gave as result the Six Sigma methodology. The first company to introduce this technique into their processes was Motorola in 1988.

PDCA Cycle

The PDCA technique involves four key elements that could be implemented in any company from any economic sector, to analyze and execute different tasks with the main purpose of continuous quality improvement.

Plan key is where companies establish the needs what they have and want to improve, so they could do a plan for this.

The Do key is where the designed plan is executed and implemented, besides, in this stage, companies can get information for the next steps.

In the check and Act stages, is where companies inspect the information generated in the Do stage and make changes based on this data. Furthermore, organizations can keep or not what was executed and implemented according to the obtained results.

TQM (Total Quality Management)

TQM is a quality technique that procures the excellence in every process of the company, involving all the organization areas and its people. This methodology has been active from XIX century to present, focusing on the maintenance of what gives value to organizations and removing those what does not.

This methodology involves the PDCA Cycle in its development, basing their tools, procedures, and steps in the PDCA Cycle.

SPC (Statistical Process Control)

This methodology bases its procedures in statistical systems to control quality. Through statistics, this method can determinate important events in processes and some variations to correct them. Also, with these statistics techniques, occurrence events can be measured letting companies monitor and control their own incidents and its frequency.

The SPC methodology also uses in some way the PDCA Cycle.

In conclusion, it is right to say that the PDCA Cycle is the basis for the TQM and SPC methods, put differently, the PDCA Cycle, being also a quality control method, influences the procedures and techniques of the other two methodologies.

As it was said above, the Six Sigma methodology is the evolution of these three techniques, because it gathers and implements what TQM, PDCA, and SPC propose. In other words, the Six Sigma approach merges the three mentioned methods improving in companies their processes through actions that let them reduce costs, eliminate in officious practices and increase productivity, meaning better quality products and operational excellence.

Image courtesy of Alexandre Rangel at Flickr.com

Six Sigma principles

The Six Sigma methodology has 11 principles that make possible the performance of this technique in companies. They are:

  1. Leadership commitment: To succeed with this technique, all people in the company must be committed in the implementation of this. From the CEO to the last operator.
  2. Directives diversification: The Six Sigma method involves leaders from every area of the organization with different responsibilities. This helps to involve all areas of the company.
  3. Training: The education in Six Sigma concepts and procedures (Black belt curriculum).
  4. Accreditation: This certificates that the company worked to include the Six Sigma methodology in their processes.
  5. Clients and processes: This methodology is focused on the processes improvement to give customers better experiences.
  6. Data: It is the information source for processes improvement.
  7. Methodology: Companies must follow the steps proposed in the methodology.
  8. Costs reduce: Improving company processes, some operative costs can decrease.
  9. Recognized work: If some implementation worked, it must be recognized and supported for future implementations.
  10. Long term projects: This methodology is designed to show results in years, not weeks or days.
  11. Communication: Every implementation should be communicated, so all people in the organization could know how they are working and their objectives.

Related: Everything you need to know about starting Six Sigma training by David Kiger

DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) process

This is an achromous that defines the 5 Six Sigma stages. They are:

  • Define: It is where objectives to be worked are defined (the process or processes to be improved) and the employees participating in the project.
  • Measure: Calculate dimensions of the problem to be solved.
  • Analyze: Find principal causes of the problem to be solved.
  • Improve: The execution of the working plan.
  • Control: Needed controls design to keep what was implemented.

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