Become a Six Sigma Superstar!

Expert David Kiger has been stressing the importance of implementing lean manufacturing techniques within organizations as a tool for improving the current processes that carry out the different company’s activities. Bill smith introduced the concept of Six Sigma back in 1986 while working at Motorola and went on to influence several companies during the 1990’s: General Electric implemented the Six Sigma methodology as it central strategy back in 1995.

Understanding this methodology is key to enhancing the current state of affairs of every business regardless of its orientation. Any business can benefit from the implementation of the Six Sigma methodology: doing so, and complying with its precepts enables professionals and employees at any given level of the organization to identify errors and time-wasting activities in the business processes and, additionally, come up with possible and plausible solutions to get rid of them. This might seem obvious and simple at first, but the better the result the higher the sigma and, of course, every business should strive to reach Six Sigma. Actually, the concept means that for every million chances there should be only 3,4 defects, which, translated into percentages would be a 99,99966% success rate.

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Hahn at

Ok, but that is just the theory and the precepts. In order to provide a better understanding things must be put into perspective. Six Sigma would mean different things depending on the industry it is intended to be applied, for instance, in the healthcare industry, only in the United States, according to the CDC, more than 51 million surgeries are performed on a yearly basis. At only three sigma there would be 3.4 million mistakes under the established surgical procedures and processes, which is astonishing. But, what if Six Sigma were to be applied? The figures would shrink soundly to “just” 173 —which is rather a relief. At this juncture, the healthcare industry reported that in 2013 over 3.76 billion retail prescriptions were filled in the United States. Under the three sigma conditions there would be 251 million mistakes with those medications and prescriptions, however, at Six Sigma, those mistakes would go down to 12,750 —which, compared to the initial figure, is way less.

The previous examples are a depiction of the perks the Six Sigma methodology would bring to the framework of the healthcare industry, however, as stated before, it can be applied not only to every industry but also to every activity or process within those industries. In the technological sector, for instance, if Six Sigma were to be applied to the Smartphone industry specifically, according to the IDC in 2013 just over one billion mobile phones were shipped globally. Of course, the main mistake would be related to those cell phones actually reaching their original destination; therefore, at three sigma over 66.8 million units would definitely experience trouble getting to their destinations, however, managers or, better, supply chain managers can unquestionably reduce this figure by applying the Six Sigma methodology: as a consequence the initial number of 66.8 million would go down to 3,400 —much more profitable than actually incurring into 66.8 million mistakes. Even the Internet industry can benefit from Six Sigma: Internet cloud service is an ongoing trend that is increasingly being used by more and more companies. Obviously, businesses using such service depend on the internet being functioning, however, at three sigma, the internet would be down more than three weeks a year whereas at Six Sigma the figure would go down to just one minute and 47 seconds. If readers are still struggling to put Six Sigma into perspective, here there is another example: imagine the air travel industry; according to official statistics there are over 17 million takeoffs and landings every year and, as readers might have already guessed, both scenarios are subject of possible mistakes. At three sigma there would be 1,180,000 possible mistakes during takeoffs or landings, nonetheless, and since many lives are at stake in this particular industry —hence the importance of attaining the chance of implementing Six Sigma: at Six Sigma this statistic would go down to sixty. Yes: sixty. Handling activities would also be improved if Six Sigma were applied to them: according to SITA, over 400 units of luggage are handled in the United States on a yearly basis. At three sigma roughly 26.5 million equipment units would wind up being lost or, worse, sent to a wrongful destination, nevertheless, as in any other industry where goods are sent to other destinations, applying Six Sigma can definitely be the best way to reduce such waste or such statistics that are consequence of wrongful procedures —and, ultimately, reduce the costs commonly associated with such losses; regarding the handling activities in the air travel industry, at Six Sigma such statistic would narrow down to just 1350.

So, the perks of implementing Six Sigma goes hand in hand with the current trend of implementing lean manufacturing and lean processes not only within the supply chain but within all the company’s activities as well; it is an accurate tool for achieving less mistakes and, thusly, reducing costs, waste, time between processes and activities while increasing efficiency, accuracy and effectiveness. Try it and become a Six Sigma superstar!


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