The History of Six Sigma

The roots of Six Sigma as a measurement standard can be traced back to Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) who introduced the concept of the normal curve. Six Sigma as a measurement standard in product variation can be traced back to the 1920’s when Walter Shewhart showed that three sigma from the mean is the point where a process requires correction. Many measurement standards (Cpk, Zero Defects, etc.) later came on the scene but credit for coining the term “Six Sigma” goes to a Motorola engineer named Bill Smith. (Incidentally, “Six Sigma” is a federally registered trademark of Motorola).

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In the early and mid-1980s with Chairman Bob Galvin at the helm, Motorola engineers decided that the traditional quality levels — measuring defects in thousands of opportunities – didn’t provide enough granularity. Instead, they wanted to measure the defects per million opportunities. Motorola developed this new standard and created the methodology and needed cultural change associated with it. Six Sigma helped Motorola realize powerful bottom-line results in their organization – in fact, they documented more than $16 Billion in savings as a result of our Six Sigma efforts.

Since then, tens of thousands of companies around the world have adopted Six Sigma as a way of doing business. This is a direct result of many of America’s leaders openly praising the benefits of Six Sigma. Leaders such as Larry Bossidy of Allied Signal (now Honeywell), and Jack Welch of General Electric Company. Rumor has it that Larry and Jack were playing golf one day and Jack bet Larry that he could implement Six Sigma faster and with greater results at GE than Larry did at Allied Signal. The results speak for themselves.

Six Sigma has evolved over time. It’s more than just a quality system like TQM or ISO. It’s a way of doing business. As Geoff Tennant describes in his book Six Sigma: SPC and TQM in Manufacturing and Services: “Six Sigma is many things, and it would perhaps be easier to list all the things that Six Sigma quality is not. Six Sigma can be seen as: a vision; a philosophy; a symbol; a metric; a goal; a methodology.” We couldn’t agree more.

Comments 22

  1. Gautam

    It is a good information about how 6 sigma came into existence specially for someone like me who has no idea about this term or rather methodology as I came to know after reading this article.

  2. sadiq

    it’s great a moment for me to identify the right at the right time.

  3. 29927

    It seems building into this great concept is the right thing to do. With management expectation so high on deliverables, I am sure that benefits are there to equip me with necessary tools.

  4. ronnie nowell

    as an emplyee of a company that has implemented six sigma. all i can see is an increased demand for the bottom line at the expense of the consumer and as our company has gone with this all out they probably are saving money right now because very little is being spent on maintaing the current infastructure that is in bad need of repair. and as a result we are loosing 80 THOUSAND CUSTOMERS in my buisness a week. thank you six sigma all to maximize the bottom line i understand that the bottom line is very emportant. but not so important that customer quality and satisfaction has to suffer.

  5. 07827014895

    This(Six sigma) is very right tools, concern with statistic. it provides uniqueness in production operation. Six sigma identify the variability in production operation specification, which is more important. Because whatever the specification is, it always concern with uniqueness of the objects, things. This is very clear methodlogy, tools,techniques or concept to statistical measurement, I’m very happy to know about this(Sis sigma). I would like to share my view with my Society concern with statistic, that is , most of the people(management) say that in day to day activity(in organisation) there is no need of numerical implementation, but I never belived this fact and ultimately I knew the fact about statistic, that what actually it is with the help of Six sigma.That’s all. thank’s

  6. dande sumaljag

    it is all about the business production of a particular business to sustain an accurate quality production

  7. ahsan khan

    although i am a business student ,as for as my understanding of six sigma is,it is about scientific management and zero error production.

  8. Soumya Bhattacharjee

    Forget six sigma or what ever it is …..statistics can derive results only but cant create leadership, it is a power within.

  9. adnan

    it is good information ,…..

  10. mary

    it is a very good and useful information to all those who wants know about six sigma

  11. Jafar Lodhi

    It is a very good introduction about 6-Sigma and can be starting point for the business students to learn more about it,
    Thanks a lot. ( Jafar Lodhi )



  13. iqra

    its a very good article about six sigma .it helps the students to understand the six sigma

  14. Beth-Ann Grant

    The Six Sigma way of production is very much like ACE. It does change teh way you work and produce.

  15. Joe Paradiso

    For me, Six Sigma is a tool box with a variety of tools to use when the need for a specific tool is required. If a tool is used incorrectly, it is useless, but when used properly, can save time, effort, money and aggravation. Learn how to use the six sigma tools to your advantage.

  16. Vijayanand

    All the measures implemented by Six Sigma are to tackle gaps created by shorcomming of human brain. Our brain lags on capabilites such as picturising the status of the process by mesuring them by numerous parameters.This methodology/tool helps us to get the picture of the proceses status thus enabling us to diagnoss any thing that is deveiating from normal expectation. That’s why Six Sigma experts say “Devation Is Evil”.

  17. Sonia Weaver

    Put it simply, quality cost but the lack of it will definitely result in financial disaster

  18. Robert

    Six sigma is a philosophy, the way of the perfection…
    Happy to be becoming in a green belt!

  19. Will G

    This article is old. GE has abandoned Six Sigma for Lean and many other companies are leaving Six Sigma also. Lean and Six Sigma, quite the contrary to popular belief does not mix. Working at a Japanese company with a huge global footprint, the term and processes of Sig Sigma was not allowed to even be discussed let alone used. After learning Six Sigma in a large American company then learning Lean in a Japanese company it became clear as a Crystal why the two systems cannot be mixed and why Lean is miles superior over Six Sigma. Six Sigma is extremely top heavy on paper requirement. You can destroy a forest of trees wth document requirements where as Lean is straight to the problem, analysis, countermeasures, and solutions. The Lean tools are smooth, simple, thorough, calm, cohesive, and friendly to the imagination and usage. Six Sigma is dogma, hard, micromanage deployment meaning free thinking is almost not allowed. The steps are rigid, the responses have to fit in a box. If the manufacturing world of your company catches fire Six Sigma will cause the house to burn because it is gathering paper, caught inside of process rigidity, and slow. There are Lean tools for rapid response, project control, and quick total solution. For long and tidious projects. Note that American Lean is Lean decorations; I.e.stripe the floor, reduce inventory, label everything, put charts and signsup on every wall, create work instructions, and implement 5S audits. That’s not Japanese Lean (TPS, or the Piggly Wiggly pull system).

    Six Sigma is a cash cow. To go from white, to yellow, to brown, to green, to black, and now to master black belt can cost between $50k to $100k. Lean is free from the Japanese but even America is trying to cash in on that by creating a Lean Certificate cost. Has sold this ridiculous idea to make a company believe that this certification will guarantee the qualification of the employee knowing how to deploy Lean. Wrong! Only practicing concepts, fundamentals, and principles of Lean as the Japanese intended, guarantees correct Lean application. Test, multiple choice questions, and memorization of Lean tools will prove anything. The Japanese does.

    The Six Sigma communty has coined the phrase Lean Six Sigma to hold on to their cash flow over the free cost of Lean as the Japanese will freely teach anyone. Like I said, the real Japanese Lean company programs will not allow or tolerate saying Six Sigma, using Six Sigma, or mixing Six Sigma with any portion of the culture. I agree

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