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The History And Development Of Six Sigma

Dec 7, 2007
A question that is often asked is "was Six Sigma developed as a competitor to the existing systems?" But in reality, this question is groundless because Six Sigma was developed independently, like every other quality management system. However, if it pays to have more than one quality management system, then why not develop another system in addition to the existing ones?

So let's see how Six Sigma evolved and eventually went on to become one of the most commendable quality management systems on the globe.

The Early Saga

The roots of Six Sigma can be traced back to the early industrial era, during the eighteenth century in Europe. Carl Frederick Gauss introduced it as a conceptual normal curve metric. The evolution of Six Sigma took one step ahead with Walter Shewhart showing how three sigma deviations from the mean required a process correction. Later in 1980, Six Sigma got a definitive form when a Motorola engineer coined the term Six Sigma for this quality management process. Motorola not only implemented this system in their organization, but they copyrighted it as well.

The Japanese Connection

Japanese people are known to have crossed many boundaries to perfect their technological achievements. So it was no wonder when they took it upon themselves to perfect the Six Sigma concept in true Japanese style. It all began when they took over a television-manufacturing unit of Motorola in 1970. The new management decided to change the way the operations were conducted. The Japanese management made sure that they placed a high emphasis on all the activities leading to production. Finally, because of their zealous approach they started manufacturing T.V sets with just 5% defects against the original records under Motorola.

Motorola's Valuable Augmentation

The study regarding the evolution of Six Sigma would be incomplete without mentioning the valuable contribution from Motorola. Bill Smith, along with Mikel Harry, had written and codified a research report on the new quality management system that emphasized the interdependence between a product's performance in the market and the adjustments required at the manufacturing point.

The report clearly indicated that the lesser the number of non-conformities at each stage of production, the better is the performance. This report was no less than a revolution because it paved the way for the implementation of the "logical filters" as a key tool to solve problems. Bob Galvin, the then CEO of Motorola became a leader in this system, and with his help later this four stage logical filter became the skeleton of the present day Six Sigma. The four stages were known as Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

Inception Of A New Road Map

Motorola's corporate policy committee started setting goals for further improvisation of this process. They even went to the extent of declaring that by giving way to the improvisation in Six Sigma, they would achieve ten times betters quality.

Other Unforgettable Significant Contributions

There were many people, but the most prominent among them are Unisys Corp in 1988 and Asea Brown Boveri in 1993. In fact, Asea Brown Boveri gave Six Sigma its final finishing touch by putting emphasis on customer satisfaction.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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