Six Sigma – History

Rick Lapenna Insights, Six Sigma Leave a Comment

The History of Six Sigma can be traced back to the time of Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1855). He is said to have introduced the concept of the normal curve. Perhaps as a standard of measurement in product variation, Walter Shewhart in 1920’s showed that a process needed correction whenever it reached a point where three sigma were produced from the mean. 

Edward Deming, the ‘Godfather’ of quality brought about immense change in the approaches and attitude towards quality in the early 1950s. Later many standard measurements like Cpk, Zero Defects, etc. were found to exist.

In the 1980s, Mikel Harry, working for Motorola, focused on Deming’s concept of process variation as a way to improve performance. But the real credit goes to Motorola engineer, Bill Smith, for coining the term ‘Six Sigma’. The engineers working there found that the traditional quality levels used for measuring defects in thousands of opportunities did not provide a proper measurement system analysis.

Therefore, with the ropes of success being in the hands of Bob Galvin, the chairman of Motorola in 1987, a new standard methodology was created known as Six Sigma. With the help of Six Sigma methodology, Motorola produced powerful results. It is said that they documented more than $16 billion in savings as a result of applying Six Sigma efforts.

Since then, many top companies have adopted Six Sigma for successful business. Companies like General electric, Allied signal, Honeywell, Honda, Sony, Cannon, Polaroid, and many more are using Six Sigma methodologies. It is more than just a quality system like TQM or ISO. It’s a way of doing business.

The value of mean usually acts as the expectation of the customer or our target. Therefore in order to eliminate the defects, it is important to measure the variations occurring in the processes, which acts as the carriers of defects.

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