In 1981 Motorola launched an initiative calling for a 5-year, 10X improvement in quality. In 1987 Motorola initiated its “Six Sigma Quality” initiative, with the goal of no more than 3.4 defective parts per million (ppm) across the company. A 4-year 100X quality improvement goal was set. In 1988, Motorola won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Motorola then shared its “Six Sigma” approach with other companies. In 1989, Motorola Chairman, Bob Galvin asked Mikel Harry to head the Six Sigma Research Institute, an organization that received funding from a number of Fortune 500 companies .
In 1993 Mikel Harry left Motorola and went to Asea Brown Boveria Ltd. (ABB). Here, the strategy changed from “Quality First” to “Business First.” AlliedSignal implemented Six Sigma in 1994 and claimed savings of $1.2 billion by 1998. Bossidy, CEO of AlliedSignal, convinced General Electric’s Jack Welch to try Six Sigma. The huge savings due to using Six Sigma were claimed in the GE Annual Report, Letter to Our Shareholders, February 12, 1999.
With successes like these and strong business leaders like Jack Welsh and Bossidy, the demand for Six Sigma has exploded. Many Fortune 500 companies have begun Six Sigma initiatives and others have asked if Six Sigma is right for them. Numerous consulting firms have jumped on the bandwagon, including ASQ, and numerous articles and books have appeared on the subject. Many product and service advertisements are now mentioning Six Sigma.
The term Six Sigma defines an optimum measurement of quality: 3.4 defects per million events. The Greek letter SIGMA is a mathematical term that simply represents a measure of variation, the distribution or spread around the mean or average of any process or procedure in manufacturing, engineering, services or transactions. The sigma value, or standard deviation, indicates how well any process is performing. The higher the value, the fewer defects per million opportunities. One of...
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