Six Sigma: Overview

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Topics: Six Sigma
Six Sigma
[pic]
The often-used six sigma symbol.
Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization ("Black Belts", "Green Belts", etc.) who are experts in these methods. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified targets. These targets can be financial (cost reduction or profit increase) or whatever is critical to the customer of that process (cycle time, safety, delivery, etc.).
The term six sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modelling of manufacturing processes. The maturity of a manufacturing process can be described by a sigma rating indicating its yield, or the percentage of defect-free products it creates. A six-sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are free of defects, compared to a one-sigma process in which only 31% are free of defects. Motorola set a goal of "six sigmas" for all of its manufacturing operations and this goal became a byword for the management and engineering practices used to achieve it.

Historical overview

Six Sigma originated as a set of practices designed to improve manufacturing processes and eliminate defects, but its application was subsequently extended to other types of business processes as well. In Six Sigma, a defect is defined as any process output that does not meet customer specifications, or that could lead to creating an output that does not meet customer specifications.
Bill Smith first formulated the particulars of the methodology at Motorola in 1986. Six Sigma was heavily inspired by six preceding decades of quality improvement methodologies such as quality

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