You are on page 1of 5

Six Sigma: An Overview

Muhammad Yousuf Ibrahim Student of Engineering Management Pakistan Navy Engineering College National University of Sciences and Technology m.y.ibrahim@hotmail.com

Abstract
Six Sigma is an important business management system used in most of the industries, especially those involving manufacturing processes, all over the world. This paper is aimed at providing a general overview of the system for educational purposes and highlighting its importance to current final year engineering students who will be the leaders of tomorrows industry.

studies, a field of statistics. Originally, it referred to the ability of manufacturing processes to produce a very high proportion of output within specification.[2] The term Six Sigma has evolved from its roots as representing a measure of quality to an overall business improvement methodology and to a fully integrated management system.

III. History
The roots of Six Sigma as a measurement standard originate from the concept of the normal curve introduced by Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1855)[3]. Use of Six Sigma as a measurement standard for product variation can be traced back to the 1920s when Walter Shewhart showed that if a process deviates three sigma from the mean, it needs correction[3]. In early 1980s, Motorola started facing survival problems due fierce competition that Japanese companies were giving. Bob Galvin, the then CEO of Motorola was determined to overcome the competition. In his quest for excellence, he found an ally, John F. Mitchell, a young engineer on the rise to becoming Chief Engineer. In 1986 Motorolas quality engineering efforts culminated, with the help of an outside quality control consultant, Bill Smith, who joined Motorola when the Motorola University and Six-Sigma Institute was founded[2].

I. Introduction
Six Sigma is a data based methodology introduced by Motorola Inc. in 1986[1] as a scale to measure defects and improve quality. It has evolved into a robust business improvement methodology that focuses an organization on aligning a process according to customer requirements, ensuring timely execution with analytical rigor by reducing variability and identifying and removing the causes of defects. Since Six Sigma started as an effort for defect reduction in manufacturing and a scale for measuring errors in the process, it can be defined as equaling to 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO).

II. Etymology
The origin of the term Six Sigma is from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes. Specifically, it comes from process capability

A research paper written by Bill smith on product quality and its performance after delivery to customer showed that the products with less non-conformity were the ones that performed well after delivery to the customer. Of course everyone accepted it but the challenge for Motorola executives was to develop a solution to this problem. Bill Smith worked with Mikel Harry and developed a four-phase problem solving approach: Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. On the basis of this approach, CEO Bob Galvin launched a long-term quality program and called it The Six Sigma Quality Program.[4] Finding it work for Motorola, many companies like Texas Instruments, Allied Signal etc. brought organization-wide improvements using Six Sigma methodology. Later, General Electric Corporation adopted the Six Sigma processes. They implemented Six Sigma in all areas ensuring that the entire organization participates in the initiative. Jack Welch, CEO of GE has been reported to have said: "Six Sigma changed the DNA of GE."[5]

points between 6 and 14. Similarly the rest of the ranges can be calculated. However, in a normal distribution the points are closer to the mean. Therefore all the points will tend to be closer to the average. Hence as one goes to farther and farther sigma levels the additional gains in terms of productivity are less. Sigma levels less than 3 are not desirable. Companies will not be able to survive in a competitive marketplace if they have less than 3 sigma levels. Following table summarizes the relation of number of defects in a process to sigma levels.[10] Sigma Level 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Defects/Million Percentage Defects 691462 69% 308538 31% 66807 6.7% 6210 0.62% 233 0.023% 3.4 0.00034% 0.019 0.0000019%

IV. Sigma and Sigma levels


Sigma () is a symbol for standard deviation. It is a statistical measure of dispersion in data. It uses the characteristic of past data to make judgments about the performance of the process in future. Sigma level of the process tells or predicts the number of defects that will occur in the process over a period of time if a given set of data has normal probability distribution.[10] The sigma (standard deviation) is multiplied with the numbers 1, 2, 3 etc. to come up with a range. For instance, assume that the average of a data set is 10, while the sigma is 2. Then 1 sigma will include all the data points between 10 +/-2, i.e., between 8 and 12. 2 sigma would include 10+/-2(2), i.e., all data

V. Methodology
Six Sigma uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization ("Champions", "Black Belts", "Green Belts", "Orange Belts", etc.) who are experts in these very complex methods.[7] A defined sequence of steps is followed in each Six Sigma project carried out in an organization and has quantified financial targets. They could be cost reduction and/or profit increase.[8] Two project methodologies are used in Six Sigma projects, both inspired by Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. Each of them

constitute of five phases each. They are commonly known as DMAIC and DMADV.[6] DMAIC is the Six Sigma problem-solving framework for improving business processes. It is an acronym for Define opportunity, Measure performance, Analyze opportunity, Improve performance, and Control performance. Projects aiming to improve an existing business process use this Six Sigma framework.[6],[9] Define Define the problem. Define the customer(s) and the requirements. Define the current capability. Define the key processes that will have the greatest impact on customer. Measure Identify the statistical measures to monitor the key process. Set up the data collection plan. Measure the process Analyse Determine the analysis tools and methods to be used. Summarize the data measured. Run the analysis and determine the root causes, effects, etc. Improve Improve and Implement. Focus on developing process/technology to improve the root cause. Test the method on sample process and validate the improvement. Control Standardize and document the process and implement the plan. Monitor the process and feedback the results back to the process for continuous improvement.

product or process designs use this framework.[6],[9] Identify Develop a team. Create team charter. Gather VOC. Perform competitive analysis. Develop CTQs and formally tie design to VOC. Design Identify functional requirements. Develop alternative concepts. Evaluate alternatives and select a best-fit concept. Deploy CTQs and predict sigma capability. Optimize Determine process capability. Develop detailed design elements. Predict performance. Optimize design. Verify Test and validate the design. Share feedback with manufacturing and sourcing to improve future manufacturing and designs.

Both Six Sigma processes are overseen by Six Sigma Master Black Belts and executed by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts.

VI. Certification
Early Six Sigma pioneers such as Motorola and General Electric developed certification programs as part of their Six Sigma implementation. They aimed at verifying individuals' command of the Six Sigma methods at the relevant skill level (Green Belt, Black Belt etc.). Following this approach, many organizations in the 1990s started offering Six Sigma certifications to their employees.[5][12] Usually companies simply require participation in a course and a Six Sigma project for a certification of the relevant belt level .[12] The American Society for Quality requires Black Belt applicants to pass a

DMADV is the most popular Six Sigma framework used within Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) projects. It is an acronym for Define requirements, Measure performance, Analyze relationships, Design solutions, Verify functionality. Projects aimed at creating new

written exam and provide a signed affidavit for having completed two projects.[12] The International Quality Federation offers an online certification, it is more demanding than the ASQ certification.[12][13] Other providers offering certification services include the Juran Institute, Lean Six Sigma Standardization Association (LSSSA) , Six Sigma Qualtec, Air Academy Associates, Management and Strategy Institute, IASSC, and many more including universities.[14]

Finding quality data in cases where no relevant previous data of the organistion is present can be a challenge. The solutions driven by the data can be expensive, and usually only a small part of it is finally implemented. Due to dynamic market demands, the quality characteristics keep changing and the process needs to be refined regularly to keep up with the trends. The calculation of defect rates or error rates is based on the assumption of normality. The calculation of defect rates for non-normal situations is not yet properly addressed in the current literature of Six Sigma. Certification of black belts and green belts does not follow a standard. This means not all black belts or green belts are equally capable.

VII. Pros and Cons


The following aspects of the Six Sigma strategy were not highlighted in the previous quality improvement programs:

The focus of Six Sigma strategy is on achieving measurable and quantifiable financial returns to an organisation. The tools utilised and techniques used for fixing problems in business processes are in a sequential and disciplined fashion. Every tool within Six Sigma has a unique role to play in solving the problem. Six Sigma creates an infrastructure of champions, master black belts (MBBs), black belts (BBs) and green belts (GBs) that lead, deploy and implement the approach. Six Sigma emphasizes the importance of data and decision making based on facts and data rather than assumptions and hunches. Six Sigma utilizes the concept of statistical thinking and encourages the application of well-proven statistical tools and techniques for defect reduction.

VIII. Summary
Six Sigma is a powerful business strategy and has been well recognised as an imperative for achieving and sustaining operational and service excellence. While the original focus of Six Sigma was on manufacturing, today it has been widely accepted in both service and transactional processes. As in every evolution process, the final package of Six Sigma may change, but the core principles of Six Sigma will continue to grow and being utilized in business management plans. Six Sigma has already made a huge impact on industry and yet the academic community lags behind in its understanding of this powerful strategy. In other words, Six Sigma lacks a theoretical underpinning and hence it is our responsibility as academicians to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of Six Sigma.

Like all other quality improvement initiatives in the past, Six Sigma has its own limitations. Some of them are given below:

References
[1]. "The Inventors of Six Sigma", Motorola University,http://web.archive.org/web/20051 106025733/http://www.motorola.com/conte nt/0,,3079,00.html [2]. Tennant, Geoff, SIX SIGMA: SPC and TQM in Manufacturing and Services, Gower Publishing, Ltd., 2001, pp. 6. [3]. The History of Six Sigma, http://www.isixsigma.com/new-to-sixsigma/history [4]. Dirk Dusharme, Six Sigma Survey, Quality Digest, November 25, 2005. [5]. James R. Persse, Process improvement essentials, O Reilly Media, Inc., Sep 2006, pp. 253. [6]. De Feo, Joseph A.; Barnard, William JURAN Institute's Six Sigma Breakthrough and Beyond - Quality Performance Breakthrough Methods. Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited, 2005, ISBN 0-07-059881-9. [7]. Joseph Brophy, John Francis Mitchell biography, 2012, Wikepedia, pp. 2. [8]. Antony, Jiju. "Pros and cons of Six Sigma: an academic perspective", jan 2008, http://web.archive.org/web/2008072301505 8/http://www.onesixsigma.com/node/7630. [9]. Six Sigma Dictionary, Motorola University, http://web.archive.org/web/2006020222511 3/http://www.motorola.com/content/0,,3074 -5804,00.html [10]. Understanding Sigma Levels, http://www.managementstudyguide.com [11]. Six Sigma Methodology DMAIC & IDOV, http://www.managementstudyguide.com [12]. Paul A. Keller, Six Sigma Demystified, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2012, pp. 40.

[13]. R. Leroy Coryea; Carl E. Cordy; LeRoy R. Coryea , Champion's Practical Six Sigma Summary, Xlibris Corporation, 2006, pp. 65. [14]. Larry Webber, Michael Wallace, Quality Control for Dummies, For Dummies, 2006, pp. 292.