The Six Sigma

To put it simply, Six Sigma is a means to improve business. It is a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. It is a disciplined, data driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving towards six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process — from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service. The Six Sigma describes quantitatively how a process is performing.

To achieve it, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. A defect is defined as anything outside of customer specifications; a Six Sigma opportunity is then the total quantity of chances for a defect. The particulars of the methodology were first formulated by Bill Smith at Motorola in 1986. Six Sigma was heavily inspired by six preceding decades of quality improvement methodologies such as quality control, TQM, and Zero Defects, based on the work of pioneers such as Shewhart, Deming, Juran, Ishikawa, Taguchi and others. Many companies like Motorola, General Electric, Black and Decker, Allied Signal (now Honeywell), ABB and Bombardier, have implemented it and have achieved impressive business performance in recent years. There are many institutions which offer training on this. It is expensive but in the long run, it brings in numerous benefits to companies as well as individuals.

At the basic level, it helps in reducing the useless costs in a business that takes up to 20-30 per cent of a company’s revenue. The other benefits are improved quality of product or service as perceived by the customer (internal and external customers), reduction in process cycle times, development of staff skills and, improved knowledge and skills. Six sigma, if successfully applied in all the industries, will bring in customer satisfaction. The prices of products may also go down as useless expenditures are done away with. This concept is widely given importance these days and soon it will make business working much smoother and efficient. With the total surplus in the economy increasing, economy as a whole will gain. It is another path through which our country can really develop. The increase in profits then can be taxed and used to increase the government’s revenues. Social development too can be achieved with the extra money. Hence the need of the hour is to make people aware of this technology, so that it can be put in practice soon.

Aparna Vyas

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