Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. Today, it is used in many industrial sectors. 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 (“Champions”, “Black Belts”, “Green Belts”, “Yellow 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 value targets, for example: reduce process cycle time, reduce pollution, reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and increase profits. These are also core to principles of Total Quality Management (TQM) as described by Peter Drucker and Tom Peters.
The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling 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 statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defective parts/million), although, as discussed below, this defect level corresponds to only a 4.5 sigma level. Motorola set a goal of “six sigma” for all of its manufacturing operations, and this goal became a by-word for the management and engineering practices used to achieve it.
Benefits of Six Sigma
The proper application of Six Sigma methodology can affect many different aspects of a business, from improvements of goods and services to employees investing more into the final product. Here are some benefits of using Six Sigma to improve a business operation.
- Customer Satisfaction. With Six Sigma methodologies in use, a business will implement improved processes and better quality control, both of which should result in a better product. That, in turn, will lead to more satisfied customers.
- Customer loyalty. Satisfied customers are customers who will stay loyal to a brand and return to make future purchases – as long as the product remains consistent in its quality.
- Improve bottom line. Happy customers mean good word-of-mouth and also customers returning for more, all of which translates into a better revenue stream. If publicly held, this can also mean a rise in share prices.
- Employee satisfaction. One of the side benefits of Six Sigma is how it can rally employees to a common cause. Unlike companies where management often flounders, Six Sigma offers leaders a chance to clarify and streamline the message. Also, improved results can create a sense of camaraderie that leads to even more good results going forward. Nothing succeeds like success.
- Better partnerships. Whenever a company does well, other companies associated with it can see improvements, as well. This can lead to long-term partnerships as well as having other companies adopt similar Six Sigma strategies for their companies.
As you can see, becoming Six Sigma certified has advantages for both you and the company you are working for. Six Sigma methodologies have the capability of improving your company’s bottom line and making customers happier, as well as improving your marketability and chances of quality employment for many years to come.