What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a quality-management strategy meant to reduce defects and thus minimize the need for rework. Its goal is to decrease the chance of deviation as much as possible. More specifically, Six Sigma aims to have fewer than 3.4 defects per million production cycles.

In a nutshell, these three elements encompass the following principles:

  • Six Sigma aims to make continuous improvements to production. It believes stable and predictable production results are crucial to sustaining success in the long-term.
  • Manufacturing processes can—and need to be—measured, analyzed, and controlled.
  • In order for Six Sigma to succeed in a company, company-wide effort, commitment, and cooperation is required. Everyone, from machine operators to QA auditors to managers—need to take part in Six Sigma if changes are to take hold.

The Benefits of Six Sigma include the following:

Eliminating Errors—The end goal of the Six Sigma strategy is reducing defects and irregularities in production down to 3.4 per million units.

Sustained Quality—The methods of Six Sigma help companies find a root problem, then revise strategies to improve overall quality and avoid such defect-causing problems in the future.

Compliance—Six Sigma has a strong focus on quality standards, including standards that line up with OSHA and other regulatory bodies responsible for monitoring companies and products.

Training—Like many Lean manufacturing methods puts great emphasis on continuous education. The Six Sigma certification system also requires people at various levels mentor those at earlier stages of the certification process. Training is paramount to the success of any company, and Six Sigma stitches this value into the company culture.

Six Sigma is driven by the following principles: Process improvement, process design (or re-design), and process management.

Process improvement means companies should take ongoing, consistent action to stamp out the root causes of deficiencies within its production processes. Process design/re-design challenges current designs, and isn’t afraid to revamp current designs to be more efficient, consistent, and simple. Process management is the element that demands workers define processes, measure performance, and analyze data so that the company better understands its production methods and therefore can pinpoint where processes need to be improved.


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