When was Six Sigma developed?

Six Sigma was first established in the 1980s, by a team of consultants that were hired to help improve quality at Motorola.

The story of Six Sigma’s origin started in a place where good stories rarely begin: a board room, in a manager’s meeting.

In the eighties, a group of Motorola executives were discussing, among other things, quality assurance and control, when Art Sundry, who worked closely with then-COO John F. Mitchell on quality concerns, yelled, “Our quality stinks!” He did this repeatedly. Interestingly enough, his tirade wasn’t punished; he was rewarded for speaking his mind. he was given full control over quality matters within Motorola.

Sundry’s greatest contribution to Six Sigma came when he hired outside consultants: Bill Smith and Dr. Mikel J. Harry. Together, Smith and Harry came up with the Six Sigma concept for quality control improvement using the foundational Lean principles created by W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, Philip Crosby, Kaoru Ishikawa, and Genichi Taguchi.

Edwards Deming:

  • Considered the godfather of Lean manufacturing
  • Invented the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) model, which is the basis for Six Sigma’s DMAIC cycle

Joseph Juran:

  • Developed the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 principle), which states that 80% of quality improvement is possible by fixing 20% of problems
  • Encouraged looking at quality from customer’s point of view, which shifted the way companies evaluated QA

Philip Crosby:

  • QA pioneer who dictated that quality should be defined by conformance to requirements, not as exceeding customer expectations
  • From this idea, he posited that quality should be measured by cost of non-conformance

Kaoru Isikawa:

  • Theorist who created the fishbone diagram, which carefully measures cause and effect
  • Expanded Deming’s PDCA model and put emphasis on using other quality-assurance tools, such as: control charts, run charts, histograms, Pareto charts, and flow charts

Genichi Taguchi:

  • As an engineer and statistician, Taguchi discovered that external disturbances such as noise impacts the quality of your product
  • He coined Quality Loss Function theory, which is used to quantify the decrease in the perceived value of customers
 

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Additional Resources

Six Sigma Guide
 
Lean Manufacturing Powerpoint
 
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