What is Six Sigma ? An Explanation of Six Sigma Goals and Processes
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What is Six Sigma ? An Explanation of Six Sigma Goals and Processes
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What is Six Sigma ?
An Explanation of Six Sigma Goals and Processes

Developed and championed by Motorola engineers in the 1980's, Six Sigma is an attempt to increase traditional quality levels from measuring defects per thousands to measuring defects per millions.

Six Sigma methodology addresses variability in design, production, services, processes and measurement. Decreasing a process's variability increases control and predictability of the process, resulting in increased quality, reliability and performance, while reducing cost. There are four main sources of process variation:

  • Poor design resulting from bad design practices, unrealistic or unclear requirements and requirement shift and creep

  • Variation in a manufacturing process due to varying manpower levels, work methods and ethics, environmental factors, training and machine wear

  • Variation in measurement systems due to improper calibration and implementation

  • Variation in parts and supplies from venders and subcontractors 
The name Six Sigma refers to the six standard deviations in process's normal distribution. Like groupings on target, Six Sigma's goal is a process centered within a specification and having very little variation, as shown in Figure 1.
A scattered distribution
A distribution centered in the specification, but with high variation
Centered with High Variation
An off-center distribution with low variation
The Goal of Six Sigma - A distribution centered within the specification and having low variation
Off-Center with Low Variation
Centered with Low Variation
Figure 1. - Process Distributions
As a team project, Six Sigma has five phases:
  • Design - In the Design Phase, the team identifies the problem and project scope.
  • Measurement - In the Measurement Phase, the team identifies critical characteristics, maps the value stream and validates a measurement system.

  • Analysis - In the Analysis Phase, the team determines the current process capability and causal relationships in the process and identifies variability.

  • Improvement - In the Improvement Phase, the team conducts experiments , identifies variable relationships and takes corrective action.

  • Control - In the Control Phase, the team monitors performance, determines the new process's capability and analyzes the process to identify and eliminate potential mistake activities.
This Six Sigma process is commonly referred to by its acronym DMAIC.

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What is Six Sigma ?  An Explanation of Six Sigma Goals and Processes

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