In the manufacturing world, quality rules the day. Producing high-quality products that both meet company standards and customer expectations consistently is what manufacturing engineers dream about, what occupies their thoughts whether they’re in the office, at their kids’ ballet recital, or on the train heading home. Making high-quality products is tough enough, but to do it again and again with efficiency and uniformity, with minimal reworking needed? The challenge feels insurmountable.
Lean manufacturing, an umbrella term for a series of methodologies that seek to deliver high-quality products or services as efficiently as possible, identifies waste as the enemy of any successful business. More specifically, experts have identified the 8 wastes of Lean, and defects are one of them. Defects are products that don’t meet company standards.
The concept of Six Sigma came out of a desire to combat waste by avoiding defects as often as possible using a foundation of quality-control strategies already established by leading manufacturing experts.
The name Six Sigma has its roots in statistics. Sigma is part of the Greek alphabet (σ) and represents the rate at which something deviates from what it’s expected to be. The term itself has been bouncing around engineering circles regarding statistical modeling in manufacturing for quite some time, so it seemed an appropriate name.
The goal Six Sigma 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.
Six Sigma strategies seek to improve the quality of products made through processes by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing.
DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, gn, Verify) is the main improvement methodology used in Six Sigma. Using this process, a facility can develop new processes or products that meet quality standards. Six Sigma companies also utilize the DMADV (Design, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) process to improve and develop processes that will please the customer.
In addition to strategies and methodologies, Six Sigma also recognizes individuals formally with levels of belts, similar to the belts of Karate. With training, experience, and certifications, individuals can move up to the highest level, the Six Sigma Master Black Belt. These individuals can manage Six Sigma processes and programs and work with upper-level management to develop and implement Six Sigma projects.
Put simply: Six Sigma strives to be as consistent as possible and minimize the possibility of defects.