Six Sigma

Improving Quality Systematically

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What IS Six Sigma?

Why do organizations adopt it?

And how does it help improve quality?

To answer these questions – and more – we're bringing you this guest article from Six Sigma expert, Thomas Pyzdek.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a rigorous, focused and highly effective implementation of proven quality principles and techniques. Incorporating elements from the work of many quality pioneers, Six Sigma aims for virtually error free business performance.

Sigma is a letter in the Greek alphabet used by statisticians to measure the variability in any process, and if you can keep the output of that process within a six sigma-wide band (in effect, no more than 3.4 defects per million outputs), you can be confident that your process is operating as it should.

Six Sigma focuses on improving quality (and therefore reducing waste) by helping organizations produce products and services better, faster and cheaper. In more traditional terms, Six Sigma focuses on defect prevention, cycle time reduction, and cost savings. Unlike mindless cost-cutting programs which reduce value as well as quality, Six Sigma identifies and eliminates costs which provide no value to customers.

Understanding the Tool

Six Sigma has two main strands. First, it involves using a handful of tried and true performance improvement methods and, second it involves training a small cadre of in-house technical leaders, known as Six Sigma Black Belts, to a high level of proficiency in the application of these techniques.

The DMAIC Framework

The tools are applied within a simple framework known as DMAIC, or Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control. DMAIC can be described as follows:

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