Six Sigma Overview

What is Six Sigma?

The textbook definition of Six Sigma refers to a step-by-step approach designed to reduce the number of errors in a process or product.  Anything that produces a result is considered a process. This can mean everything from assembling a product to finding areas of opportunity to profitably grow the company.  The result is fewer errors and a more successful, efficient process.

To reach the Six Sigma level, the Six Sigma methodology is used to guide projects and implement processes.  The methodology utilizes a common, disciplined approach that focuses on gathering information, analyzing data, and making fact-based decisions to ensure the most efficient and effective processes.

What does Six Sigma mean?

The Greek letter Sigma is used to represent a statistical unit of measurement.  It defines standard deviation, or the number of errors made in a product or process.  Six Sigma equates to only 3.4 errors per million opportunities. Most businesses operate at a 4 Sigma level, meaning they are about 99.5 percent defect free. 4 Sigma translates into two accidents a day at major airports, 210 minutes a month without electricity, 2500 incorrect surgical procedures a week, 20,000 pieces of mail lost an hour and 100,000 incorrect drug prescriptions a year.

Key Six Sigma processes:

  • The Six Sigma improvement process is DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). These steps are used to improve existing processes, products, and services to Six Sigma quality.
  • The Six Sigma creation process is DMEDI (Define, Measure, Explore, Development, Implement). These steps are used to create products, processes, and services to Six Sigma quality.

Six Sigma is a critical component of enterprise Lean strategies.

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