The human race has made leaps and bounds in manufacturing of goods needed not only to survive, but to make our lives easier and more efficient. From the earliest recorded history, man has made the tools he needed to survive or gain a completive advantage. In the not too distant past, 100 years or so, we had skilled craftsman who had specific skills and talents. In a small town you would have a blacksmith, a tailor, a farmer, etc. Each of these people learned their skills through years of apprenticeships, and the items they made were unique. Their processes often took months or even years to complete. Since these times we as a society have progressed from craftsmanship to assembly lines. Even now we have robotic manufacturing, replacing humans and increasing safety and productivity.
We have not yet eliminated man from the manufacturing environment and corporations are always looking to achieve a greater bottom line. Six Sigma, which is statistical process control (SPC) and Lean Manufacturing which focuses on reducing waste, have helped to achieve this goal.
We will look at the origins of these two tools, the first companies to employ them, the theory behind each, and the future roll they will play in how we produce the products of our everyday world.
In order to understand the concepts of Six Sigma, some terminology must be known. Therefore a list of terms commonly associated with Six Sigma are provided:
- Sigma – A statistical term used to represent one standard deviation. (“Six Sigma Basics”)
- Standard Deviation – A measure of variation in a given set of data. (“Six Sigma Basics”)
- Defect – A non-conformity present in the output that falls beyond the satisfactory customer limits. (“Six Sigma Basics”)
- DPMO – Defects per million opportunities. (“Six Sigma Basics”)
Six Sigma can be traced, at its earliest inception to Motorola. Motorola was trying to devise a method that could measure defects at a more granular level. (“Six Sigma Basics”) Bill Smith worked for Motorola. He came up with a theory called the Theory of Latent Defect. “The core principle of the latent defect theory is that variation in manufacturing processes is the main culprit for defects, and eliminating variation will help eliminate defects, which will in turn eliminate the wastes associated with defects, saving money and increasing customer satisfaction.” (Akpose). “The term Six Sigma was coined by Bill Smith in 1986, while at Motorola. It was coined as a target for defect-free product manufacturing. The term was derived from the idea that process capability can be described by product or service deviation from specification.” (“Six Sigma Basics”). Although this theory turned in to...