The roots of Six Sigma as a measurement standard can be traced back to Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1855) who introduced the concept of the normal curve.
Six Sigma as a measurement standard in product variation can be traced back to the 1920s when Walter Shewhart showed that three sigma from the mean is the point where a process requires correction. Many measurement standards (Cpk, Zero Defects, etc.) later came on the scene but credit for coining the term “Six Sigma” goes to a Motorola engineer named Bill Smith (incidentally, “Six Sigma” is a federally registered trademark of Motorola).
In the early and mid-1980s with Chairman Bob Galvin at the helm, Motorola engineers decided that the traditional quality levels – measuring defects in thousands of opportunities – did not provide enough granularity. Instead, they wanted to measure the defects per million opportunities.
Motorola developed this new standard and created the methodology and needed cultural change associated with it. Six Sigma helped Motorola realize powerful bottom-line results in their organisation – in fact, they documented more than $16 Billion in savings as a result of Six Sigma efforts. Since then, hundreds of companies around the world have adopted Six Sigma as a way of doing business. This is a direct result of many of America’s leaders openly praising the benefits of Six Sigma, such as Larry Bossidy of Allied Signal (now Honeywell), and Jack Welch of General Electric Company.
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