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Six Sigma in Manufacturing

Six Sigma in manufacturing optimizes processes by minimizing variation and defects through a systematic approach. It integrates customer-centricity, process delineation, waste reduction, and collaborative problem-solving, ensuring data-driven improvement for superior quality and efficiency.

What is Six Sigma in manufacturing?

Created in the 1980s by Motorola engineer Bill Smith, Six Sigma derives its name from standard deviation (typically represented by the Greek letter sigma, σ). The goal of Six Sigma initiatives is to reduce variation to the point that defects are counted in the parts per million.

Six Sigma in manufacturing is often closely associated with lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma initiatives both seek to improve quality and efficiency by eliminating manufacturing defects and waste.

The approach taken in Six Sigma manufacturing differs from that taken in lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing uses a five-step process to create continuous improvement:

  • Identify value
  • Create a value stream map
  • Generate a process flow
  • Establish “pull” (create an on-demand process)
  • Continuously improve and perfect

Six Sigma in manufacturing focuses on eliminating variation, which results in reduced costs and greater customer satisfaction. The starting point with Six Sigma is the customer’s experience, and the methodology is data-driven.

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Understand the benefits

A manufacturing operations management system (MOM) incorporates Six Sigma software and/or the Six Sigma methodology. Six Sigma software may employ the steps outlined above or what has become known as the DMAIC method: define, measure, analyze, improve, control.

Reduced scrap and operating costs

Systematically identify and eliminate process inefficiencies and variations, leading to improved quality and streamlined operations.

Shorter cycle times

Eliminate operational inefficiencies and reduce variations. Six Sigma optimizes manufacturing processes, resulting in faster production cycles.

Improved on-time delivery

Boosts punctual delivery by refining processes, minimizing variability, and enhancing efficiency in scheduling and executing production tasks.

The seven steps of Six Sigma in manufacturing

Replacing the five steps of lean manufacturing initiatives, Six Sigma initiatives involve the following seven steps:

  • Start with the customer – With a goal of delivering goods that satisfy the customer, Six Sigma sets out to optimize the value to the customer-generated through the production process.
  • Delineate the manufacturing process – Manufacturers need to clearly comprehend how products are currently being produced and identify inefficiencies before determining how to improve. Like the lean manufacturing approach, Six Sigma uses process maps and workflow charts in this effort.
  • Develop a plan – Any inefficiencies identified in step 2 can be subjected to processes like the 5 Whys [link to glossary page] to understand the nature of the problem and come up with a plan that addresses it.
  • Cut waste to optimize value – Implementing the plans developed in step 3 involves waste reduction.
  • Minimize variation – Consistency in manufacturing processes helps to reduce defects by reducing the amount of variation that occurs.
  • Collaborate – Working with all stakeholders helps a manufacturer to identify variations that might otherwise have been overlooked.
  • Be systematic – Applying a scientific and data-driven approach to process improvement, Six Sigma in manufacturing is founded on data to define the problem, calculation to determine the best course of action, and measurement to gauge progress.

Learn more

Quality standards

Quality standards are sets of good management practices, methods, systems, requirements and industry specifications.

Manufacturing execution system

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) track and enforce production processes to ensure quality and efficiency.

Production planning and scheduling

Reduce inventories, shorten production cycles and increase your level of service to your customers.