List of Six Sigma Software Packages - Historical Overview

Historical Overview

Six Sigma originated as a set of practices designed to improve manufacturing processes and eliminate defects, but its application was subsequently extended to other types of business processes as well. In Six Sigma, a defect is defined as any process output that does not meet customer specifications, or that could lead to creating an output that does not meet customer specifications.

CEO Bob Galvin decided to focus on improving the quality of Motorola products, and found an ally in John F. Mitchell, a young engineer on the rise to becoming Chief Engineer. Mitchell was seen as a demanding, hands-on manager who cared for his co-workers and insisted on team effort. Mitchell believed in building quality into the engineering and manufacturing processes as a way of lowering costs and improving yield. He also favored competition among product lines and distributors as a business discipline to both reduce costs and to promote quality improvement. Mitchell’s early successes with quality control appeared with the introduction of a new digital transistorized pager, and the formalization of improvised Mitchell Quality Tests. He used Shainin Methods and other tests in his operations. John F. Mitchell set the bar high for his engineers knowing they would respond. By the early 1970s, as John F. Mitchell was on his ascendancy to General Manager, Communications Division in 1972, Motorola had established itself as second largest producer of electronic equipment behind IBM, and as the world leader in wireless communication products, and had been battling Intel and Texas Instruments for the number one slot in Semiconductor sales. Motorola was also the largest supplier of certain parts and products to Japan's National Telegraph & Telephone Company, but at the same time, the Japanese were beginning to erode Motorola's lead in the pager market. The rapid successes and expansion of the Motorola pager business created by John F. Mitchell, as cited above, led to competitive deficiencies in quality controls, notwithstanding the "Mitchell Testing."

In the late 1970s, John F. Mitchell was on the ascendancy to being named President & COO in 1980. He was joined by other senior managers, notably CEO Bob Galvin, Jack Germain, and Art Sundry, who worked in John F. Mitchell's pager organization to set the quality bar ten times higher. Sundry was reputed to have shouted "our quality stinks" at an organizational meeting attended by Galvin, John F. Mitchell and other senior executives; and Sundry got to keep his job. But most importantly, the breakthroughs occurred when it was recognized that intensified focus and improved measurements, data collection, and more disciplined statistical approaches had to be applied to the causes of variance. John F. Mitchell's untiring efforts, and support from Motorola engineers and senior management, prevailed. They brought Japanese quality control methods back to the United States, and resulted in a significant and permanent change in culture at Motorola. "We ought to be better than we are," said Germain, director of Quality Improvement. The culmination of Motorola quality engineering efforts occurred in 1986, with the help of an outside quality control consultant, Bill Smith, who joined Motorola when the Motorola University and Six-Sigma Institute was founded. Two years later, in 1988, Motorola received the coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award which is given by the United States Congress.

Later, the Six Sigma processes were adopted at the General Electric Corporation. Jack Welch said: "Six Sigma changed the DNA of GE." The Six Sigma process requires 99.99967% error free processes and products, (or 3.4 parts per million defects or less). Without the Six Sigma process controls, it may not have been possible for John F. Mitchell to launch the Iridium satellite constellation, one of the most complex projects undertaken by a private company, which involved some 25,000 electronic components, and took 11 years to develop and implement at a cost of $5 billion. Six Sigma processes resulted in $16–17 billion in savings to Motorola as of 2006. Over a thousand books have been written about Six Sigma, with over five hundred published since 2009.

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