June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.1082.1 - 13.1082.7
Six Sigma: Does it belong in the Manufacturing Curriculum?
Six Sigma has morphed through three generations: focus on quality to focus on process improvement (cost reduction) to focus on value (a strategic management strategy). This paper will discuss the three generations of Six Sigma, compare the tenets of Six Sigma to Lean Manufacturing and evaluate whether it has a place in the manufacturing curriculum.
In a recent review of several “Lean” and “Six Sigma” technical articles published in the Society of Manufacturing Engineering Technical Articles section, Six Sigma was primarily identified as a quality program with a focus on reducing process variation and Lean as a program focused on eliminating waste and improving flow using problem solving and statistical tools.1 Many of the articles simply focused on the Lean and Six Sigma tool kits.
In a recent article, the author advocated an integrated approach to process improvement using lean manufacturing and Six Sigma principles.2 Another article which focused on Lean, argued that “successful execution of the corporate strategy is the ultimate goal not merely becoming Lean” and offered Profit Mapping as a methodology for tying Lean to the Corporate Strategy.3
In his book Fusion Management, Stanley Marash notes that since the 1960’s more than 32 quality programs have come and gone at an average of almost one per year. He further noted the emergence of a common pattern: “A few pioneer companies adopt or develop a program and achieve great success. The business press takes notice and other companies seek to emulate the pioneers. But as the idea spreads it becomes diluted. Senior management tries to adopt the model without ever really comprehending what is required to make the program successful.”4 It appears from the review of recent articles there is some lack of understanding regarding the evolution of Six Sigma and Lean.
What is Six Sigma?
While Six Sigma began as a quality program at Motorola in the 1980’s it has since undergone two evolutions. In the 1990’s Allied Signal and GE picked up the Six Sigma torch, but changed the primary focus of Six Sigma from quality to cost reduction. As a quality initiative at Motorola, the focus of Six Sigma was on the customer. As a cost reduction initiative, the focus of Six Sigma reverted to focusing primarily on the bottom line of the organization.
In the 2000’s, Dupont evaluated Six Sigma and realized that it could make the best possible products; but, if they didn’t make a profit they wouldn’t be in business. Further, if the sole objective was to optimize profit and quality slipped, market share would be lost and the organization would not be competitive. Dupont realized that they must optimize both customer and stakeholder value and Six Sigma evolved to what is known as the Third Generation. An
Leduc, A. (2008, June), Six Sigma: Does It Belong In The Manufacturing Curriculum? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3875
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