6 sigma from 10,000 feet
With this broad overview of Six Sigma, you need to understand that it's a technique used in business to cut out waste in all processes, from start to finish. It is "customer centered", not production-centered. The idea is to save both the customer and your company money while giving the customer better products and service.
The technique stresses that there are several parts of "business as usual" that are open to waste. We aren't talking about physical waste like pollution, but that can be part of it, too. We're talking more about wasting time, wasting money, wasting employees' abilities and wasting warehouse space.
Six Sigma says that waste in any part of the process of delivering service and products to customers makes things worse. They still might be good, but they could be much better. They could be better for the customer, and that means they could be better for the business.
All businesses are about being as efficient as they possibly can be. This means they want to spend the least money possible to make the most money possible. But, they have to do this without sacrificing quality. They still have to be competitive. In fact, businesses today need to keep getting more competitive than ever, because the customer is more demanding than ever.
Wasting time on delivery when it could be faster and cheaper is waste of money, fuel, and energy. Making customers wait longer than absolutely necessary is a waste of their time, which means they could be more satisfied, and sold more products. Having employees doing things outside the Six Sigma process is waste of their talents and company money. Having too much inventory that sits on the shelves is a waste of space and maybe money. Product defects, even if small, are huge wastes all the way around.
No overview of Six Sigma would be complete without a few examples:
The United States military has turned to contracted companies who use Six Sigma's "Lean" techniques. Faster, better, and cheaper is what they want and need. Repairs and new equipment come to the fighters in the field much faster. This saves lives and helps win battles.
In Iraq, Humvees were too vulnerable to roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. The military contract company AMC designed an "Armor Survivability Kit" to fix that and protect U.S. soldiers better. AMC used Lean Six Sigma techniques to streamline the manufacturing process and speed up delivery of the kits. This definitely saved many lives. Without using Six Sigma, the kits may still have finally worked, but more lives would have been lost.
At General Electric (GE), Jack Welsh has implemented Six Sigma. He says that at GE, Six Sigma "is evolving to where it's a full, complete supply chain process, where the customer interface and the vendor interface are blurred."
This must be working. The great investor Warren Buffett, the richest man in America, just put $3 billion of his own money into GE stock, even while the stock market is down.
It is hoped that this overview of Six Sigma has helped you. If you would like to learn more, please read the other Six Sigma pages on this website. The articles include "What is Six Sigma?", "Six Sigma Methodology", "Six Sigma Tools" and "Six Sigma Courses".