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Fit Sigma: A Lean Approach to Building Sustainable Quality Beyond Six Sigma by Ron Basu

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5

FIT SIGMA in Large Manufacturing Operations

5.1 INTRODUCTION

It is well accepted that in the 1970s Japanese firms set the pace with their focus on quality and performance reviews. By comparison, western companies (that is, US and European owned and operated businesses) appeared to be less concerned about the importance of quality measures and the impact of standards of performance on bottom line results. TQM initiatives that were taken seemed to concentrate on softer cultural issues rather than ‘hard’ performance standards. However, with the introduction of Six Sigma tools in the 1980s, Motorola revolutionised the quality movement. Western companies that operated at levels of Two to Three Sigma (with between 45,500 and 2700 defects per million operations) became increasingly interested in improving their performance standards (and their share price). 99% might sound impressive, but it slowly dawned that there is a tremendous difference between 99% and 99.9997%. For example, for every million articles of mail the difference is between 10,000 lost items and three lost items. Or, for two million prescriptions of medicine per annum, 99% = 20,000 wrong prescriptions whereas 99.9997% would in theory equate to seven wrong prescriptions (and in 20 million opportunities the difference is from 200,000 errors to 68). In practice, 99.9997% would mean no wrong prescriptions as the process and culture is conditioned for zero defects, rather than a process or culture that accepts it as inevitable, ...

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