“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. Albert Einstein

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin


Six Sigma implementation consist of both the qualitative and quantitative change in an organization relies on the same  thought of this timeless world icon’s philosophy.

It implies the human species to continuously change and change for better and strive to relentlessly evolve for higher,better, stronger self. Six Sigma implementation strategy was originally developed by Motorola in 1986  by  Jack Welch who made it a central focus of his business strategy at General Electric in 1995.

Over the time it has been emulated by many industries experts and today it is widely used in many sectors of industry. Six Sigma aims to improve the quality of process outputs. This is done by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. 

It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization e.g”Black Belts”, “Green Belts”, etc. who are experts in these methods. They propagate and practice the Six Sigma philosophy daily in an organization to produce zero defect product/services to delight the consumers eventually. 

 Each Six Sigma implementation project carried out within an organization follows a defined and well documented sequence of steps to achieve quantified financial targets e.g.cost reduction and/or profit increase.

What is Six Sigma?

Top of the head if Six Sigma be defined as a ;  statistical term that measures how far a given process ( to develop and deliver the product/services) deviates from perfection in bringing the ultimate joy to the customer. 

The core concept behind Six Sigma is that if you can measure the ‘defects’ you have in a process. This can help you to systematically figure out how to eliminate them and get as close to ‘zero defects’ as possible.

How does Six Sigma work?

The Six Sigma work on consciously applying the core principles e.g.

  • Always focus on the customer.
  • Understand how work really happens.
  • Make your processes flow smoothly.
  • Reduce waste and concentrate on value.
  • Stop defects through removing variation.
  • Get buy-in from the team through collaboration.
  • Make your efforts systematic and scientific.

What is the mathematics (or rather logic) of Six Sigma?

The probing into the generic name of Six Sigma or rather how the baptized name of Six Sigma arrived will spell bound even the mathematicians.

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The word Six Sigma stands for 6 standard deviations (6σ) between average and acceptable limits. LSL and USL stand for “Lower Specification Limit” and “Upper Specification Limit” respectively. The optimum mean lies somewhere in between these two limits.

However the million $ question is Why is Six Sigma, not seven sigma or may be five sigma? 

Six sigma is 3.4 defects per million opportunities. … The cost of defects are more at 5 sigma and the cost of reaching 7 sigma level is more than the savings( between the LSL and the USL) 

In case of five sigma the number of defects are 233 per million opportunity. Similarly, for 7 sigma it is 0.02 defects per million opportunity. The cost of defects are more at 5 sigma and the cost of reaching 7 sigma level is more than the savings.

However a perfect relation between cost and savings is stuck at six sigma level, so the methodology is named as six sigma.(Eureka!)

Six sigma is 3.4 defects per million opportunities.(the ideal number)

It is the magic number or rather the magic of Mathematics.(OH MY GOD!)

How is Six Sigma implemented in an organization?

Six Sigma is defined or implemented through applying DMAIC. DMAIC is an acronym for five interconnected phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

  • D stands for Define.(Define project boundaries ­ the stop and start of the process)
  • M stands for measure (Measure the performance of the Core Business Process involved.)
  • A stands for Analyse (Analyze the data collected and process map to determine the root causes of defects and opportunities for improvement.
  • I stand for Improvement (Identify gaps between current performance and goal performance)
  • C stands for Control.(Control the improvements to keep the process on the new course.)

The DMAIC denotes the parameters,rather the goal post of Six Sigma. It is then signified through data collection and data analysis and then into their individual goal setting for improvement to enhance the product/service capabilities of an organization. 

In other words, the goal is to produce nearly perfect products/services for the customers’ delight. With the help of statistical models, Six Sigma practitioners will methodically improve a company’s manufacturing process until they reach the level of Six Sigma.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Six Sigma

Six Sigma is customer-driven quality- control program that is most commonly associated with different companies who adopt the system with varying results refer to the product they are making and its customer requirement in manufacturing.

After the success of Six Sigma implementation in various 500 fortune companies of the USA, many companies worldwide implemented the Six Sigma principle as an ideal for ensuring the quality of their product/services.

Six Sigma implementation in some of the companies are:

  • 3M.
  • Amazon.
  • Atos.
  • Autoliv.
  • BAE Systems.
  • Bank of America

  • Becton Dickinson.

  • Bechtel.

However the Six Sigma principle was accepted as ideal for ensuring the quality of their products, the debate also grew that other businesses may find the Six Sigma system too rigid or otherwise impractical for their particular situations.

Six Sigma implementation approach follows the DMAIC application process and will ensure 

  • Reduce rework
  • Reduce high inventory levels
  • Improve delivery performance
  • Reduce non-value added activities

  • Produce more competitively priced products

  • Gain more satisfied customers

  • Win more business!


The 3M Company, was formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. This is an American multinational conglomerate corporation which is based in Maplewood, Minnesota.

The company reported an overwhelming data of $30 billion in sales. It employs 84,000 people worldwide and produces over 55,000 products. This includes adhesives, abrasives, laminates, passive fire protection, dental products, electronic materials, medical products, car-care products, electronic circuits, and optical films.

3M has operations in more than 65 countries—29 international companies with manufacturing operations and 35 companies with laboratories.

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3M & Six Sigma

3M is the world’s 3rd most innovative technology company that strives to create groundbreaking products. The goal of 3M with implementing Six Sigma is simple – create products that make positive differences in everyone’s lives.

The company strives to continue its conscious efforts to excel with the Six Sigma implementation by proactively deterring issues that will arise in production and corporate operations.

3M has imbibed the Six Sigma implementation strategy and has revolutionized its infrastructure. Known to be today as the “World’s Most Ethical Company” 3M is now a leading innovator in technology, and energy and offers an in-depth case study to show exactly how Six Sigma transformed its company.

Six Sigma Implementation

The story of 3M and Six Sigma harks backs to the time when James McNerney joined 3M. James McNerney gained control of 3M in 2001 and placed the Six Sigma methodology into the backbone of the company. His unique, considerate approach led to a four-year overhaul of the manufacturing and production processes which lead the innovative technologies.

McNerney grew 3M other enterprises such as Global Sourcing, 3m Acceleration, eProductivity, and Indirect Cost Control. As a result, in 2005 it began with over 30,000 employees Six Sigma certified, with a minimum Green Belt training for all technical and sales staff.

This brought substantial revenue growth, massive savings, and benefits to the company. The 2003 Annual Report stated that operating income was amplified by more than $500,000 in 2002 alone as a result of the Six Sigma initiatives.

3M researchers still use the Six Sigma toolset and the success saga continues setting iconic examples of customer delight, bringing satisfaction to the people working for the company and benefits to society with numerous social activities and spreading environmental awareness.

Only Six Sigma has the tools necessary to transform business, with total process improvements and reducing defects. Six Sigma drives growth, reduces costs, increases revenue, and produces strong business relationships with customers that last a lifetime.

The Outcome

Alongside with considerable financial growth, 3M enjoys significant corporate network growth. 3M’s network continues to expand by collaborating with numerous companies on over 250 projects such as Ford, Estee Lauder, Motorola, Wal-Mart, and Procter & Gamble.

Mature, effective Six Sigma programs practiced at 3M are easily spotted, sharing their knowledge with customers, suppliers, and other important personnel.

It is a popular or rather compelling perception of the 3M company. Call it the continuous brand building exercise or/ and perhaps the second nature of the 3M company. It has given the multi-fold growth of the company.

The flip Side Of Six Sigma at 3M.

Every great thought even though highly successful and historical in lifting mankind to the next level has its share of criticism. While 3M emerged financially stronger from the McNerney era, many long-time 3M researchers, engineers, and scientists chafed under the strictures of Six Sigma have their share of criticism.

3M Shelves Six Sigma in R&D

Geoff Nicholson, 3M ambassador, and former vice president for international technical operations also widely regarded as the “father” of the Post-It note initiative perhaps sounded critical for 3M processes at a recent media tour of 3M’s research and development facility in Singapore.

He quipped, Innovation has become too much of a “buzzword”. His premise was supported by an advise. Companies first need to define innovation and how it fits into their business plans, then provide the resources to support it.

He said “It is important to provide leadership and then people know that they can practice innovation. That is part of the problem, people are afraid of failure. Maybe it’s because of ‘losing face’ in an Asian society, but the fact of the matter is, failure is not a failure. I would rather call it a learning experience,” he said.

He also inferred that the lack of freedom, or too strict a process, is also a significant roadblock, such as the Six Sigma process. Perhaps he thinks too much of format thinking (like Six Sigma) inhibits the out of box thinking.

However, the 3M ambassador pointed out he had nothing against the Six Sigma but felt it was not ideal for the creative process.

3M India

In India, 3M was established in the year 1998 by the name of Birla 3M Limited in Bangalore. The company changed its name to 3M India Limited in the year 2002. The company has become a big name in the field of technology and household business for its high-quality services and facilities. 

3M India offers a number of specialized solutions in the field of technology-based marketing and household products. The Industrial segment consists of:

  • Mining
  • Health care services
  • Railways
  • Telecom and marine services
  • Oil and gas
  • Aerospace
  • Security and defense
  • Highways

In addition, it also offers other allied services in the automotive, industrial, electrical, safety and telecom sectors oil and gas pipelines, fiber cables, insulating materials, voltage power instruments, high-quality reflective equipment for personal and traffic safety, etc.

3M India also produces production material for commercial graphics and designs e.g. digital signage solutions, touch systems, and lots more.

 In the field of health care, some of the products of the company include:

  • Stethoscopes
  • Dental care equipment
  • Infection Prevention therapy instruments
  • Orthodontics products

The company boasts both B2B and B2C satisfied client base with an extensive list of around 5000 products in a diverse industrial and household product list. Today the company is located with well-equipped manufacturing units at cities like Pondicherry, Pune, and Bangalore employing 1200 people. The annual turnover of around Rs.7524 million and gained profits amounting to Rs.575 million.

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” – William A. Foster

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