Six Sigma: A Growing Quality Management Strategy

Rakesh Kumar Tekade and Narendra Kumar Jain

Abstract: Six Sigma is a quality management scheme that provides a structural arrangement for monitoring quality, both qualitatively and quantitatively, with more rigorously controlled process improvement activities. This strategy has been gaining impetus in industries (including pharma) because of its ability to reduce defect and input cost, however, the participation of the same in growing countries like India and China was found very little. This article is aimed at developing a general awareness with motivating approach justifying need to adopt Six Sigma. The work also argues additional benefits of Six Sigma over prior existing quality management approaches and addresses the concerns towards its implementation.

Superior, world-class process performance symbolizes magnificent cost savings, maximizes share value and creates opportunities to hold customers, arrests new markets as well as helps to build a top performing reputation of the firm. People in industries from manufacturing to service are witnessing the expansion of a strategic quality-improvement concept called 'Six Sigma'.

At present, there are lots of literatures written by practitioners and consultants on Six Sigma, but only a few academic oriented articles published in scholarly journals. Academicians have conducted least research on this emerging phenomenon and the academic-research on this subject is just beginning to come forward (Rogers et al., 2007).

The purpose of this article is to explore the fundamental concepts of Six Sigma, its relationship with co-existing quality management strategies and to provide an in-depth, scientific understanding of the subject. Also the paper aimed at motivating the adoption of this strategy in all critical sectors of the society, chiefly in booming economies like India and China, where the least or no attention had been given to the same.

Underlying Theory and Definitions of Six Sigma
Many of the definitions of Six Sigma found in the literature but are very general and do not provide its basic elements together (concepts, constructs, methodology etc). The first consistent definition for Six Sigma is that: It is a statistical expression, a metric that is representing a process performing almost free of all defects (Dambolena et al., 1994). As a second definition, Six Sigma is considered an organizational approach that emphasizes customer and inspires process up-gradation (Harry, 1998). As a third definition, it is viewed as a strategic development methodology termed DMAIC, which is an abbreviation of the five systematic steps i.e. define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (Breyfogle et al., 2001; Eckes, 2001). Hahn et al. (1999) illustrated Six Sigma as a disciplined approach for improving quality, while some believe this to be a management policy that creates a culture change in the organization (Sanders and Hild, 2000). 


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