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ISO publishes Six Sigma performance-improvement methodology

Six Sigma was originally developed by Motorola in 1986 to ameliorate manufacturing processes with the goal of 99.99966% (2) of products free of defects (i.e., 3.4 errors per million). Today, the methodology is applied in many sectors of activity by organizations large and small for all types of process and services to:

  • Drive process improvement and make statistically based decisions
  • Measure business results with a level of reliance
  • Prepare for uncertainty
  • Combine high returns and benefits in the short, medium and long-term
  • Remove waste, defects and errors.

“Six Sigma can be used to effectively address serious chronic business issues,” says Dr. Michèle Boulanger, President of JISC-Statistics and co-chair of the subcommittee that developed the standard, “Organizations can deploy Six Sigma projects to increase customer satisfaction and become more competitive.”

“Although Six Sigma has existed for some time, bringing its best practice together under an ISO standard helps solidify and consolidate the methodology. The ISO brand is respected and recognized worldwide, and thus provides an added layer of confidence. Moreover, publication of Six Sigma methodology in an ISO standard will boost international uptake of the methodology in a coherent form, reduce fragmentation, and provide users with harmonized best practice,” concluded Dr. Boulanger.

Six Sigma projects follow a defined sequence of steps with quantified goals and financial targets (cost reduction and/or profit increase), and rely on statistical tools to deal with uncertainty. Implementation involves the establishment of an infrastructure with specific roles and responsibilities (e.g. black or green belts). The new standard, ISO 13053:2011, Quantitative methods in process improvement - Six Sigma, deals exclusively with the application of Six Sigma to ameliorate existing processes and is published in the following two parts:

  • Part 1: DMAIC methodology, describes the five-phased methodology DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control), and recommends best practice, including on the roles, expertise and training of personnel involved in such projects.
  • Part 2: Tools and techniques, describes tools and techniques, illustrated by factsheets, to be used at each phase of the DMAIC approach.

Both documents can be applied to all sectors and organizations.

ISO 13053 Part 1 and Part 2 were compiled by technical committee ISO/TC 69, Applications of statistical methods, subcommittee SC 7, Application of statistical and related techniques for the implementation of Six Sigma.

ISO 13053-1:2011, Quantitative methods in process improvement - Six Sigma - Part 1: DMAIC methodology, and ISO 13053-2:2011, Quantitative methods in process improvement - Six Sigma - Part 2: Tools and techniques, is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details). It may also be obtained directly from the ISO Central Secretariat, price 124 and 150 Swiss francs respectively through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication & Information department (see right-hand column).

(1)  Six Sigma is a trademark of Motorola, Inc.
(2)  In statistics, this figure corresponds to plus or minus six standard deviations from a shifted target.
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