Some researchers have claimed that Six Sigma quality initiative was started in the mid-1960s. Historically, the roots of Sigma as a measurement standard can be traced to Carl Fredrick Gauss (1777-1855), who introduced the concept of normal curve. Walter Shewart introduced 'three sigma' as a measurement of output variation in 1922 and stated that process intervention was needed when the output went beyond this limit. The 'three sigma' concept is related to a process yield of 99.973% and represents a defect rate of 2,600 per million which was adequate for most manufacturing organizations until the early 1980s. Henderson and Evans (2000) have found that Motorola first embarked on its Six Sigma quality initiative in the mid-1960s and the concept of implementing Six Sigma processes was pioneered at Motorola in the 1980s. In addition, Dedhia (2005) and Park (2002) have claimed that Bill Smith at Motorola, during the late 1970s developed the Six Sigma approach with an objective to control defects at parts per million levels instead of percentage. Harry and Schroeder (2000) state that Six Sigma had its birth at Motorola in 1979, when executive Art Sundry stood up at a management meeting and proclaimed, “The real problem at Motorola is that our quality stinks!”. Sundry’s proclamation sparked a new era with in Motorola and led to the discovery of the crucial correlation between higher quality and lower development costs in manufacturing products of all kinds.
Few authors are of the opinion that Six Sigma was started in the 1980s without being specific about the year of inception (Poole, 2000; Wyper and Harrison, 2000; Hammer and Goding, 2001; Banuelas and Antony, 2003 and Baetke et al., 2002). According to Kumar (2002) and Antony (2006) Bill Smith, a senior engineer and scientist at Motorola’s communication division, introduced the concept of Six Sigma in 1986. Antony (2007) claimed that the first generation of Six Sigma lasted for a period of 8 years (1987-1994) and the focus was on reduction of defects. Motorola was a great example of a successful first generation company. The second generation of Six Sigma spanned the period from 1994 to 2000 and the focus was on cost reduction. General Electric, Du Pont and Honeywell are good examples of successful second generation companies. A majority of the authors mentioned that Six Sigma emerged as a distinct approach to TQM in 1987 at Motorola (Klesj√∂ et al., 2001; Caulcutt, 2001; Wiklund and Wiklund, 2002; Dasgupta, 2003; Pande et al., 2002; Black and Revere, 2006; Schroeder et al., 2008; Hekmatpanah et al., 2008; Prabhushankar, 2008). Motwani et al. (2004) has stated that the Six Sigma approach was first introduced and developed at Motorola in the early 1990s. According to Dahlgaard and Dahlgaard-Park (2006), the Six Sigma methodology was first introduced in the USA in 1985 at Florida Power and Light (FPL), when the company decided to apply for the Deming Prize whereas Gutierrez et al. (2009) and Abdelhamid (2003) have stated that the concept of Six sigma originated in Motorola in the USA around 1985. This shows that there is no consensus on even the place of origin of Six Sigma.

During the initial period of implementation, the concentration was mainly on the statistical aspects of Six Sigma. Some executives at Motorola, like Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder, were responsible for the creation of the unique combination of change management and data-driven methodologies that transformed Six Sigma from a simple quality measurement and process improvement tool to what it is perceived today: a breakthrough business excellence philosophy. They developed strategies and deployment guidelines that will work in a variety of industries. They elevated Six Sigma from shop floor to boardroom. For his contribution to Six Sigma, Harry has been credited as the father of Six Sigma (Dedhia, 2005). Until 1994, Six Sigma remained a closely guarded secret at Motorola which the outside world knew about, but not how to use it. In 1995, however, CEO Gary L. Tooker decided to throw open the source code. One of the earliest to pick it up was Allied Signal, where CEO Lawrence Bossidy led the conversion (Lahiri, 1999). GE began its Six Sigma program in 1995 and has achieved remarkable results since then. The speech that was delivered by CEO John F. Welch, Jr. on 24 April 1996 at the GE annual meeting that declared Six Sigma as the company’s quality culture is regarded as a milestone in Six Sigma history. An exponentially growing number of global firms have launched Six Sigma programs after GE announced its results in 1996 (Prabhushankar et al., 2008).


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