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HomeBlogQuality A Simple Guide to History and Evolution of Six Sigma 

 A Simple Guide to History and Evolution of Six Sigma 

25th Apr, 2024
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     A Simple Guide to History and Evolution of Six Sigma 

    The Six Sigma principles have become mainstream ideas in manufacturing processes. In a bulk manufacturing process, the time consumed, defects, and variability of all the products matter the most. Therefore, the most effective production process is the one where the variation of each product can be minimized with the least number of defects in a minimum amount of time. In 1986, Bill Smith, an American engineer working at Motorola, introduced the Six Sigma principles to optimize production.

    The Six Sigma principles are an efficient way to save money, human resources, and time by avoiding redundant processes. Therefore, the history of Six Sigma is very interesting and is the first step in understanding the evolution of these concepts. 

    An Overview of Six Sigma  

    Six Sigma are principles that guide the manufacturing process to be the most efficient. A Six Sigma professional employs empirical and statistical methodology to minimize defects and variability in the shortest time. These professionals are given a specific number target, which they achieve by applying the Six Sigma principles.

    Six Sigma is a statistical concept that is responsible for evaluating process capability. A bell curve or a normal distribution curve shows the random probability of a continuous distribution. The most seasoned Six Sigma professionals can create manufacturing processes to shrink the number of standard deviations on a bell curve. The correct usage allows you the opportunity to manufacture at the rate of 3.4 errors per million opportunities.

    The key principles of Six Sigma include: 

    1. Customer link

    The most important part of a business is the customer. The manufacturing units are established to supply the demand of the consumer. The quality and quantity are established when the market is thoroughly studied.

    2. Pinpointed problem evaluation

    Getting stuck on problems during the manufacturing process is easy. Pointing these problems out and finding proper solutions is the primary job of a Six Sigma professional.

    3. Reducing variability

    A problem, once identified, can be rectified. A Six Sigma professional will identify a problem and work on solutions for that problem to minimize the variability in the shortest amount of time. 

    4. Implementing the solution

     A Six Sigma professional can only be successful when they can communicate the solution of the problem to the manufacturing team. Likewise, the manufacturing unit can only successfully implement these principles and communicate back if the solutions work. 

    5. Dynamic approach

    A Six Sigma professional has to be responsive to the feedback from the manufacturing unit. Moreover, they must implement that feedback into the results and make changes accordingly.


    These principles are implemented using two methodologies- DMAIC and DMADV. DMAIC is used to improve the existing manufacturing process. It identifies the existing problem in the manufacturing process and improves upon it to maximize efficiency. DMADV is used to improve the upcoming manufacturing processes. Manufacturing industries have used both these concepts to improve their production capability and build better systems.
    The assumptions of the Six Sigma principles are as follows: 

    1. The production process can be improved by continuous evaluation. 
    2. Characteristics of a production process can be analyzed, processed, and improved upon. 
    3. The initiative of every level in the industry is required to improve the production process. The top-level management has to take the initiative. 

    Many other management principles aim to achieve the same, but Six Sigma principles are different in three ways.: 

    1. The initiative has to be taken by top management. 
    2. It focuses on quantifiable financial returns. 
    3. It focuses on quantities that can be measured instead of any guesswork. 

    Nowadays, Six Sigma principles are paired with Lean manufacturing. The lean manufacturing process aims to supply the goods to the consumers in such a way that they produce the goods in the same amount as and when required by the consumers. This would reduce the wastage of time and money. The history of lean Six Sigma forms the bases of today’s Lean Six Sigma courses

    Get to know more about six sigma vs lean six sigma

    Origin and Evolution of Six Sigma

    The Six Sigma history is fascinating as it takes a lot of sharp turns in the industrial world. Before the industrial revolution, when a single person made every product, the value of skilled workers was very high. However, after industrialization, bulk manufacturing became the norm. The manufacturing process became a series of procedures done by many people instead of various processes done by a single person. The goal of the manufacturing units became to increase production to fulfill the increasing demand of the consumeristic world. This meant expanding production and decreasing defective products.

    Eli Whitney's version of the Six Sigma

    Six Sigma history timeline starts with an American inventor, Eli Whitney, who came up with the first version of the Six Sigma process. At that time, he called it The Uniformity System. It was adopted by the military-industrial complex when an order was placed By the French government for 10,000 muskets. This large order was handled by designing standard musket parts. These musket parts could be produced without much variation over a very long time. This was the first time a manufacturer looked at the quality of production.

    Ford assembly line

    When the Ford assembly line was introduced, production quality and quantity increased drastically. Random sampling was the first attempt at quality control in the production line. As the moving parts increased, the companies dedicated entire departments to quality control.

    Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran's version in Japan

    After the Second World War, Japanese people believed that the success of America was Because of the success of American industry. W. Edwards Deming’s work in rebuilding Japan was the bedrock of the Six Sigma principles. Daming introduced the PDSA cycle in the Japanese industry.

    Juran did the next step in the quality control journey in Japan. Joseph Juran was an American who polished the Japanese quality control system by integrating quality control in every level of the organization.

    Bob Galvin and Bill Smith with Motorola

    Under the leadership of Bob Galvin and Bill Smith, Motorola built upon these principles to come up with Six Sigma. They aimed to keep improving the existing processes while looking to enhance their pocket pager business. For this product, they aspired for a standard specification. This Motorola Six Sigma history is one of the most critical stories in the evolution of the Six Sigma principles. Motorola was the first organization to extensively use the Six Sigma approach and minimize their defects per million opportunities to 3.4. Soon many other companies like Kodak, GE, Xerox, etc., began to follow suit and used the Six Sigma approach to minimize their defects per million opportunities.

    Toyota Production System

    Though Six Sigma can be called a Motorola flagship, Toyota Production System perfected the Six Sigma principles. Toyota Six Sigma history follows the story of this company minimizing the cost of production in minimum time and eliminating their wastage. Most companies waste 70 to 90% of their resources, but they employ the Six Sigma principles to minimize their waste. Toyota's production system follows lean manufacturing. 

    This is a brief introduction to Six Sigma history but learning Six Sigma processes is a level-based system. There are five levels or belts that prepare you to be a Six Sigma professional. You can start at any level for the first four, but you must be a black belt to become a master black belt. The belts of Six Sigma are as follows: 

    1. White belt- These are all basic Six Sigma introductory courses. 
    2. Yellow belt- This is above the white belt, delving deeper into the fundamentals of Six Sigma principles. 
    3. Green belt- Programs like LSS Green Belt certification give the professional a basis for using the processes of Six Sigma. You can manage smaller projects or assist a black belt in a larger project as a green belt. 
    4. Black belt- Black Belt certification is a top-level managerial position certification. They manage larger projects for the company and train Green Belts under them. 
    5. Master black belt- A master Black Belt is the highest level of competency as a Six Sigma professional. As a master black belt, you can train everyone under you and lead projects.

    Know more about top 10 six sigma tools. 

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    Principles of Six Sigma

    The Six Sigma origin and history are very interesting, but the principles of Six Sigma are even more fascinating. Six Sigma principles can be used in three general ways. It can be used as a tool, a process, or a philosophy. When you use Six Sigma as a tool, then it means that you need less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. When you use Six Sigma as a process, then you find the processes that can be optimized and optimize them. Two approaches that can be used for using Six Sigma as a process are DMAIC and DMADV. However, the highest level of using Six Sigma is using it as a philosophy and finding the opportunities to make everything perfect.

    When Six Sigma is used as a process, the two methodologies used are DMAIC and DMADV. These two methodologies have different purposes because both are used at different stages of the production process.

    DMAIC is used for an ongoing project and is commonly used for a data-driven improvement cycle. It follows the steps:

    1. Define
    The problem is first defined using the voice of the customer and the problems faced in manufacturing processes.
    2. Measure
    In this step, the problem is quantified as a number, and the performance baseline is set up.
    3. Analyze
    The problem is studied carefully, and the potential root causes of the problem are identified.
    4. Improve
    The viable solution to the problem is identified to improve customer satisfaction or the production process.
    5. Control
    In this step, the feedback is given by the customer or the production process to improve upon the given solutions. 

    DMADV is used for a new project. This process is used to finalize the best way to design a new product or service. The first three steps remain the same, but the last two steps are meant for designing a new product. It follows:


    The goals of the new product or service are defined. 

    2. Measure

     In this step, the process's capability and risk are assessed. 

    3. Analyze

    In this step, the new project is analyzed, keeping in mind the customer demand and the variability in the production process.

    4. Design

    Here the project is designed to give the least amount of time with minimum variability and errors. 

    5. Verify

    The feedback given by consumers and production processes are analyzed, and after this DMAIC process can be involved to improve the new project.

    These two methodologies are powerful tools to optimize all processes at any level. KnowledgeHut Lean Six Sigma Courses are a great way to familiarize yourself with Six Sigma's fundamental principles and methodologies. 


    Six Sigma is helpful for the optimization of every industry. The applications of these principles are possible in industries like manufacturing, construction, finance, healthcare, etc.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1Who invented Six Sigma?

    Bill Smith, while working at Motorola, invented Six Sigma. It originated in 1986.

    2Who is called the Godfather of Six Sigma?

    Bill Smith of Motorola is the godfather of Six Sigma. 

    3Why is it called Six Sigma?

    Sigma is used to measure the deviation from the mean. For example, if the deviation is 3.4 sigma from either side of the mean, then the deviation is Six Sigma, and the error is very low.

    4What are the Six Sigma principles?

    The basic principles of Six Sigma are: Customer link, pinpointed problem evaluation, reducing variability, implementing the solution, and dynamic approach.

    5What are the Six Sigma tools?

    Two main tools used for Six Sigma are DMAIC and DMADV. 


    Shivender Sharma

    Blog Author

    Shivendra Sharma, an accomplished author of the international bestseller 'Being Yogi,' is a multifaceted professional. With an MBA in HR and a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, he boasts 15 years of experience in business and digital transformation, strategy consulting, and process improvement. As a member of the Technical Committee of the International Association of Six Sigma Certification (IASSC), he has led multi-million dollar savings through organization-wide transformation projects. Shivendra's expertise lies in deploying Lean and Six Sigma tools across global stakeholders in EMEA, North America, and APAC, achieving remarkable business results. 

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