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The Age of Six Sigma Power

The Age of Six Sigma Power

BAE Young-Il

Sept. 5, 2005

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This is the age of Six Sigma power. Achieving Six Sigma quality has become a veritable battle-cry in the global business community, as a growing number of companies in Europe, and even those in China, embrace it to minimize product defects or enhance management effectiveness.

Broadly, Six Sigma is a body of management tools designed to achieve quality or perfection by holding down defects, whether it is in production, management or organization. Specifically, the Six Sigma process has the goal of reducing defects to 3.4 cases per one million opportunities. An "opportunity" here refers to a produced good or service.

Quite remarkably, Chinese companies that once took a cavalier attitude towards product or management innovation are quickly catching up with Six Sigma concepts. And globally, Six Sigma tools have already become a dominant trend in the world of business. According to one recent survey, over 40% of the Fortune 500 companies operate on Six Sigma process.

The Six Sigma concept is also infiltrating the public sector and financial services industry. A US naval base in San Diego has taken to using the innovative process. So does the city administration in Fort Wayne, Indiana. For their part, financial service providers have also been willing to introduce Six Sigma. Among those using Six Sigma tools for more innovative management are Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan & Co. and American International Group Inc. Healthcare providers use it, such as Commonwealth Health Corporation, Virtual Health, and North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System. To them, Six Sigma is the way to achieve a near-perfection standard in medical procedures.

This global trend has changed the way Korean companies regard the Six Sigma process. Shortly after Samsung SDI Co., Ltd. and LG Electronics began accepting Six Sigma tools in 1996, other big companies like POSCO and KT Corporation have taken them. Today, it is fashionable for small and medium-sized companies to use Six Sigma ways to try emulating the stellar performances of their larger cousins. The public sector is also catching on to the new wave. The Ministry of Information and Communication, Korean Intellectual Property Office, Supreme Prosecutors' Office and Korea Railroad - just to name a few - have taken to using Six Sigma. The Korean government now encourages more agencies to use Six Sigma tools.

What explains this popular process that is taking the world by storm? It is due largely to the demonstrated success case of General Electric or GE. So dramatic has been the success of GE's Six Sigma process that it has drawn the attention of companies all over the world, fuelling a global fever for Six Sigma tools by other world-class companies.

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