Six Sigma signals Quality

Everybody at Motorola was proud when they reached their lofty five years quality goals in 1987. But Motorola management was not satisfied with the new level of quality. When executives visited electronic plants in Japan, they were shocked to find Japanese factories producing at quality levels 2,000 times better than Motorola’s factories in the United States.

The company had already relinquished consumer electronics to the Japanese to focus on industrial applications. When Motorola sold its Chicago television plant to Matasushita in 1974, defects ran at a rate of 150 for every 100 sets produced. By 1979 Matasushita reported a mere four defects for every 100 televisions using the same American workforce. Motorola could not afford to lose the current competitive battle as a result of quality. The company had to re-intensify its quality efforts. So look at the competitive threat and you look closely at what you can offer.

In 1987, Galvin demanded a more dramatic improvement in quality to improve from 60,000 defects per million to ‘Six Sigma by 1992. Six Sigma defines the concept of achieving approximately zero defects (more precisely 3.4 defects per million or 99.999 percent defect free manufacturing). The first step in Motorola’s second generation quality program was another ten fold quality improvement. Alvin set a timetable to improve product and services quality 10 times by 1989, improve them at least 100 times by 1991 an then hit the Six Sigma goal by 1992.

The quality program’s ultimate objective was not only to move toward zero manufacturing defects, but also to improve all levels of customer satisfaction Motorola named its quality program after its ultimate goal: Total Customer Satisfaction (TCS). TCS provides for continuous improvement in price, delivery performance, quality and total customer experience. Of these quality stands as the linchpin of Motorola’s Total Customers Satisfaction program. According to Motorola’s BiIl Smith, It includes all the ways in which customers interact with a company such as receiving an understandable and accurate invoice obtaining prompt responses to requests for information or technical support, and getting courteous and professional treatment from salespeople.

Motorola set up a process called the ‘Six steps to Six Sigma to lead with the non-manufacturing more subjective aspects of quality. Steps one and two are to determine the product you make and who your customers are. Step three looks at the suppliers you need to make the product. In step four workers map out the process to fulfill your mission. Step five involves evaluating the process and eliminating the non-value-added steps or the sources of error. And the sixth step is the establishment of measurement criteria and the drive for continuous improvement.

Motorola doubled its effort aimed at designing in quality and improving supplier quality. Recognizing that much of the success of their quality improvement efforts rested with their suppliers, Motorola implemented the Certified Supplier Program to improve supplier quality. The program virtually eliminates the need for incoming quality inspections of supplier components. By cutting out supplier inspection, Motorola reduces overhead costs and increase its competitive advantage. Motorola also requires pursuit of the Malcolm Baldrige quality award by all of its suppliers.

Engineering, manufacturing ad marketing personnel started working together from day one to design in quality. That design process increasingly has to integrate what the customer feels with what suppliers can provide. So there are two major external forces in addition to getting the parts of the company working together. No longer do you have a situation where you can design a product and throw it over a wall and expect a manufacturing organization to simply make it. The Technology development is under taken with a deep understanding of customer needs and not simply for manufacturing.