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ISO Publishes Six Sigma Methodology As Two-Part Standard

DMAIC in ISO format should reduce fragmentation and harmonize best practices

Published: Monday, September 19, 2011 - 11:10

Six Sigma, a data-driven method for improving business and quality performance, has been published as a two-part standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Six Sigma was originally developed by Motorola in 1986 to ameliorate manufacturing processes with the goal of 99.99966 percent 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 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,” Boulanger continues. “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 practices.”

Six Sigma projects follow a defined sequence of steps with quantified goals and financial targets (e.g., cost reduction or profit increase), and rely on statistical tools to deal with uncertainty. Implementation involves establishing 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—define, measure, analyze, improve, control (DMAIC)—and recommends best practices, including on the roles, expertise, and training of personnel involved in such projects.
• Part 2: Tools and techniques, describes tools and techniques, illustrated by fact sheets, 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 ($140.48 and $169.93), respectively, through the ISO Store.


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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.