Six Sigma at Motorola

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Case Details:

Case Code : OPER050
Case Length : 13 Pages
Period : 1988-2005
Organization : Motorola
Pub Date : 2005
Teaching Note :Not Available
Countries : US
Industry : Telecom

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Thrust on Quality Contd...

After Motorola's success, various other corporates6 across the world implemented Six Sigma in their organizations. Motorola acquired the reputation of being the quality leader, not just in manufacturing but in every process including customer relations.

Between 1986 and 1988 alone, Motorola received 50 quality awards. Six Sigma was not just a quality standard at Motorola but the guiding force of Motorola's work philosophy. Commenting on Six Sigma, Dennis Sester, Motorola's senior corporate Vice President and Quality Director, said, "Six Sigma is not a product you can buy. It's a commitment."7

Operations Management Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Marketing Management, Case Studies

The Six Sigma Initiative

The term 'Six Sigma' comes from the field of Statistics. Its origin as a measurement standard can be traced back to Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1855) who introduced the concept of the normal curve. Six Sigma as a measurement standard in product variation could be traced back to the 1920s. Bill Smith (Smith), a Motorola engineer, was responsible for linking the term with the company's quality initiatives.

The US economy was experiencing a downtrend in the 1980s. As a technology-based company, Motorola faced several problems. Competition was intense and a few products like semiconductor chips were being sold at half their manufacturing cost in 1981. Motorola's financial performance was under pressure.

Most worrying of all, the company started receiving an increasing number of complaints from its sales department about warranty claims for defective products. Despite its reputation as market leader, Motorola started losing market share to foreign competitors that sold products of better quality at lower prices.

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6]  Ford, GE, ABB and Honeywell are among the companies whose Six Sigma programs were highly successful.

7] "Training for Excellence: Practitioners Give Best Practices for Teaching Six Sigma," The New Corporate University Review, May - June 2000.


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