1980s: Elimination of Defects
Motorola identified the reason for poor quality on many little defects made during the manufacturing process rather than inherent design flaws. Next, they decided to apply the newly developed Six Sigma as a simple quality initiative aimed at measuring and reducing deviance from the optimal state to eliminate defects from the manufacturing process.
Cracked solder joints on circuit boards was one of the major quality-related issues facing Motorola in the early 1980s. Application of the Six Sigma process helped Motorola determine optimal operating conditions and substantially reduce solder joint defects.
The major challenge faced by Motorola while implementing Six Sigma was the tendency of employees to fudge the system rather than make improvements. Employees tried to improve the sigma level by increasing the number of opportunities for defects, like counting five opportunities for every solder joint, rather than by reducing defects.
Motorola ensured the success of Six Sigma by making employees the stakeholders of the concept. Motorola made it the responsibility of everyone to Define, Measure, Analyze, Identify, and Control the process improvement. This approach made workers understand that the purpose behind the Six Sigma System was to ensure solder joints did not leak.
Motorola’s unprecedented success with Six Sigma allowed it to receive in 1988, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, an award that strives to identify firms that are worthy role models for other businesses.