OK, so the missus and I were shopping (again). This time for a new washing machine as ours just stopped working and left us with quarts of water to scoop out by hand.

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So, just like we did/do in our corporate purchasing lives, we developed our list of selection criteria: capacity, warranty, features, supplier quality reputation, and price. Warranty is a big one – we don’t want to buy the same major appliance every year.

One of the washers we liked was made by GE. GE, of course, is reknowned for its mastery of Six Sigma.

So, the quality is definitely there, right? GE will be able to offer a warranty that blows their competition out of the water, right?


GE’s warranty was one year for this higher-end washer. The same as the cheap washers made by the no-name manufacturers.

So does Six Sigma really have benefits for the consumer?

Sure, the Six Sigma quality standard of 3.4 defects per million opportunities sounds great. But what is a defect? Failure within 5 years? Or failure in less than a year?

See, Six Sigma is tricky because there’s a lot of latitude in the definition of a defect.

In my opinion, any appliance component that fails within, let’s say, 18 months is defective. But it seems like that is not consistent with GE’s definition.

A failure in 367 days? That may not count towards the 3.4 defects.

So, in reality, Six Sigma may not guarantee long-term quality.

Now, perhaps GE’s components and suppliers are in fact of higher quality than their competitors. But that’s not obvious to the consumer with that limp-wristed one-year warranty.

If GE’s quality is indeed better, and Six Sigma is a part of that, why not offer the consumer some benefit in the form of a longer warranty? If the product is truly of high quality, they wouldn’t have to worry about many warranty claims in months 13-24 right?

Don’t they realize how that would differentiate their product in the marketplace?

That would have made our purchase decision so much easier. A two-year warranty vs. a store full of one-year warranties? I’d buy that washer without much thought or comparison.

So if Six Sigma improves quality, why not utilize it to boost the top line in the form of more sales?

Does GE’s own marketing team not buy in to the fact that GE has better quality?

And, if they don’t, should consumers believe that GE’s products are of high quality?

Charles Dominick, SPSM
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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