Six Sigma

Improving quality and efficiency is the way we work.

Bechtel was the first major engineering and construction company to adopt Six Sigma, a data-driven approach to improving efficiency and quality. Although it was originally developed for manufacturing companies, we were confident Six Sigma would work in professional services organizations such as ours. Our bet paid off. Six Sigma has improved every aspect of our business, from construction projects to regional offices, saving time and money for our customers and us.

Six Sigma uses a rigorous set of statistical and analytic tools to produce dramatic improvements in our work processes. Bechtel launched Six Sigma in 2000, when the company was experiencing unprecedented growth—and facing corresponding process challenges. We have now implemented Six Sigma in our key offices and business units around the world. About half of our employees have had Six Sigma training, and most of our major projects employ its methods from start to finish.

Our investment in Six Sigma reached the break-even point in less than three years, and our overall savings have added substantially to our bottom line, while also benefiting customers. Some examples:

  • On a big rail modernization project in the UK, a Bechtel team used Six Sigma to minimize costly train delays caused by project work and reduced the "break in” period for renovated high-speed tracks.

  • At a U.S. Department of Defense site in Maryland, Six Sigma helped achieve significant cost savings by streamlining the analysis of neutralized mustard gas at a project to eliminate chemical weapons.

  • To speed up the location of new cellular sites in big cities, Bechtel developed a way to let planners use computers to view video surveys of streets and buildings, making it easier to pick the best spots.

  • In a mountainous region of Chile, Six Sigma led to more efficient use of equipment in a massive mine expansion, with significant cost savings.

Six Sigma is the most important initiative for change we have ever undertaken. We’re happy to report that it’s becoming “the way we work.”