Updated June 19, 2023
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is a business methodology and data-driven process to produce nearly perfect products for consumers and reduce product defects to 3.4 defective parts per million, or 99.99966% defect-free products. It is an essential part of any business process improvement as it significantly improves the efficiency of the business by identifying flaws and weaknesses in the processes. To bring improvement to eliminate defects and waste, a set of tools and methods have been developed over the years by Six Sigma practitioners that address control and problem-solving.
List of Six Sigma Tools
Below are 10 powerful tools of Six Sigma:
DMAIC is a 5-step process, the first and most used method/tool in Six Sigma.
The 5 steps are:
The DMAIC process helps continuously improve manufacturing methods by using data and measured objectives. Also, a process known as DMADV is used to develop a new process, product, or service, whereas DMAIC is useful for improving current processes.
DMADV Stands for:
The DMADV process helps develop a high-quality product or service by creating an efficient process through thorough analyses and data.
2. The 5 Whys
To determine the root cause of problems in your organization, the 5 Whys tool is used, which is frequently deployed as part of the Analyze phase in DMAIC.
The 5 Whys work like this:
- Write down the problem so each team member can focus on it.
- Ask why the problem occurred.
- If your first answer is not the main cause of your problem, ask why again.
- Repeat this question at least five times to determine the true source of the problem.
- Whys do not have to be limited to 5 times; you can ask more than 5 times, but after 5 times, you will have clarity on the root cause of the problem.
3. The 5S System
For quicker access and better management, workplace materials are organized using the 5S System. The waste produced by poor conditions and workstations is eliminated with the help of this system.
The 5S are:
- Seiri (Sort) – Leaving only necessary items; all extra items are removed from production.
- Seiton (Set in order) – Organize all items and label them according to being clutter-free.
- Seiso (Shine) – Keep your work area clean, and inspect everything regularly.
- Seiketsu (Standardize) – Write the standards you have set, sort them, and set them in order.
- Shitsuke (Sustain) – Apply and execute the standards you have set for your company and make everyone follow them regularly.
4. Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping is used in the Analyze phase of DMAIC and Lean Manufacturing, making it perfect for Lean Six Sigma. To help you improve and optimize flow throughout your organization, a value stream map was developed to show the flow of materials and information in one of your processes.
Value Stream mapping helps you identify 3 things:
- Value Enabling Activities: Identifying the activities that add value to your processes when enabled.
- Value-Adding Activities: Identifying the activities that add value to your processes.
- Non-value-adding activities: Identifying and eliminating the activities that do not add value to your processes.
So to make the processes more compact, swift, and precise, you have to eliminate the wait time between consecutive steps in the processes and eliminate all your non-value-adding activities with the help of Value Stream Mapping.
5. Regression Analysis
Regression analysis defines the mathematical relationship between input and output variables and is a statistical process for estimating and understanding the relationship between variables. Graphing these inputs and outputs helps you visualize patterns or deviance from desired patterns in your workflow.
In Layman’s language, regression analysis is a statistical method that helps determine the extent to which a relationship exists between two variables. One can accurately identify one variable’s values based on another variable’s values using a simple linear formula if the relationship is strong enough. However, one must be cautious when performing regression analysis.
6. Pareto Chart
Pareto Chart is a graphic representation that visualizes what part of the process influences output the most. You first have to figure out the process’s components and how to measure them to create such a chart. It allows Six Sigma teams to identify the largest issues facing the process by displaying differences between data groups.
It is considered the most important tool of Six Sigma as it helps the team identify 20% of resources that causes 80% of problems in the processes. In short, it will give you a clear idea of which component requires your immediate attention.
The full form of FMEA is Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Developed in the 1950s, FMEA helps businesses identify and eliminate weak points by reviewing the causes and effects of components, assemblies, and subsystems. It helps Six Sigma practitioners detect and fix problems before it occurs, resulting in improved quality of their processes, services, and products.
Kaizen means continuous improvement. It is a practice that continuously involves observing, identifying, and implementing incremental improvement in your manufacturing process by involving all employees and managers and encouraging them in manufacturing improvements.
It ensures to rectify the smallest inefficiencies daily through the collective talents and knowledge of everyone in the company. It also ensures the reduction of waste in production.
Poka-yoke is a Japanese term meaning mistake-proofing. It helps identify and rectify employee errors that occur throughout the production and manufacturing processes.
10. Kanban System
Kanban is a Japanese word meaning billboard. The Kanban System, a supply chain control system, focuses on cost reduction by implementing a just-in-time inventory control system. It is very easy to use and has many benefits, for which it is also one of the most popular six sigma tools. The Kanban system increases efficiency and brings more focus to the business as it works on a simple and elegant idea by only activating the supply chain when the demand requires it, by feeling additional resources and allowing it to use them better. This system helps all the current business processes by setting limits for inventory holding.
This is a guide to Six Sigma Tools. Here we have discussed the 10 powerful tools of Six Sigma for addressing control and problem-solving. You may also look at the following articles to learn more –