Six Sigma tools enable organizations to increase quality, reduce waste, and eliminate errors in processes and product and service development. Learn all about how you can leverage these powerful tools and methodologies to foster excellence.
Six Sigma is a data-driven project management methodology that employs a five-step process to address outstanding organizational issues, ultimately relying on statistical analysis to minimize defects and product variations.
But every process needs tools. Moreover, every process requires the right tools. And sometimes, the choices can be overwhelming. You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying, “The right tool for the right job.” That’s excellent advice, but how do you know what tool is “right?”
This article tackles the subject of Six Sigma tools. We will discuss the best and most important Six Sigma tools, including Lean Six Sigma tools, how to pick the right tools. We will also cover specific details such as DMAIC Six Sigma.
Let’s begin our journey of Six Sigma knowledge by examining what constitutes a Six Sigma tool.
All About Six Sigma Tools
As we have already touched upon in previous articles, Six Sigma is a methodology that helps organizations eliminate waste and inefficiency within business processes. In addition, Six Sigma tools are methodologies and techniques that help analyze and improve those processes.
In many other situations (e.g., coding, programming, writing), the word “tools” typically refers to software, apps, extensions, and actual downloadable resources. But in Six Sigma’s case, tools typically refer to ideas or procedures rather than a software suite you purchase and download. However, there are definitely applications and utilities you can buy and install.
So, Six Sigma tools are problem-solving tools used to enhance and support Six Sigma and related process improvement efforts. The tools help to identify weaknesses and flaws and, in doing so, improve your organization’s efficiency.
How to Pick the Right Six Sigma Tools
Not every Six Sigma tool is appropriate for every situation. Therefore, there is no universal solution. However, you can use a process to help you choose the Six Sigma tools that are right for you, your organization, and the tasks at hand.
Whenever you need to decide which Six Sigma tools are right for you, employ the following steps:
- Learn about the tools. For starters, understand the tools and what they’re used for. Although this may take a little time and effort, it will apply to all future tool decisions once you do it.
- Consider the context. Pick a tool that fits your unique environment.
- Employ expert guidance. Put Lean Six Sigma into effect and ensure your team members have sufficient appropriate training.
- Supporting resources. Be aware of extra resources such as software, graphs, charts, and more, which can play a pivotal role in your Six Sigma activities.
Now that we know what Six Sigma tools are and how to pick the Six Sigma tools that fit your needs best, it’s time to dive into specifics. So here are the best Six Sigma tools available today.
Presenting the Best Six Sigma Tools
These tools are presented in no specific order, but they all are proven assets in Six Sigma processing. In addition, some tools described below are used in other listed tools, so expect to see some overlap and redundancy.
This data-driven tool works exceptionally well with Lean Six Sigma. It’s an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control, representing the five stages of DMAIC. Six Sigma DMAIC is the primary and most used tool in Six Sigma operations. It helps improve manufacturing methods by employing data and measured objectives. However, you can use many other Six Sigma tools to accomplish each DMAIC Six Sigma stage.
This Six Sigma tool is like DMAIC, but the tool develops new products, processes, or services in this case, while DMAIC works best to improve existing processes. DMADV is an acronym for the stages of Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Verify.
The 5S System
The 5S System focuses on workplace and workflow material management and optimization. This tool best deals with waste generated by poor conditions or workstations. When done correctly, this results in a clean, safe, uncluttered, and organized workplace to reduce waste and optimize productivity. The five S’s are:
- Seiri (Sort): Leave only necessary items. Remove any extra items from current production.
- Seiton (Set in order): Reduce clutter by organizing all items and labeling them accordingly.
- Seiso (Shine): Keep the work area clean and regularly inspect everything in the area.
- Seiketsu (Standardize): Write up your standards, then sort them and set them in order.
- Shitsuke (Sustain): Apply and enforce your company’s standards and get everyone in the habit of following them regularly.
The Five Whys
Here’s another tool that comes in fives. The Five Whys is used to determine the root cause of your organization’s issues and involves progressively asking “Why?” until you discover the source of the problem. This procedure breaks down into these steps:
- Identify and write down the problem so each team member can see and focus on it
- Ask why the issue happened
- If your first answer doesn’t identify the problem’s primary cause, ask “Why?” again
- Repeat the process at least five times until you arrive at the problem’s primary cause
- You’re not limited to five questions; you can ask more questions if necessary
The Five Whys is typically used during DMAIC’s Analyze phase.
The Kanban System
Kanban is a Japanese word for “billboard” and describes a supply chain control system that focuses on reducing costs by using a just-in-time inventory control approach. Put simply, Kanban activates the supply chain only when needed.
For instance, when you go to the supermarket, you buy things based on your short-term needs, not for months or years in advance. Similarly, the supermarket will not stock inventory that it doesn’t expect to sell soon. Instead, your shopping list reflects your immediate needs, and the store adjusts its product supply to reflect customer demand.
Value Stream Mapping
This tool, also called VSM, is another resource used during DMAIC’s Analyze phase and is also well-suited for Lean Manufacturing. The value stream map was developed to show a process’s material, and information flows to help improve and optimize flow throughout the organization.
VSM is a two-stage process. First, the team draws a visual representation of every function in the information and material flow, creating a production path from start to finish. Then, the group draws a map of the future state, showing how the value should ideally flow.
Value mapping identifies the following three elements:
- Value Enabling Activities. These are activities that, when enabled, add value to the process.
- Value-Adding Activities. These activities add value to the process.
- Non-value adding activities. This procedure identifies and eliminates activities that do not add value to the process.
Voice of the Customer
This tool, also called VOC for short, answers the question, “What does the customer need?” The Six Sigma technique focuses on collecting customers’ requirements and viewpoints using in-person interviews, focus groups, warranty claims, surveys, and social media, among others. Once the team measurably presents the finding, the VOC can provide vital insights into what steps must be taken to improve or resolve the defined problem. The team can better understand these steps by creating a Voice of the Customer Table (VOCT).
Poka-Yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake proofing.” It is a Lean technique designed to prevent and correct mechanical and human errors in the manufacturing or production process as early as possible. In addition, Poka-Yoke uses standardization to help avoid mistakes.
This chart illustrates a graphic representation of the Pareto Principle, which tells us that, in any given situation, 20 percent of the input produces 80 percent of the output. The chart combines a vertical bar and a line graph. The chart combines a vertical bar and a line graph. The bar graph section shows various business process component metrics, from largest to smallest, while the line graph shows the cumulative total of these metrics.
The Pareto Chart is a tool that helps team members visualize what part of the process influences output the most and gives the team a clear idea of what requires their immediate attention. The team must first figure out the process’s components and how to measure them, then place the findings into the Pareto Chart. This process helps the team see how big of an influence each part’s outcome has.
Here’s a sample Pareto Chart provided by Tallyfy.com.
Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement.” Kaizen is the practice of continuously observing, identifying, and implementing incremental improvement in the manufacturing process. This process involves all employees and managers and encourages them to initiate improvements in the manufacturing process.
Kaizen rectifies the minor daily inefficiencies using everyone working in the organization’s collective talents, experience, and knowledge. It also helps reduce waste in the production process.
The RACI Matrix
Also called the Responsibility Assignment Matrix, the RACI Matrix is a table outlining each team member’s responsibilities in every task. RACI is an acronym, and it’s short for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
- Responsible. Refers to whose role it is to complete the task.
- Accountable. The team member assigns tasks to everyone else, then monitors their progress.
- Consulted. Describes the experts on the subject matter and who will guide the people working on the tasks.
- Informed. Covers the people who the team notifies when the task is done.
Here’s a sample RACI Matrix, courtesy of Tallyfy.com:
This tool is such an obvious, common-sense maneuver that, surprisingly, it isn’t a fundamental part of every Six Sigma process. The project charter is a document that outlines and defines the project’s purpose and scope, acting as both the blueprint for the business process and the project’s legal authorization. Project charters typically include the project overview and scope, relevant details about the team and its resources, and the timeline. The charter gives the team all the necessary basic information about the project and clarifies its main points.
The project charter helps the team maintain a clear understanding of the project, assisting people to maintain focus and cut down on chaos.
Do You Want to Master Six Sigma Tools?
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