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Learn About Quality

Six Sigma Tools & Techniques

Quality Glossary Definition: Six Sigma tools

Six Sigma tools are defined as the problem-solving tools used to support Six Sigma and other process improvement efforts. The Six Sigma expert uses qualitative and quantitative techniques to drive process improvement. Although the tools themselves are not unique, the way they are applied and integrated as part of a system is. Some of the statistical and graphical tools commonly used in improvement projects are:

DMAIC: The define, measure, analyze, improve, and control process is a data-driven quality strategy used to improve processes. It is an integral part of a Six Sigma initiative, but can also be implemented as a standalone quality improvement procedure or as part of other process improvement initiatives such as lean.

5S: The Five S's of lean is a methodology that results in a workplace that is clean, uncluttered, safe, and well organized to help reduce waste and optimize productivity. It's designed to help build a quality work environment, both physically and mentally. The 5S philosophy applies in any work area suited for visual control and lean production. 

Seven wastes: A core principle of lean—reducing and eliminating waste—the seven wastes are overproduction ahead of demand; waiting for the next process, worker, material, or equipment; unnecessary transport of materials; over-processing of parts due to poor tool and product design; inventories more than the absolute minimum; unnecessary movement by employees during the course of their work; and production of defective parts.

Value stream mapping: Value stream mapping (VSM) is a pencil and paper tool used in two stages. First, follow a product’s production path from beginning to end and draw a visual representation of every process in the material and information flows. Second, draw a future state map of how value should flow. The most important map is the future state map.

Flow: Flow is the progressive achievement of tasks along the value stream so a product proceeds from design to launch, order to delivery, and raw to finished materials in the hands of the customer with no stoppages, scrap, or backflows.

Visual workplace: A visual workplace is defined by devices designed to visually share information about organizational operations in order to make human and machine performance safer, more exact, more repeatable, and more reliable.

Voice of the customerQuality function deployment (QFD) begins with an exploration and discovery of customer needs. The first step is to capture the voice of the customer (VOC) and then create a voice of the customer table (VOCT). Common sources can include sales and technical trip reports, warranty claims, user support forums or help lines, and social media.

Six Sigma team leaders also use project management tools, such as Gantt charts, and team engagement tools, such as brainstorming and nominal group technique.

Six sigma Resources

You can also search articles, case studies, and publications for six sigma resources.

Case Studies

Using DMAIC To Improve Nursing Shift-Change Assignments (PDF) In this case study involving an anonymous hospital, nursing department leaders sought to improve efficiency of their staff’s shift change assignments. Upon value stream mapping the process, team members identified the shift nursing report took 43 minutes on average to complete. Using DMAIC and other quality tools, team members improved the process’ sigma level from 0.7 to 3.3.

Complementary Alliance (Lean & Six Sigma Review) This case study details a Six Sigma changeover downtime reduction project that occurred at a polymer extrusion facility using 5S and single-minute exchange of die to reduce average changeover downtime.

Marie Kondo and the Art of Lean (Lean & Six Sigma Review) Marie Kondo has taught millions of people the art of decluttering their homes and their minds through her books and her Netflix television show. Her method, the KonMari method, blends lean ideas and 5S in a way that makes decluttering seem simple and attainable to anyone.


To DMAIC Or Not To DMAIC? (Quality Progress) Carl F. Berardinelli explains how each phase of DMAIC builds on the previous one, with the goal of implementing long-term solutions to problems. Sometimes, project leaders or sponsors don’t feel a formal approach is necessary, but most problem-solving efforts benefit from a disciplined method.


Voice of the Customer Voice of the customer means the expressed requirements and expectations of customers relative to products or services, as documented and disseminated to the providing organization’s members. This webcast is one open-access installment in a member-exclusive series on seven common lean and Six Sigma tools.

Seven Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Tools: Value Stream Mapping Learn the basics of value stream mapping, including the what, why, and how to use this product process analysis and improvement tool. This webcast is one open-access installment in a member-exclusive series on seven common lean and Six Sigma tools.

Quality Tools and Templates A to Z

Explore the quality tools and templates that can help you identify causes, understand processes, collect and analyze data, generate ideas, keep projects on track, and make informed decisions for all of your continuous improvement activities.

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