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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

Through webcasts, articles, our online glossary and more, you can dive deeper into Six Sigma tools. Learn how others used them in practical applications and how you can apply them to your work.

Six Sigma Case Studies

Read case studies that feature real organizations using quality tools for their Six Sigma projects. Each case study showcases processes used, changes made, and improvements gained.

Six Sigma Articles

Light Bulb Moment (Quality Progress) Consider the define, measure, analyze, improve, control (DMAIC) roadmap and maximize quality tools along the improvement journey.

Overview of the Seven Lean Six Sigma Tools (Webcast, ASQ member exclusive) This series provides an overview of seven common Lean Six Sigma tools: 5S system, the seven wastes, value stream mapping, kaizen, flow, visual workspace, and voice of the customer.

Which Control Chart Should You Use? (PDF, ASQ member exclusive) Control charts can be effective for evaluating performance and improvement in a Six Sigma project. However, project managers should carefully evaluate the different charts available, to ensure they obtain the most useful information for the project.

Quality Tools and Templates A to Z

Explore the 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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