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Top Six Sigma Techniques

by Anshu Dev

Digital transformation has become more than necessary in the current decade. The advent of the latest technologies is supporting the transformation journeys of companies. The conversion needs to be accompanied by quality management.

Six Sigma is a quality management process used to measure, analyze and improve quality. Motorola developed it in the mid-1980s to help it produce better quality products. General Electric acquired it in 1995 and applied it worldwide to improve its business performance.

The general principle behind six sigma was that by identifying and fixing problems before they occur, companies could reduce errors and improve customer satisfaction at the same time. The principles help achieve the goal of delivering near-perfect products and services. 

Six Sigma certification is a process used to create consistency of quality in a manufacturing process. It is not only a specialized designation but an approach that can be applied to any process to improve efficiency and quality. Six Sigma classes are offered in person, although some can be completed online. A six sigma certification can help anyone draw an average annual wage of $68,840.

Table of Contents

Six Sigma

Six Sigma refers to management tools and techniques to improve a business. Improvement can be brought about by lowering the chances of errors and inefficiencies. The approach is data-driven and follows a statistical methodology.

The term is derived from the Greek symbol “sigma.” The statistical term helps measure process derivation from the process mean or target. The bell curve used in statistics gave rise to “six sigma.” 

One Sigma refers to a single standard deviation from the target. Sometimes the process has six sigmas, equally divided below and above the mean. In that case, the defect rate is declared as “extremely low.”

The five primary principles of the six sigma concept include the following:

  • Focus on the customer
  • Measure the value stream to detect the problem
  • Eliminate the variation after detection
  • Involve all the stakeholders in a structured process and ask them to collaborate to solve the problem
  • Create a responsive and flexible ecosystem

Find out more about the techniques used in the six sigma process.

  1. Brainstorming

It is a critical process in solving any issues. The brainstorming technique is often used to enhance the DMAIC methodology phase. The process is necessary before anyone starts utilizing the tools. 

It involves bouncing ideas and finding innovative ways to tackle a problem. Brainstorming is often done through freewheeling group discussions. The brainstorming session encourages creative thoughts in an environment without negative views. 

The brainstorming session usually follows a formal approach. A facilitator moderates the session. The lead Black Belt or Green Belt usually becomes the facilitator.

Every participant is allowed to contribute to the session. The participants can also build upon one another’s thoughts and ideas. The facilitator can use any method to conduct the brainstorming session.

The “idea rotation” method is often followed. During this method, everyone contributes chronologically until no ideas are left. The word-association method is also quite common for brainstorming. It helps stimulate the brainpower of all the participants. 

The technique is powerful when the activity under review has always been conducted the same way. It helps in breaking the loop of existing routines. 

  1. Root Cause Analysis

The technique is implemented in the “analyze” phase of the DMAIC cycle. It revolves around asking “why.” Even though the thumb rule is five, the number of questions can be less or more. The primary purpose is to gain clarity of the situation. 

  1. Voice of the Customer

This technique is used to collect feedback from customers. It helps understand the customers’ experience with the process under review. It is a proactive technique including both external and internal customers. 

You need to get reviews from your end customers. They are people who are using your finished products. The technique is helpful for the team to understand customer requirements. 

It can include accounting, service, warehousing, and shipping departments. It will give examples of the customers you may find in the supply chain project. But you should also take feedback from those involved with the process in your organization. 

It provides more insight into the problem that needs to be solved. Direct conversations or interviews with relevant customers are often conducted under this process. 

Group discussions and focus groups are also used to perform the voice of the customer exercises. Sometimes online or offline surveys are also helpful for this process. After obtaining the feedback, the team will know the criteria to be included in the product or service under review.

  1. The 5S System

The technique finds its roots in the Japanese principle of workplace energies. The five steps included under the method are as follows:

  • Seiri (Sort)
  • Seiton (Set in Order)
  • Seiso (Shine)
  • Seiketsu (Standardize) 
  • Shitsuke (Sustain)

The system helps in removing bottlenecks from unproductive tools. It removes waste equipment or resources from the workplace. 

  1. Kaizen

Translating to continuous improvement, the technique is good for overall business growth. It helps in constantly monitoring, detecting, and implementing improvements. The manufacturing industry, in particular, will benefit from this technique. 

Ongoing overall enhancements can reduce the wastage of resources. It also ensures that immediate changes are implemented with the slightest inefficiency. 

  1. Benchmarking

The technique sets a standard of measurement. It helps in getting an individualistic appraisal of the current situation. The method usually involves making comparisons with other businesses.

Under the benchmarking process, the critical departments within an organization can be compared. It refers to internal benchmarking where no comparison is made with other organizations. 

Sometimes companies compare similar functions and processes with industry leaders. This process is called functional benchmarking. The method of competitive benchmarking is often followed by organizations. It revolves around comparing products and services with competitors.

  1. Poka-yoke 

The Japanese phrase means “to avoid errors.” It prevents the chance of mistakes from taking place. Employees are made to spot human errors. They are also made to remove the spotted inefficiencies. The process is usually conducted at the time of manufacturing.

  1. Value Stream Mapping

The primary objective of the process is to eliminate waste and inefficiencies from the value stream. The technique charts the flow of information and materials to build a future project. It results in leaner operations within the organization. The process can identify seven different types of waste. It can also acquaint you with three various procedures for waste removal.

Ending note

Graduates in any stream can pursue six sigma courses. Even engineers and MBA professionals can also enroll in this program. Apart from a salary hike, the professional courses will also help you gain project experience. 

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