Six Sigma concepts and philosophies aim at improving the overall quality of business processes. With the help of time-tested tools and templates, Six Sigma aims at achieving near perfection by restricting the number of possible defects to less than 3.4 defects per million. An organization that does not use Six Sigma tools and templates may not be able to produce quality products or render quality services even if the organization follows a planned strategy. It is only through Six Sigma tools and templates that an organization can aim at making continuous improvements in the quality of manufactured goods or services rendered.
The various tools and templates employed in Six Sigma projects can be broadly classified into three different categories namely, statistical tools, software tools, and judgmental tools. One of the most commonly used statistical tools in Six Sigma is known as Critical Path Method (CPM). As compared to other Six Sigma tools, CPM was not exactly designed for Six Sigma but is still used frequently because it has the potential to contribute to Six Sigma project management. Organizations often have numerous projects running at the same time, which requires a timetable for successfully completing those projects in the allotted period. CPM helps in designing a proper timetable that predetermines the start and completion of key events in any business process. With the help of CPM, project managers can easily find out the exact status of various projects by monitoring key events through the CPM timetable.
Other tools used in Six Sigma projects can be collectively classified as analytical tools that help in decision making. Some of the tools that help in anticipating future problems through analytical interpretations include FMEA (Failure mode and Effects Analysis), Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. Companies often try to get feedback from customers for effecting changes in the quality of goods manufactured or services rendered. However, this is not easy because the most common problem faced by companies is the inability to convert vague statements given by customers into measurable functional requirements. This is where tools such as VOC Requirements Translation and Kano Analysis come into play. With the help of sub-systems such as Customer Segmentation and VOC Data Collection, product managers can design and deliver results that satisfy customers.
Software tools are similar to statistical tools as most of them are designed and developed based on the concepts and theories of statistics. The only major difference is probably in the way they are used during Six Sigma projects. Software tools used in Six Sigma do not only speed up business processes but also help in eliminating errors present in the process itself. This helps in decreasing waste, which in turn helps the company to improve profit margins.
Some of the most commonly used software tools include the RapAnalyst which simplifies DOE (Design of Experiments) and many other activities related to data mining; MiniTab and SixNet Inteligence; and the Six Sigma calculator which is a hand tool.
Judgmental tools are entirely different from the statistical and software tools and are employed for aiding decision-making during the implementation stage of Six Sigma projects. One such tool is known as the Ishikawa Root Cause Analysis Diagram (Fishbone diagram), which helps in finding reasons for common problems and identifying data collection areas. It also helps in finding the reasons as to why a project has gone off track or is not producing planned results. Other judgmental tools include Brain Storming & Affinity Group Tool, Thought Map, and Regulation Diagram.
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online ( http://www.sixsigmaonline.org ) offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.