Quality 101: Exploring the Six Sigma Tools and Their Benefits

business innovationInnovation is an important concept in today’s business world. To save time and money, organisations push for innovative ideas to automate tasks, cut on work hours and improve existing processes. This is where Six Sigma principles come in.

Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology for process standardisation. Practitioners believe that process variations produce risks and consume resources that can otherwise be prevented or saved through standard processes. Some businesses integrate these tools to address key challenges, along with reliability centred maintenance processes.

Business experts use the following tools when planning or managing a process improvement project:

Affinity Diagram

Like in any project, most Six Sigma plans begin with brainstorming. For better organisation of ideas, practitioners use an affinity or interrelationship diagram. Instead of plainly listing their ideas, they connect these thoughts, categorise them and, thus, get a more holistic view of their ideas and proposals.

Cause and Effect Diagram

Sometimes called the Ishikawa or Fishbone diagram, this tool shows the list and categories of problems that may arise in a process improvement project. It considers personnel, materials, methods, equipment and other resources that, if modified or controlled, can lead to bad output.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

FMEA evaluates risks depending on severity, prospect of occurrence and probability of detection. It assigns values of 1 to 10 according to these factors and multiplies those values to get the Risk Priority Number (RPN) — higher RPN means higher risk. If you are working on a process improvement project in the workplace, you can use FMEA software to find out how much of the problem will affect your project quality and success.

Process Decision Program Chart

This chart explores the consequences of each decision you will make during the project. For example, you will map out the consequences of whether to send surveys or not, or the costs of whether to consult your manager or not.

If used accordingly, the Six Sigma tools can provide valuable insights into events that you may not foresee or plan. With utmost discipline and respect for data, you can use these tools to measure project feasibility and grow your career in the field of quality.