What Are The 6 Sigma Steps?

If you’re looking to improve your business strategy, Six Sigma may be the answer. This comprehensive system is designed to help businesses streamline their processes and maximize efficiency in every area of their operations. Developed in 1986 by Bill Smith and Mikel J. Harry, Six Sigma has been adopted by many large companies for process improvement projects. For example, GE’s CEO, Jack Welch, made the system a central business strategy in 1995.  

Six Sigma allows companies to gauge the current performance of every business process across the entire organization. From analyzing why specific products are not meeting quality standards to figuring out ways to improve the customer experience, there is much to gain from implementing Six Sigma.


What Is Six Sigma Methodology?

Six Sigma is an effective business strategy and process improvement methodology used by project teams to control and improve performance. It has become one of the most widely recognized quality management systems, capable of improving processes within any organization.

The combination of traditional Six Sigma principles with Lean manufacturing techniques such as customer value stream mapping and waste elimination is known as Lean Six Sigma. Finding the right balance between Lean Six Sigma’s analytical approach and strategic thinking allows organizations to go beyond just cost savings. It enables them to increase revenue growth and drive higher profits overall through more efficient operations.

Six Sigma practitioners use a belt-based ranking system to determine seniority. The different rankings are:

  • White Belts: Those who haven’t undergone any kind of Six Sigma performance training.
  • Yellow Belts: They have a certain familiarity with Six Sigma and Lean management.
  • Green Belts: These individuals are certified and familiar with all Six Sigma analysis tools and processes.
  • Black Belts: Six Sigma black belt certification guarantees that a person has a clear understanding of Six Sigma and is capable of implementing it effectively. 
  • Master Black Belts: By developing strong leadership and problem-solving skills, a black belt can attain this rank.
  • Champions: These individuals are upper-management professionals at large and mid-size organizations capable of leading Six Sigma strategies and deployment. They also foster an industry of training among their peers.

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What Are The Benefits Of Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is designed to improve quality control and performance. This methodology utilizes data-driven analysis to identify problems within business processes and cost reduction strategies. It also eliminates defects in production processes, improves job standards, and reduces errors and waste.

The implementation of Six Sigma helps companies achieve consistent results by creating uniform job standards across departments. It can also help increase customer satisfaction levels and improve product and service delivery time frames. Six Sigma reduces overall costs by decreasing rework expenses, scrap material costs, and labor hours. All these factors come together to create an environment where businesses can effectively compete in the marketplace while keeping up with changing market trends.


The Core Six Sigma Process Steps (DMAIC)

The core components of the Six Sigma methodology are defined by the DMAIC cycle which is divided into five distinct phases:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Improve
  • Control

By following each step of DMAIC diligently, businesses can achieve significant improvements while cutting costs dramatically. With careful implementation and guidance from experienced practitioners, companies can look forward to attaining considerable returns on investment.

1. Define

The Define phase focuses on understanding the problem that needs to be addressed to meet project goals. This entails developing a project charter approved by upper management that outlines customer requirements and expectations, as well as plans for true improvements. This stage of the process sets up the rest of it. By addressing key questions like ‘What do we want?’ and ‘When do we need it?’ early on, teams can avoid wasting time on initiatives that don’t bring real value to customers.

At this point, teams can create plans for collecting relevant data about whatever problem they are trying to solve, whether it’s improving an existing product or creating more effective methods to decrease customer issues. This guarantees that future decisions can be based on evidence rather than guesswork. The Define phase is typically led by a Green Belt. When working on the Define phase, green belts should gather data from stakeholders and customers to help identify areas for improvement. A Black Belt can be consulted during this phase to help quantify how many standard deviations away from perfection the process currently stands.

2. Measure

During the Measurement phase, statistical methods such as cycle time analysis and other pertinent measurements must be taken so that the team has accurate information about what needs to change or improve. This involves gathering data to identify and quantify any deterioration in process performance or increase in process variation over time.

During this stage, it’s important for organizations to understand and analyze their processes as thoroughly as possible. Specialized tools can be leveraged to present a visual representation of any existing variations within a current process. By examining measurements regularly, businesses gain invaluable insights useful to tackle issues related to quality management or cost-effectiveness.

3. Analyze

In the Analyze phase, sophisticated statistical tools like regression models are used to assess trends between variables collected during measurement. This helps determine which factors could potentially affect customer satisfaction or waste reduction efforts most significantly.

Through a methodical approach to data collection and analysis, companies can determine which processes require more attention or resources in order to meet their desired objectives quickly and effectively. Important metrics to analyze include the cost of materials, waste reduction potential, and customer expectations.

By analyzing existing long-term defect levels and rates, a company can set strategic goals for improvement and create process improvement projects to deliver defect-free products. Using this type of analysis allows businesses to make informed decisions regarding how best to optimize the performance of certain processes while eliminating additional costs associated with wasted time or money due to inefficient operations.

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4. Improve

After analyzing all available data points, it’s time for Improvement. This step focuses on making changes to ensure the continued improvement of processes or products. Hands-on experience is essential at this point in the Six Sigma methodology. It allows practitioners to take corrective action more quickly. During this phase, organizations can achieve greater process efficiency and improved quality standards, leading them closer to achieving Six Sigma status in all aspects of their operations.

5. Control

When everything is working properly and meeting expectations, it’s time for the Control phase. During this phase, certain measures are put in place to ensure the long-term success of both product/service quality and efficiency gains made over the course of the project.

This stage focuses on maintaining and sustaining any improvements made. It is essential for manufacturing industry consultants and trainers to understand that long-term standard deviation can be controlled through high-quality standards. By controlling failure rate and common/critical failure factors, companies will experience fewer problems over time.

Six Sigma practitioners should strive to create processes with minimal variance from expected performance levels while also accounting for possible variations throughout production cycles. Organizations need to ensure their processes remain up-to-date by incorporating feedback from customers, auditing teams, or external experts. Control procedures should provide opportunities for employees involved in improvement projects to contribute ideas on how to reach higher quality standards.

Monitoring systems must be implemented so that if any issues arise, they are quickly identified and resolved before further damage occurs. It is essential for organizations to capture real-time data about their products’ performance so decisions concerning product maintenance can immediately be taken when needed.

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Six Sigma Techniques

Six Sigma techniques allow companies to become more efficient and gain a competitive advantage in the market with innovative solutions. It is important for practitioners to have knowledge about Six Sigma before beginning any project so they know what steps need to be taken and how decisions should be made throughout the process. This will ensure that projects are completed quickly and efficiently while still achieving effective outcomes.



Brainstorming is a dynamic process improvement technique within the Six Sigma framework. It encourages team members to come up with creative solutions and ideas, as well as effectively identify problem areas. As part of the data analysis stage in Six Sigma, brainstorming helps teams uncover root causes and develop quality-focused approaches for continuous improvement initiatives. This method can be used to drive effective project management and help solve complex problems that require more than one solution.

The primary goal of brainstorming sessions is to create an open environment where individuals feel safe sharing their opinions without judgment or criticism. It’s important to put aside any preconceived notions or biases so all ideas are considered equally. Even if they may lack experience, a low-level employee may be more aware of common failure factors and other issues than an experienced Six Sigma black belt.


Voice Of The Customer

The Voice of the Customer (VOC) is a critical step in Six Sigma process improvement. VOC provides insight into customer needs, requirements, and expectations as well as their opinions about current products/services.

Through VOC, businesses can identify areas for improvement and prioritize them according to customer preferences. Data collection methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups are used to gather data from customers that can then be analyzed using tools like root cause analysis or problem-solving techniques. Quality control measures should also be implemented during the VOC stage so that quality assurance standards are met.

VOC helps companies gain valuable insights into how their offerings compare with competitors and make changes where necessary to meet customer demands. Companies may even use this feedback to influence future decisions related to product development and marketing strategies, thus contributing positively towards achieving desired outcomes.


Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)

Kaizen or continuous improvement is an essential component of the Six Sigma methodology. Developed in Japan, this approach encourages organizations to adopt a Lean Manufacturing mindset by striving for continual progress over time. Kaizen focuses on root cause analysis and data-driven decision-making as opposed to relying on intuition alone.

Kaizen helps identify opportunities for improvement during the DMAIC cycle. By introducing Kaizen into your organization’s quality control strategy, you can ensure there is always forward momentum toward excellence in everything you do. With its focus on long-term success through constant iteration and refinement, it provides a powerful toolset for staying ahead of competitors while also improving customer satisfaction levels.

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The 5S System

The 5S system is a process improvement methodology used in Six Sigma projects. This system was developed by practitioners to provide a guide for their projects and improvement initiatives.

It is named after five Japanese words:

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

5S involves data analysis and streamlining of processes. The system emphasizes creating an orderly environment with minimal waste through effective organization methods such as sorting items into categories, labeling them clearly, and keeping only necessary things on hand. It also implements regular maintenance schedules and inspections so that any potential problems can be identified quickly before they cause further disruption or damage.

Practitioners can use 5S to ensure that all areas are functioning properly and efficiently. It also encourages employees to take ownership of their workspace by organizing it according to their own preferences and needs. By following this system consistently during Six Sigma projects, practitioners can make sure that no step is missed and the desired improvements are achieved faster.


Improve Your Business With The Gemba Walk App

The Gemba Walk app is a powerful tool for businesses looking to improve their processes and operations. By combining the principles of Six Sigma, Kaizen and continuous improvement into one easy-to-use platform, business owners have all they need to take control of their process improvement journey.

Organizations that are looking to improve their processes and operations should use the Six Sigma methodology in tandem with the Gemba Walk app. This comprehensive approach to problem-solving offers an effective way to optimize business operations. Moreover, it provides an excellent opportunity for companies seeking ways to differentiate themselves from competitors and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

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