What is Six Sigma? How Do Professionals Use It For Process Improvement

What is six sigma

To understand what is Six Sigma, let us take the example of the online shopping experience. Most of us have, at some point or the other, ordered a product from an e-commerce platform and received the wrong package. Do you know why this happens? Processing errors. These can cost the business heavily. This is where the Six Sigma methodology comes into play: Companies use it to find the possibilities of errors or defects in business processes, figure out how much they cost the business and calculate the scope of improvement. Let’s delve deeper into this methodology and how it works.

what is Six Sigma

What is Six Sigma?

It is a process improvement methodology that’s used to identify and eliminate issues or errors in various business processes, such as supply chains, with the help of data. In simple terms, Six Sigma is a quality control process that uses various tools and techniques to make business processes more efficient.

Six Sigma Principles


The end objective of the process is to ensure customer satisfaction. Therefore, it focuses on improving project and product management processes that are customer-centric.

Continuous Process Improvement

This methodology focuses on continuous improvement to ensure efficiency. Moreover, it helps reduce as much variation as possible.

Eliminating Waste

This principle involves eliminating steps, resources, or other elements from the process that are redundant or make the process slow.

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What is the Six Sigma Methodology?

What is the Six Sigma Methodology?

Variation refers to any slight change in a process, and multiple variations accumulate over time, leading to errors. Six Sigma methodology is based on the concept that slight variations or changes in processes create room for error. Moreover, these can lead to defective products, impacting customer satisfaction. Therefore, it identifies variation and reduces error opportunities. Remember, it does not tell us what the defective products are; instead, it helps identify defective opportunities or variations that occur repeatedly.

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is a framework that combines two methodologies for process improvement—Lean and Six Sigma. The Lean methodology focuses on continuous improvement and enhancing organizational efficiency, making product management cycles leaner or shorter. Moreover, it focuses on the entire organizational change. On the other hand, Six Sigma, mainly focuses on improving processes. Hence, the two methodologies have been combined to create the Lean Six Sigma framework. The Lean methodology helps eliminate waste, and Six Sigma is used for statistical analysis to identify defects.

Phases of Six Sigma

It is a data-driven methodology. It uses a problem-solving approach to find issues and improve processes. Hence, the entire methodology is divided into the following five elaborate phases:


The first phase includes identifying or defining a process that needs to be improved. For example, if a company wants to reduce the number of customer complaints, the problem of high customer complaints is defined.


This involves collecting data to measure the current performance of the process. It helps determine the scope of the problem and identify areas for improvement.


At this point, data is collected to determine the problem’s root cause. This involves an in-depth analysis of a process and identifying areas or elements that contribute to the issue.


The improvement stage entails developing solutions to reduce the variations or defects in the process. It includes making continuous changes to the process and conducting tests to ensure efficiency.


In the control phase, the improvements are monitored to ensure they work as planned. This step involves measuring the stability of the changes made.

Six Sigma Techniques

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS)

The DFSS technique involves defining customer requirements, developing process and product designs, testing and verifying designs, and implementing the final design. Simply put, it helps develop new processes or products to implement the Six Sigma methodology.

Statistical Process Control (SPC)

SPC is a monitoring technique that identifies trends and patterns, which ultimately helps figure out potential problems in the process. This technique involves collecting and analyzing data using statistical tools to identify process variability and trends.

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

FMEA is a technique used to identify potential failures in a process and assess their impact. In other words, each step in a process is evaluated to identify potential failures, the effects of those failures, and the likelihood of their occurrences.

The Six Sigma Tools

The Six Sigma Tools

To further understand Six Sigma, you need to know the various statistical tools and techniques it uses to optimize business processes. These include:

Control Charts

Control charts are used to track the stability of a process over time. For instance, they can be used to track the performance of a specific process and ensure that it remains stable.

Pareto Chart

A Pareto chart is used to identify the most significant factors contributing to a problem. This tool is useful when a company wants to prioritize its improvement efforts based on the impact of each factor.


It shows the distribution of data in graphical form. Moreover, this tool can be used to understand the distribution of a specific process, such as the frequency of defects or customer complaints.

Process Map

This diagram-based tool shows the steps in a process, including inputs, outputs, and decision points. Moreover, it is used to understand a process’s flow and identify improvement areas.

Value Stream Mapping

A tool used to visualize and analyze the flow of information and various activities involved in a process. Moreover, it helps identify areas for improvement, such as reducing waste or cycle times.

Careers in Six Sigma

Learning what is Six Sigma helps you plan for lucrative and challenging jobs. Moreover, it also makes you a preferred candidate for leadership positions like a product manager and VP-operations.

The following career opportunities are available based on your level and experience in Six Sigma.

    • White Belt

If you have the Six Sigma white belt, you can apply for fresher jobs like production associate, quality associate, or Six Sigma engineer. Moreover, the average salary for professionals with Six Sigma White Belt certification in the U.S. is $66,000 annually.

    • Yellow Belt

With a Six Sigma yellow belt, you can easily take up management roles like quality improvement manager, business optimization specialist, and technical support manager. Moreover, Six Sigma yellow belt specialists earn an average salary of $99,653 annually in the U.S.

Six Sigma is one of the core elements of the management strategies of organizations. Learn more about Six Sigma through Emeritus’ online courses on project management. These can help you become an expert in this field and advance your career. 

By Sneha Chugh

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