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Design For Six Sigma - Tools

written by: Heidi Wiesenfelder • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/20/2011

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) allows businesses to design new processes, products and services that meet customer specifications. Throughout this process, a variety of tools help project teams clarify the project objective and parameters, understand customer needs, and implement an effective solution.

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    DFSS Tools

    Project charter: The project charter is one of the key Design for Six Sigma tools, because in order to successfully design a new product or service, a project team needs clarity regarding the project objectives, deliverables, schedule, budget, and roles. The charter should also clarify the business need that was identified, and how project success will be evaluated.

    Organizational change plan: In DMAIC projects, stakeholder analysis is critical because project teams are going to be working on an existing process, affecting the individuals conducting and managing that process as well as those groups and individuals who provide input to the process or are dependent on its output. Even in a DFSS project, team leaders need to be aware of the potential for resistance to change, as creation of a new product, service or process will no doubt affect how business is currently being done.

    Voice of the customer (VOC) techniques: A central tenet of DFSS is that effective product or service design requires clear detailed understanding of customer requirements before the design phase begins. Teams can use tools such as surveys, focus groups, and questionnaires to gather information from potential customers about their expectations and needs. They may also be able to rely on existing data such as customer feedback on existing products and processes.

    Affinity diagram or tree diagram: Once a DFSS team has gathered customer input, the members need a way to organize that information so that they can clarify and prioritize customer requirements. The affinity diagram is one of the simplest Design for Six Sigma tools, as project team members merely group individual customer statements into categories based on similar characteristics. This is often done by arranging sticky notes on a flipchart or conference room table. A tree diagram provides a more formal means of organizing the information, where the team starts with a general statement such as, "I want software that works right," and drills down to underlying specifics, such as, "I want software that runs without crashing," or "I need the tax calculations to be accurate."

    Pareto chart:The Pareto chart allows Six Sigma practitioners to organize customer requirement data to determine which are the most common needs. It can be used in conjunction with other customer data tools to get a comprehensive picture of which customer needs are both widespread and truly critical.

    Kano model: The Kano model separates stated customer needs into three categories. If a need is a "Must Be," the company will get no bonus points for meeting it, but customers will simply not buy the product if it is not met. With a "Satisfier" type need, customer satisfaction increases as the extent to which the product meets that need increases. Finally, if a need is a "Delighter," customers may not even know they want a feature, but a business that includes it will have a leg up on the competition. By understanding which of the customer requirements fit into each of these categories, they can make the right decisions about which to address in the final design.

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    QFD/HOQ: The Quality Function Deployment (QFD) tool, also known as the House of Quality (HOQ), is perhaps the hallmark of the DFSS framework. Teams use a series of matrices to work through different decision stages in designing a new product or service. In the first step, they establish satisfaction criteria known as Critical to Quality (CTQ) characteristics, and determine based on ratings how well each stated customer need is addressed by each characteristic. In subsequent steps, a similar process is used to match CTQs to design concept elements and then to actual functions and features.

    FMEA: Use Failure Modes and Effects Analysis to identify potential risks in an implementation, and prioritize each one based on the likelihood of occurrence, its potential impact, and the likelihood that it would be discovered too late to prevent that impact. In a DFSS project it should be used during the Design phase before the product or service design is finalized.

    Pilot: It is often risky to do a full rollout of a new product, service or process, because the costs of problems can be high in terms of dissatisfied customers, lost revenue, and increased rework. By doing a small-scall test of a new design first, leaders can confirm that the design meets performance requirements based both on business need and customer requirements. They can also make improvements based on information gathered during the pilot before doing a full rollout.

    Simulation: In some cases, a project team may have the option to use a computer simulation to test out a new process before doing an actual implementation or even a pilot. A variety of software programs such as Process Model make this possible, and are particularly useful for modeling high-volume transactional processes such as calls to a contact center or loan applications. Simulation allows project teams to test a variety of combinations of parameters so they can identify potential problems and determine the best overall solution.

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS)

Learn about Design for Six Sigma and its tools, as well as types of DFSS training available.
  1. Design for Six Sigma - Process
  2. Design For Six Sigma - Tools
  3. Design for Six Sigma Methodology: Training For Your Team


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