20 Six Sigma Lean Tools: A Detailed List by Category

1. Six Sigma Lean Tools & Techniques–Categories (recap from previous post)

To implement Six Sigma and Lean tools and techniques, you need to break down the manufacturing process into individual processes which can then be labeled as a) non-value-added activities or NVAs, b) activities which are required by the manufacturing process which I will refer to as “work flow”, and c) value-added activities or VAs. In Six Sigma you try maximize the effectiveness of value-added activities (category c) by reducing variances in the outputs. Lean manufacturing consists of minimizing non-value-added activities (category b) and streamlining the work flow (category b). Then, there are systems of Organization that try to rationalize the manufacturing process as a whole, and systems of Improvement which apply to the individual processes AND the entire overall manufacturing process.

These different categories are related schematically in the diagram below.

2. Six Sigma Lean Tools & Techniques—Details

Here are the various tools & techniques used in Six Sigma Lean manufacturing based on the color-coded category listed above. Terms that come from Japanese are listed in italics.


Tool or Technique


NVA 1. Elimination of muda Minimization of waste in NVAs
2. SMED or Single-Minute Exchange of Dies Rapid changeovers of production machinery
3. Motion study and material handling Reducing unnecessary motion in the handling of materials from one station to another.
4. JIT or Just In Time Just-in-Time is a system of ordering parts so that they are delivered just when needed in order to reduce unnecessary inventory.
5. POUS (Point of Use Storage) Parts are stored near where they are to be used to reduce transfer time and storage costs.
6. Cellular flow Machines are grouped together according to the families of parts produced, reducing travel time and storage costs.
7. Kanban—”Pull” system Notifies operators to order parts or orders them automatically from suppliers when needed.
Work Flow 8. SUR or Set-Up Reduction Breakdown into internal/external set-up operations and preparation of parts & maintenance.
9. Visual Controls For purposes of visually displaying instructions to operators regarding proper work flow.
10. Poka-yoke Means “error-proofing”; visual and manual controls that help detect/prevent operator errors.
VA 11. Decreased cycle time Reduction of time required to process one batch.
12. Batch reduction Reduction of units per batch in order to avoid overproduction and inventory.
13. Quality at Source Quality inspection done by every operator at every stage rather than leaving quality up to “final inspection” alone.
14. Continuous or one-piece flow Goal is the culmination of the above three techniques: reduce batch to one piece at a time in which operator adds value at every step in the most time-efficient manner.
Organization 15. SOPs or WIs Documentation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Work Instructions (WI)
16. TPM or Total Productive Maintenance Doing regular maintenance not just to correct malfunctioning equipment but to prevent such malfunctions from occurring.
17. 5S System System for workplace organization to make sure workers have safe, reliable access to all necessary tools.
18. Plant Layout Planning layout of production facilities in plant so as to minimize work flow.
Improvement 19. Kaizen Teams Continuous, incremental improvements on existing processes using teamwork.
20. Value Stream Mapping Breakdown and analysis of manufacturing processes to facilitate reduction of NVAs, and streamline work flow.

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