There are many software programs available that support the Lean Six Sigma methodology and empower practitioners. We have found that some are essential to being effective and we wanted to share that information with you. The top seven programs listed are in constant use at Smarter Solutions. We have also provided other recommendations of software for Lean Six Sigma and business improvement needs.
Minitab® – This statistical software provides an analysis capability for a black belt well beyond the minimum necessary for a typical Lean Six Sigma project, but not all projects are typical. Minitab provides the best help functionality of any available statistical software, which can allow belts to go beyond their training to use Minitab to answer the less common issues. It also makes it easy to instruct a student through a complex issue as a remote coach. www.minitab.com
iGrafx® Process for Six Sigma – This software provides simple flow charting functionality plus the ability to use the flow chart to create a process simulation that can easily be analyzed with Minitab. The tight integration with Minitab allows a belt to seamlessly use simulated data in a Lean Six Sigma project. The software has allowed students to build a simulation of the current state and perform the entire project against the simulator to develop a robust improvement without any disruption of the current processes. The flow charting functions include standard flow charts, BPMN, organizational charts, VSMs and more. www.igrafx.com
Microsoft® Access (or SQL data base) – Although MS Access is a common PC database system; nearly all data bases work in the same general manor. SQL means Structured Query Language, and the common commands will work on nearly every modern database and data warehouse. This entry is about using databases to manage large data sets and to allow belts to acquire information, on their own, from the corporate data warehouse. Excel and Minitab do fine with some data, but Smarter Solutions’ MBBs often go to data base software to handle customer data and to provide data summaries and data subsets.
Microsoft® Visio® – Visio is a popular flow charting program that provides excellent basic flow charting functionality. Many companies obtain licenses with their Microsoft Office software. The flow charting functions include standard flow charts, BPMN, organizational charts, Fault Tree diagrams, VSMs and more. visio.microsoft.com
Enterprise Performance Reporting System (EPRS)™ – This is our preferred business performance reporting and scorecarding software. It is a Smarter Solutions® product that we have developed to allow our clients the ability to automate scorecards and dashboards that use control charting and the 30,000-foot-level® methods that we teach in our courses. www.smartersolutions.com/software/eprs-server
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Fathom – This visualization is software used to demonstrate statistical methods using monte-carlo sampling and randomness in real time. Fathom is used in much of the AP® statistics training at the high school level. It provides many pre-built files that demonstrate a myriad of statistical concepts. www.keycurriculum.com/products/fathom
@RISK – This monte-carlo simulation add-in for Excel allows a belt to use equations in Excel to model future performance through the addition of variation into input variables. @RISK can be used to perform financial risk assessments based on estimates of the future business levels and return rates. It is similar to the Crystal Ball add-in from Oracle®. www.palisade.com/risk/
Other Recommendations of Software for Lean Six Sigma and Business Improvement
Minitab Quality Companion – This is a good supplement for Lean Six Sigma practitioners who are new to the game. It provides many templates and functions that are used in Lean Six Sigma projects. Smarter Solutions does not actually use this software, since we have our own templates and such that we have collected over the years, but we recommend it for organizations just beginning. www.minitab.com/products/quality-companion
DataDesk® – This software was developed by Paul Velleman, a professor at Cornell and one of John Tukey’s PhD students. It is fantastic for graphical analysis. It can be used for live demonstrations of power transformations and regression, and is also good for regular data analysis! www.datadesk.com
ActivStats® – Also a Data Description, Inc. product such as DataDesk. This is an excellent multimedia statistics refresher class.
Design-Ease® – DOE software from Stat-Ease®. This program has much great DOE functionality but does not have the basic analysis and graph capability of Minitab. www.statease.com
SigmaXL® – This add-in for Excel® provides statistical analysis tools. The software claims to provide all of the same analysis found in Minitab plus a bit more. Used by some companies as a less expensive option for their Green Belts. www.sigmaxl.com
FreeMind – An open-source, free, mind-mapping software. If you do not understand mind mapping, it also works well to document a brainstorming process in a graphical format quite different from the old fish-bone diagram. http://sourceforge.net/projects/freemind/
Microsoft® Project – This software provides the ability to manage large projects with a true project management tool. It does have a long learning curve to use most of the capabilities, but if you have project management training, it can be beneficial. www.microsoft.com/project
Instantis – This software can be used to manage a large scale Lean Six Sigma deployment. It includes project management and archiving functions along with process mapping, simulations, and many templates for Lean Six Sigma use. www.instantis.com