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by Robert Green

In life, they say, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Similarly, in business, where there's a demand, there's a supply. This maxim certainly holds true when it comes to Six Sigma software.

Click Here for a list of SIx Sigma software providers.

 Arguably one of the most popular contemporary quality systems, if not business philosophies in general, Six Sigma focuses businesses on one goal: delivering near-perfect products and services. More exactly, Six Sigma borrows its name from a mathematical quantification of a near-perfect (just 3.4 defects per million opportunities) quality level. In decades past, the best of companies operated at a 99-percent defect-free level (which allows for some 10,000 defects per million).

 Just 3.4 defects per million seems a lofty goal, which intuitively brings to mind a degree of accuracy the likes of which we're used to expecting only from computers. So when Six Sigma initiatives call for a top-down approach and strict adherence templates, methods and tools, it makes sense that computer technology is one of the first resources we consider to make this journey as navigable as possible. And why not?

 Perhaps the only thing to grow as exponentially as Six Sigma during the past 10 years or so is the personal computer. The typical modern-day home now has as many computers as it had TVs 10 years ago. And today, most businesses, many of which own at least one computer per employee, would be lost without these modern-day necessities.

 But selecting Six Sigma software isn't like choosing the right word processing application. You can't just run down to the local office supply warehouse and browse a few titles for features listed on the boxes. Six Sigma is a comprehensive, holistic program, and as such, it's unlikely you'll find any one title to meet all your needs. Moreover, it's implausible that you'd find it at Office Depot anyway. But, hey, that's why you read Quality Digest.

 Six Sigma is synonymous with lots of data. Consequently, a major sector of the Six Sigma software market is statistical tools, which different software developers provide in different formats. Air Academy Associates, for example, sells a suite of software packages that integrate into Microsoft Excel, a spreadsheet application that many businesses already utilize. Alternatively, the flagship title of the company with the same name, MINITAB is a stand-alone statistical and graphical analysis software application that is no less comprehensive.

 Both of these approaches have their virtues. The Excel-based applications are user-friendly for anyone with even a little experience with the popular spreadsheet title. On the other hand, the stand-alone architecture of MINITAB and similar products means that the authors of the software weren't constrained by the limits of the base application.

 But again, statistics are just one element of Six Sigma software. "For traditional Six Sigma using the define-measure-analyze-improve-control approach, one will need descriptive statistics, measurement systems analysis, control charts, test of proportions, t-test, F-test, confidence intervals and sample size calculations, and a DOE capability to include full and fractional factorials, Taguchi designs, and regression analysis with prediction and multiple response optimization," suggests Sue Darby of Air Academy Associates.

 "The Six Sigma practitioner frequently must use PowerPoint, Excel, a good flowcharting program [to map processes] and good statistical software," adds Susan Portrey of StatSoft Inc., which makes STATISTICA. Minitab's Jeff Ozarski adds QFD/FMEA tools, simulation software and team collaboration tools to this list.

 "For design for Six Sigma in manufacturing, one will need some form of Monte Carlo simulation that can predict defects based upon an engineering relationship or an empirical model, also known as a transfer function," says Darby.

"For transactional and service DFSS, one will need a robust discrete-event simulation capability to allow the processes to be modeled and optimized."

 Six Sigma recognizes that businesses' primary mission is to make money, which the system aims at doing by becoming more efficient to better meet the needs of the market. Likewise, to make your journey toward six-sigma quality as smooth as possible, make sure that any tools you select fit your needs.

 "Most companies [new to Six Sigma] focus initially, and rightly so, on the low hanging fruit," explains Darby. It's in these early stages that we hear of companies saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per Six Sigma project. But the opportunities for these grand savings, although very important both financially and to build support and inertia for a new Six Sigma initiative, are often quickly exhausted. "The future heroes will be those who prevent the waste from occurring in the first place," Darby adds.

 Bear this in mind when looking for the Six Sigma software solution that's right for your company. It's likely that what you need to get started won't completely meet your future needs. So be sure to invest in packages that offer a little growing room. A few considerations when choosing software include:

  Will many people at multiple sites need access to the information in any of these programs? If so, consider looking for Web-based solutions.

  How computer literate is your workforce? The more comfortable with computers and various software your employees are, the more complex the software can be and the less the user interface matters.

  What is your budget for this software? Data analysis software, including a suite of statistical tools, can cost up to $2,000. You should be able to find some good process mapping and simulation packages for about $1,200. And QFD, FMEA and team tools should come to less than $500.

 In all of the myriad choices available, one thing is certain: Just as the popularity of Six Sigma seems poised to continue its upward trend, so too is the number of software companies vying for the business of providing supporting software. (See the list of Six Sigma software providers that follows this article.) "There will be more software companies providing Six Sigma tools as the Six Sigma market expands," agrees Ozarski  as he considers the future of this market. "At the same time, the existing companies that provide complementary tools will begin to collaborate to ensure their tools work well together."

About the author

 Robert Green is Quality Digest's managing editor. E-mail him at contact_us . Letters to the editor regarding this article can be e-mailed to .

Today's Specials

Six Sigma Software Suppliers

Achiever Business Solutions

  • 445 Hutchinson Avenue, Suite 800
  • Columbus, OH  43235
  • Ph. 888-645-4933   Fax 614-410-9004

Advanced Surface Microsopy Inc.

  • 6009 Knyghton Road
  • Indianapolis, IN  46220
  • Ph. 800-374-8557   Fax 317-254-8690

Advanced Systems Consultants

  • P.O. Box 1176
  • Scottsdale, AZ  85252
  • Ph. 480-423-0081   Fax 480-423-8217

Advanced Systems & Designs Inc.

  • 3925 Industrial Drive
  • Rochester Hills, MI  48309
  • Ph. 866-772-0012   Fax 248-844-2199

Air Academy Associates

  • 1650 Telstar Drive, Ste. 110
  • Colorado Springs, CO  80920
  • Ph. 800-748-1277   Fax 719-531-0778

Alamo Learning Systems

  • 3160 Crow Canyon Road, Ste. 280
  • San Ramon, CA  94583
  • Ph. 800-829-8081   Fax 925-277-1919

Breakthrough Management Group (BMG)

  • 2101 Ken Pratt Blvd.
  • Longmont, CO  80501
  • Ph. 800-467-4462   Fax 303-827-0011

Corel Corp.—iGrafx

DataNet Quality Systems

  • 24567 Northwestern Highway
  • Southfield, MI  48075
  • Ph. 248-357-2200   Fax 248-357-4933

Deltek Systems Inc.

  • 8280 Greensboro Drive
  • McLean, VA  22102
  • Ph. 800-456-2009   Fax 703-734-1146


  • 257 S.W. Madison Ave.
  • Corvallis, OR  97333
  • Ph. 800-478-2892   Fax 541-758-4666

General Engineering Methods Inc.

  • 12459 White Tail Court
  • Plymouth, MI  48170
  • Ph. 734-455-8980   Fax 734-455-8980

George Group Inc.

  • 13355 Noel Road, Ste. 1100
  • Dallas, TX  75240
  • Ph. 972-789-3211   Fax 972-458-9229

H.J. Steudel & Associates Inc.

  • 6417 Normandy Lane, Ste. 205
  • Madison, WI  53719
  • Ph. 866-271-3121   Fax 608-271-4755

The Harrington Group Inc.

  • 11501 Lake Underhill Road
  • Orlando, FL  32825
  • Ph. 800-476-9000   Fax 407-382-6141

Helm Instrument Co. Inc.

Hertzler Systems Inc.

  • 2312 Eisenhower Drive N.
  • Goshen, IN  46526
  • Ph. 219-533-0571   Fax 219-533-3885

InfinityQS International

  • 7998 Donegan Drive
  • Manassas, VA  20109
  • Ph. 800-772-7978   Fax 703-393-2211

IQS Inc.

  • 19706 Center Ridge Road
  • Cleveland, OH  44116
  • Ph. 800-635-5901   Fax 440-333-3752


  • 1433 Webster St., Ste. 200
  • Oakland, CA  94612
  • Ph. 866-321-4769   Fax 509-357-8673

Intelex Technologies Inc.

  • 165 Spadina Ave., Ste. 300
  • Toronto, ON M5T 2C3  Canada
  • Ph: 416-599-6009  Fax: 416-599-6867

JMP, A Business Unit of SAS

Juran Institute Inc.

  • 115 Old Ridgefield Road
  • Wilton, CT  06897
  • Ph. 800-338-7726   Fax 203-834-9891

Lighthouse Systems Inc.

  • 6780 Pittsford-Palmyre Road, Building 3, Ste. C
  • Fairport, NY  14450
  • Ph. 716-223-0600   Fax 716-223-0620

Lilly Software Associates Inc.

Minitab Inc.

  • 3081 Enterprise Drive
  • State College, PA  16801
  • Ph. 800-488-3555   Fax 814-238-1702

New Paradigms Inc.

  • 5630 Mahoney Ave.
  • Minnetonka, MN 55345
  • Ph: 612-388-2944  Fax: 952-934-5509

Nutek Inc.

  • 3829 Quarton Road
  • Bloomfield Hills, MI  48302
  • Ph. 248-540-4827   Fax 248-540-4827


  • 3025 Boardwalk, Ste. 190
  • Ann Arbor, MI  48106
  • Ph. 734-761-4940   Fax 734-761-4966

Palisade Corp.

  • 31 Decker Road
  • Newfield, NY  14867
  • Ph. 800-432-7475   Fax 607-277-8001

Pilgrim Software Inc.

Pister Group Inc.

  • 550 Eglinton Ave. W.
  • Toronto, ON  M5N 3A8  Canada
  • Ph. 905-886-9470   Fax 905-764-6405

PQ Systems Inc.

  • 10468 Miamisburg-Springboro Road
  • Miamisburg, OH  45342
  • Ph. 800-777-3020   Fax 937-885-2252

Prism eSolutions LLC

  • 512 Township Line Road, 3 Valley Square, Ste. 362
  • Blue Bell, PA  19422
  • Ph. 888-386-2330   Fax 267-468-0199

ProcessModel Inc.

  • 32 W. Center St., Ste. 301
  • Provo, UT  84601
  • Ph. 801-356-7165   Fax 801-356-7175

Proxima Technology

  • 1350 17th St., Ste. 200
  • Denver, CO  80202
  • Ph. 720-946-7200   Fax 720-932-9499

QSE/Quality Systems Engineering

  • 2724 Kathleen Drive
  • Brighton, MI  48114
  • Ph. 810-229-7329   Fax 810-494-5001

Qualitron Systems Inc.

Quality America Inc.

The Quality Group

Quality Systems Integrators

  • P.O. Box 91
  • Eagle, PA  19480
  • Ph. 800-458-0539   Fax 610-458-7555

Resource Engineering Inc.

  • P.O. Box 219
  • Tolland, CT  06084
  • Ph. 800-810-8326   Fax 860-872-2488


  • 29002 La Carreterra
  • Laguna Niguel, CA  92677
  • Ph. 949-364-5907   Fax 949-364-5907

S-Matrix Corp.

SigmaPro Inc.

  • 3131 S. College Ave., Ste. 2C
  • Fort Collins, CO  80525
  • Ph. 970-207-0077   Fax 970-207-0078


  • 105 W. Virginia St.
  • McKinney, TX  75069
  • Ph. 972-542-7517   Fax 972-542-7520

Six Sigma Academy

  • 8876 Pinnacle Peak Road, Ste. 100
  • Scottsdale, AZ  85255
  • Ph. 800-726-2030  Fax 480-515-9507

Six Sigma Qualtec

Skymark Corp.

  • 7300 Penn Ave.
  • Pittsburgh, PA  15208
  • Ph. 800-826-7284   Fax 412-371-0681

Stat-Ease Inc.

  • 2021 E. Hennepin Ave., Ste. 480
  • Minneapolis, MN  55413
  • Ph. 612-378-9449   Fax 612-378-2152

Statgraphics, Manugistics Inc.

  • 2115 E. Jefferson St.
  • Rockville, MD  20852
  • Ph. 800-592-0050   Fax 301-255-8406

StatPoint LLC

  • P.O. Box 1124
  • Englewood Cliffs, NJ  07632
  • Ph. 800-232-7828   Fax 201-585-8589

StatSoft Inc.

  • 2300 E. 14th St.
  • Tulsa, OK  74104
  • Ph. 918-749-1119   Fax 918-749-2217


  • 1111 Chester Ave.
  • Cleveland, OH  44114
  • Ph. 800-735-4440   Fax 216-687-1168

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