An Evaluation into the Limitations and Emerging Trends of Six Sigma: An Empirical Study


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the limitations and emerging trends of Six Sigma through an empirical study. Six Sigma is one of the most powerful business process improvement strategies used by numerous World Class corporations for over three decades. A handful of existing publications address some limitations and potential trends of Six Sigma, yet there are no empirical studies investigating the fundamental limitations and emerging trends of Six Sigma.

Design/methodology/approach: The authors developed an online survey instrument based on the existing literature addressing the above. In this study, 61 Six Sigma Master Black Belts and Black Belts from large manufacturing companies and 25 academics who are familiar with the Six Sigma topic participated and contributed to the research.

Findings: The study reports the top 5 limitations and emerging trends of Six Sigma from the viewpoints of both academics and experts from large manufacturing companies. These are: integration of Six Sigma with Big Data, use of Six Sigma in small medium and micro enterprises, over emphasis of Six Sigma on variability reduction, poor implementation of Six Sigma and its negative impact on employee satisfaction and non-exploitation of integration of Six Sigma with Industry 4.0.

Practical implications: In order to sustain Six Sigma initiatives, it is imperative that limitations and fundamental gaps are understood, and strategies developed to address them. The authors argue that leading academic scholars have a vital role to play in working with industry practitioners to overcome the limitations and emerging trends addressed above.

Originality/value: To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first empirical study looking into the limitations, research gaps and emerging trends of Six Sigma.


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering


Article in Press

Keywords and Phrases

Industrial research; Manufacture; Process monitoring; Six sigma; Work simplification; Business process improvement strategies; Design/methodology/approach; Emerging trends; Empirical studies; Fundamental limitations; Limitations; Manufacturing companies; Research gaps; Process engineering

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2019 Emerald, All rights reserved.