What is Lean Six Sigma

What is Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma is a team-focused managerial approach that centers on improving performance by eliminating waste of resources and defects. The core approach is any use of resources that doesn’t create value for the customer is wasteful and should be eliminated.

Why is Lean Six Sigma important?

There are many stories of businesses seeing consistent, measurable improvements in operations from using the Lean Six Sigma methods. The combination of process streamlining through a data-driven approach is a solid business plan.

What is the history of Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is the combination of two methodologies. The first is Lean, developed by Toyota in the 1940s to streamline operational processes in the manufacturing and sale of cars.

Six Sigma was developed in the 1980s by Motorola and is inspired by Japan’s Kaizen model. It seeks to identify and reduce defects in the production process.

What is the Lean Six Sigma Core Concept?

Lean focuses on the reduction and elimination of eight kinds of waste. These are identified by the acronym DOWNTIME (defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra-processing). Any method, measure or tool that helps to identify or eliminate waste can be part of the lean methodology. Among those tools are:

  • The 5 Whys: This was also made popular by Toyota in the 1950s. It’s a pretty simple process–whenever a problem arises, just ask “Why?” Then keep asking why until you get to a solution. At least five times or more.
  • Kanban Inventory Control Cues: This involves using visual tools to keep track of work as it moves through a process.
  • Heijunka Box: This is a full wall-sized scheduling tool. It’s a grid formation where boxes called pigeonholes are items in process. The rows represent the process and the column is the time.
  • Ishikawa Fishbone Diagrams: This visual tool identifies cause and effect to help in determining reasons behind problems.
  • Takt Time Calculations: This formula identifies the maximum acceptable time to meet demands of the customer.

Six Sigma is about process improvement. Six Sigma uses the acronym DMAIC to explain their data-driven five-step method. DMAIC stands for define, measure, analyze, improve and control.

These two ways of focusing work meld together to form the core concept of Lean Six Sigma. Let’s look at how this happens.

What are the techniques of Lean Six Sigma?

  • Kanban practices which include work visualization and limited work in progress maximize efficiency and encourage continuous improvement.
  • Kaizen stresses self-development and ongoing improvement by team members to facilitate overall operational improvement.
  • Value stream mapping helps bring into focus places for eliminating waste and optimizing processes.
  • The 5S tool ensures that work environments are efficient, productive, safe and produce results.

What are the Lean Six Sigma phases?

The Lean Six Sigma phases are taken from the Six Sigma methodology.

  • Define: Define the problem from all points of view–the company perspective, the stakeholder perspective and the customer perspective.
  • Measure: Examine the problem and evaluate how it contributes to solving the problem. Tract actual performance data to support measurements.
  • Improve: Solve the problem and then verify the improvement that occurred. Data justifies that the solution fits the issue.
  • Control: Continuously monitor improvement and accelerate improvement where possible.

What are Lean Six Sigma Belt Levels?

Lean Six Sigma uses five belt levels to denote the various stages of expertise. This may vary slightly depending on the organization doing the certification.

  • White Belt: A white belt means an employee understands the basic meaning and goals of Lean Six Sigma.
  • Yellow Belt: A yellow belt means an employee understands essential Lean Six Sigma concepts, tools and techniques.
  • Green Belt: A green belt verifies that an employee has a level of expertise in Lean Six Sigma and can launch and manage Lean Six Sigma projects.
  • Black Belt: A black belt employee has advanced Lean Six Sigma expertise and reports to Master Black Belts. They can be full-time, cross-functional project leaders and also coach and mentor Green Belts.
  • Master Black Belt: Achieving a Master Black Belt has extensive Lean Six Sigma expertise and is typically responsible for the overall Lean Six Sigma initiative. They can mentor other belt levels and manage projects.

What are the benefits of Lean Six Sigma?

  • Lean Six Sigma increases the efficiency of important processes. Through this, companies can improve the working environment for employees and the customer experience as well.
  • By streamlining and simplifying processes, companies can have more control and adapt more quickly to new opportunities.
  • Streamlining can lead to increased revenue, reduced costs and more business opportunities.
  • Increasing employee skill levels can benefit all aspects of the organization and foster better employee engagement and loyalty.
  • Better methods of preventing defects saves time, money and human effort which would have taken longer to resolve.

The end goal is to reduce waste and improve performance by tracking all data associated with project processes. This will result in customers, employees and companies who are more satisfied.