Lean Six Sigma is a combination of two popular Continuous Improvement methods, namely “Lean” & “Six Sigma” – both which set the foundations for operational excellence. Both these approaches provide companies and organizations a clear path to achieving their missions as fast and efficiently as possible.
What is Lean Six Sigma?
Synergizing the best strategies of Lean & Six Sigma.
“Lean Six Sigma is a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of improvement that values defect prevention over defect detection. It drives customer satisfaction and bottom-line results by reducing variation, waste, and cycle time, while promoting the use of work standardization and flow, thereby creating a competitive advantage. It applies anywhere variation and waste exist, and every employee should be involved.”
Getting started with Lean Six Sigma
So if Lean Six Sigma is a combination of popular continuous improvement methods, then what exactly are the concepts of process improvements? Lean six sigma is a system that is utilized to analyse and improve processes, hence let’s first breakdown what we mean with process and improvements.
What is a Process?
A process is a sequential series of steps involved in building a product or delivering a service. If we took the dictionary definition it would be: “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.”
If you give it some thought then you’ll notice that nearly everything we do (or a majority of things) encompasses some form of a process – lacing up your shoe, making pancakes, treating a patient with some form of illness, or manufacturing a car or bike.
What do we mean by Process Improvement?
A process improvement is the proactive task with which employees of a company better understand the status quo in order to remove any walls to better serve customers. This can be done through the identification, analyzing and improving upon the existing business processes within the organization to optimize and meet new standards of quality.
Everything a company does or makes, whether a product or service is the result of a process, and understanding process improvements and gaining the necessary skills needed to remove waste, rework or any form of inefficiency is critical for the continued success and growth of a company/organization.
Working On a Process vs In a Process
When a hiring manager (or the person responsible for filling a certain role) hires a new employee they typically hire based on the expertise in a certain field. For example the expertise a surgeon has is that he/she is good at performing surgery, while the plumber is good at laying pipes. Professionals in their fields are experts when it comes to working in a process, however, that does not mean they are specialists at working on a process.
Learning to work on a process and improve it requires not only experience, but also education within the field of Continuous Improvement. This is where Lean Six Sigma jumps in.
Merging and utilizing Lean & Six Sigma
The benefit of Lean Six Sigma is that it provides a systematic approach helps you (employees) build their problem-solving capabilities by equpping them with the combined toolkit of waste reduction and process improvements.
If you are looking to upskill yourself and be a contributing factor for your business or company, then utilizing the power of both Lean and Six Sigma will enable you to “find a better way”, everydays as you learn to look at things from a different scientific method and approach.
The origins of Lean Six Sigma
Lean originated at Toyota during the 1940’s and Six Sigma originated at Motorola in the 1980’s. Despite them being taught as separate methodoligical approaches for many years, the line has blurred and it’s now common to see Lean & Six Sigma combined in order to utilize the best of both worlds.
Understanding both Lean and Six Sigma approaches is a critical skill in todays automation first business environment. The approaches and toolkits are extremely valuable when solving problems. It doesn’t matter where a tool comes from—Lean or Six Sigma—as long as it does the job. By combining these methods you have the best shot at applying the right mindset, tactics and tools to solve the problem.
Lean uses the PDCA – In other words “Plan-Do-Check-Act/Adjust” method and includes tools like 8 Wastes and 5S to achieve continuous improvement.
Six Sigma uses the DMAIC – “Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control” method and tools like Control Charts and FMEA to achieve continuous improvement.
What Are the Benefits of Using Lean Six Sigma?
In todays ever-on world companies and organizations face rising costs and new challenges every day. The advantage Lean Six Sigma provides is by enabling the culture by:
- Increasing customer loyalty and overall experience by streamlining processes and improving upon them,
- Bottom-line results are higher through the development of more efficient processes,
- Reducing costs and removing waste by shifting from a defect detection to defect prevention,
- Allowing an organization to pivot through a variety of daily challenges by standardizing processes and being more agile,
- Increasing capacity and profitability by decreasing lead times,
- and ultimately improving the morale and encouraging people development by having and enabling employees to be engaged.
Who benefits from using Lean Six Sigma?
All companies & their customers
Lean Six Sigma will work for any company or organization regardsless of size. The same success achieved by large businesses can be attained by small and medium businesses. Smaller organizations may actually be more agile with fewer people and lower levels of red tape to navigate through when it comes to reducing waste and improving processes.
This method works for companies looking for a roadmap to effectively meet their foundation and strategic goals. Applying Lean Six Sigma methodolgies frees up valuable resources so they can focus on what really matters all while helping to increase revenue and reduce costs. Ultimately, its a near win-win situation as customers of the company who receive consistent, reliable products and services through Lean Six Sigma enhancements within profit and enjoy a beautiful customer journey.
No only are profit margins improved through the use of Lean Six Sigma, but it also positively affects employees by enabling them in the work of improving their own processes by engaging them, their know-how and experience. Since employees are closest to the actual work of an organization – the delivery of products and services – their intimate knowledge makes them the best resources to analyze and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of those processes.
Employees build confidence and become increasingly valuable assets to a business by participating in successful Lean Six Sigma efforts. Studies show that employees who feel they’re able to positively impact an organization will perform better, be more accountable and live happier lives. Therefore not only should you be seeking out to upskill your skillset by learning and applying Lean Six Sigma principles, companies should pursue a Lean Six Sigma culture to quickly enable employees to master basic Lean Six Sigma skills, in order to continually standardize work, root out problems and remove waste in an organization.
What are belt levels?
Six Sigma belt levels are certifications indicating the roles that individuals are qualified to play in completing projects and promoting quality management practices. A lean six sigma certificate program equips professionals to be active participants in optimizing their company culture and avoiding downtime.