The Lean Six Sigma Approach

The name Lean Six Sigma has to be understood before we go any further. Failure to do so will lead to a misunder­standing of the concept itself and its purpose. Clarification is best begun by stating what Lean Six Sigma is not. It most definitely is not some kind of a Lite Six Sigma, like an im­provement system designed for those who only want a little improvement or who don’t want to be bothered by the de­tails of Six Sigma. What we have here is a wedding between two healthy, robust, powerful systems that stood alone in the two previous sections—Lean and Six Sigma. The Six Sigma part of Lean Six Sigma is still the full-bodied, potent improvement system that we have discussed in the previ­ous section. The Lean part of Lean Six Sigma is still the complete, proven quality management system found in the Toyota Production System and Just-In-Time.

The two earlier sections explained the concepts of Lean and Six Sigma, respectively. This section explains a concept that combines the two to form Lean Six Sigma. The two complement each other with their strengths, namely Lean’s elimination of waste and Six Sigma’s breakthrough meth­odology for solving performance problems and making im­provements, DMAIC, and its infrastructure system of Belts. Lean Six Sigma is nothing more or less than the marriage of Lean and Six Sigma.

Advantages of Lean Six Sigma include:

  • Elimination of the eight wastes—waiting, overproduc­tion, rework, motion, transportation, processing, inven­tory, and intellect
  • Means of improving process flow whether on the manu­facturing floor, in an office, or any other setting
  • A structured means for identifying the key factors that determine the performance of all kinds of processes
  • Ordered methods for establishing key factors at the best possible level
  • Disciplined means of sustaining key factors at the best level
  • Synergistic advantage of linking the Lean tools with the Six Sigma tools in a systematic way and in a specified sequence
  • Tying all of these to the financial health of the organization

The objective of Lean Six Sigma is to make the organiza­tion superior in its day-to-day work and processes, its prod­ucts and services, and its business results. This has also been the objective of many organizations that have found that Lean alone, or Six Sigma by itself, did not quite provide all the results needed in their quest for a better competitive pos­ture. A lot of those organizations have found that by combin­ing Lean with Six Sigma, significant performance gains rela­tive to processes, products, services, employees, customer satisfaction, and the business bottom line have been real­ized. Those same organizations would also admit, however great their improvement record has been, that the improve­ment task is never finished—that continual improvement is a never-ending practice. With technology changing at an ever faster pace and with customer demands and preferences constantly shifting, the need for continually improving pro­cesses, employees, products, and services will be with us long into the future, if not forever. Given the level of competition in the marketplace of our shrinking world, there will always be the need for improvement of business performance. Lean Six Sigma provides a proven system for achieving continual improvement in every aspect of the organization’s business.

Source: Goetsch David L., Davis Stanley B. (2016), Quality Management for organizational excellence introduction to total Quality, Pearson; 8th edition.

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