What is Lean Six Sigma?

Publish Date: March 27th, 2020

Written by Gary Cox

Blog Category: Lean Six Sigma

The first question most often asked of me as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt (LSS MBB) is; ‘What is Lean Six Sigma’?

Lean Six Sigma is a combination of two proven process improvement methodologies working together; Lean and Six Sigma. Tools in each discipline work together in the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) framework to solve problems and drive improvements.

Many attributes of modern Lean rest with Toyota as leaders Shiego Shingo, Karou Ishikawa and Eiji Toyoda who focused on improvements of vehicle production. Henry Ford was an early adopter of assembly line manufacturing, although his assembly plants would hardly be considered lean by Shingo and Toyoda standards. Lean focuses on removal of non-value added steps, reduced parts inventory, balanced work and continuous one-piece flow. That is, producing one piece of work or product at a time, thus eliminating multiple defective products.

While many credit Jack Welch from GE or Bob Galvin from Motorola with introducing quality excellence to a defined standard deviation and the role of Six Sigma in production quality products, Carl Friedrich Gauss introduced the normal curve distribution (the ‘Bell curve’) in 1750. Frank B. Gilbreth Sr. introduced process control charts to the world in the early 1900’s. Six Sigma highlights the quality output of a process and quality has been measured as long as products or services have been around.

What about you?

Well, Lean Six Sigma impacts your work even if you don’t know it. Every day you interact with companies who are looking for ways to improve the quality of their products and services at lower costs. This means you are either the beneficiary of their efforts or, if you’re business owner/operator, that you should be thinking about it too as your competition isn’t standing still and neither should you be.

There are many tools in the Lean Six Sigma toolbox, some very simple to apply in any business. All businesses have processes, from order of a product or service to delivery of that product or service. Think about the ‘processes’ in your business. How do you know how effective and efficient they are? What measures do you use? Customer surveys, money in the till at the end of the day, profit and loss statements, time to serve a customer, time to fill an order, quality of the product, consistency of the service or product? What your company measures tells a lot about where to focus on improvements.

In upcoming blogs, I’ll be introducing you to many Lean Six Sigma tools and the Lean Six Sigma methodology to help you improve your business processes.

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