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What is Lean Six Sigma?

What is Lean Six Sigma?


Lean and Six Sigma are two process improvement methodologies which, when used together become extremely powerful business transformational tools.

Businesses all over Ireland are adopting Lean Six Sigma to maximise their organisation’s potential, increase team morale and effectiveness, and minimise waste and downtime.

This article will give you the answer to the popular question, "What is Lean Six Sigma?", outline how you can get started with process improvement in your working environment, and point you in the direction of other helpful articles.

You can also download our Essential PDF Guide to Lean Six Sigma to keep as a handy reference as you begin your Lean Six Sigma journey.

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What is the difference between Lean and Six Sigma?


What is the difference between Lean and Six Sigma?

Lean and Six Sigma are separate methodologies. They originated in different places and at different times, and they can be used independently.

A very general description would note that Lean targets waste, while Six Sigma works on reducing variation.

To understand why they are so dynamic together and fully answer the question "what is Lean Six Sigma?", let’s look at them in more detail individually, and then combined.

What is Lean?


What is Lean?

Origins of Lean


The concept of “lean manufacturing” and eliminating waste from processes has been around since before the 20th century. However, Lean as we know it today was established in the early 1990s, growing from the TPS (Toyota Production System).

Lean started out in the manufacturing sector. It was an approach for streamlining production by eliminating any unnecessary or wasteful elements of the production process.

Today, Lean has travelled expanded far beyond its origins. It is now widely implemented in all sectors of industry and business.

How Does Lean Work?


Lean targets waste, eliminating anything that is “non-value add” from your processes.

Using the 8 wastes as a guiding point, a Lean approach will consider all elements and stages within a process, carefully determining which parts of the process are value-add and essential to quality and productivity, and which elements are considered ‘waste’.

The 8 Wastes

What are the 8 Wastes?


  • Defects
  • Over-production
  • Waiting
  • Non-utilised talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra-processing

What is Six Sigma?


What is Six Sigma?

Origins of Six Sigma


Six sigma was first introduced within Motorola in 1986.

Its name refers to a statistical concept on the number of defects per million repetitions of a process, or outputs of a product. Six Sigma is a goal to work towards, the ideal low level of variations and defects per million opportunities (DPMO).

How Does Six Sigma Work?

Many refer to Six Sigma as “problem solving”. Six Sigma is used to identify flaws, variations, or defects in a process, and to correct them.

Using the DMAIC Cycle (Define, Measure, Analyse, Implement, Control), a process can be mapped and analysed to identify and resolve issues or flaws.

The DMAIC Cycle
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How do Lean and Six Sigma work together?


You can see how both Lean and Six Sigma would be very effective even when used alone. However, the two methodologies work so well together, that they are almost better known as the combination "Lean Six Sigma" than as standalone methods.

Lean helps you to streamline processes, while Six Sigma works to improve quality by reducing errors or variations. Both methods focus on developing optimally performing processes.

Let’s look at some of the benefits they can achieve when they are implemented together...

What are the Benefits of Lean Six Sigma?


Less, More, Better, Faster

You'll gain so many benefits from correctly implementing Lean Six Sigma. You can read more in-depth information in our article, Lean Six Sigma Savings and Benefits, but we’ve grouped the highlights below to give you an overview.

  • Less Waste, Defects & Variation
  • Lower Costs
  • More Savings
  • Increased Profits
  • Improved Efficiency
  • Higher Team Engagement
  • Better Processes
  • Consistent Quality
  • Shorter Cycle Times
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Faster Lead Times
  • Increased Capacity
Six Sigma Belts

Lean Six Sigma Belts

Lean six sigma belts help to define roles and establish a structure for your process improvement projects and strategy.

There are several different roles, and without a little explanation, it’s impossible to know where you want to channel your energy.

Here's a quick overview of the different belt levels and roles:

  • White Belt

    Has a foundational level of Lean Six Sigma knowledge. Often a recommended level of training for everyone in a business, regardless of whether they will work on Lean Six Sigma projects or not.
  • Yellow Belt

    Has a good understanding of how to apply Lean Six Sigma. Can contribute actively to a process improvement project.
  • Green Belt

    Has a strong level of Lean Six Sigma knowledge. Can manage process improvement projects with skill and confidence.
  • Black Belt

    Experienced Lean Six Sigma practitioner. Mentors other belt levels and manages process improvement at a cross-functional level.
  • Master Black Belt

    Very advanced level of Lean Six Sigma knowledge and experience. Manages process improvement at an organisational, strategic level
  • Champion

    Usually the executive leadership team. Supportive and invested in cultivating a strong process improvement culture across the business.
You can get a more in-depth look at the different roles by reading our article, Lean Six Sigma Belts and Roles.
Getting Started with Lean Six Sigma

Getting Started with Lean Six Sigma


To get started on your Lean Six Sigma journey, you can take either of the paths below.

You can choose a path focusing on Lean Six Sigma training and certifying in Lean Six Sigma as an individual, or one designed to introduce or progress a Lean Six Sigma culture in your organisation.

Lean Six Sigma For Your Career


Path 1: Training & Certifying as an Individual


We offer 3 public Lean Six Sigma Courses, with dates available throughout the year. Each focuses on meeting you wherever you are on your Lean Six Sigma path.
Lean Six Sigma for Your Career

Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt


Our Yellow Belt course is ideal if you want to begin learning about Lean Six Sigma. It’s a practical, 2-day course focused on giving you an introduction to the core principles of Lean. You’ll gain skills you can use immediately and a Yellow Belt certificate.

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Lean Six Sigma Green Belt


This course runs almost every month in Dublin, and no experience is required to attend. Over 5 days, you’ll gain a strong understanding of Lean Six Sigma, and learn how to actively contribute to process improvement projects in any environment.

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International Lean Six Sigma Black Belt


If you have experience in process improvement and want to gain a more advanced understanding and capability, our Black Belt programme may be the perfect choice. Over 4 short, intensive instalments we cover the skills and knowledge needed to drive continuous improvement at Black Belt level.

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Lean Six Sigma For Your Team


Path 2: Lean Six Sigma and Your Organisation


Lean Six Sigma in-company training usually requires a more tailored approach. Our training consultants are skilled in creating customised Lean Six Sigma training solutions that align with the unique requirements of each client.
Lean Six Sigma for Your Team

In-Company Training Solution


We provide a full range of Lean Six Sigma in-company workshops and certified courses. Click below to find out more about the kind of courses we offer, or to request your in-company training quotation.

Other Helpful Articles


If you'd like to learn more about Lean, Six sigma, and process improvement, the articles below will give you a variety of perspectives.

Alternatively, you can stay up to date with our latest articles by signing up below.
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