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.
Jump to any part of this article
Get Started Learning Lean Six SigmaWe’re currently offering 25% off all Live Virtual Classroom Training*.
Reserve a place our Yellow Belt or Green Belt and begin learning Lean Six Sigma from home.
*25% discount cannot be combined with any other voucher or offer.
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?
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’.
What are the 8 Wastes?
- Non-utilised talent
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.
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?
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