Lean and Six Sigma for Innovation
In the past, if an organization wanted to make a profit it would raise the price of the product or service provided. Today’s marketplace is very competitive. Customers can choose from a variety of products and services from several similar competitors. Because customers have more products and services to choose from, the simple technique of raising prices is not effective for most organizations to survive in the marketplace. However, applying the Lean Six Sigma method to reduce company waste is a rapid and practical approach to increasing company profits and competitiveness. Lean and Six Sigma are separate disciplines that can deliver strong results when utilized together.
Lean manufacturing is a process philosophy that focuses on the elimination of waste in the areas of time, material, and effort. Lean is also a systematic approach that encompasses quick process improvement applications through the utilization of easy to learn Lean improvement tools. The Lean culture consists of the customer defining quality by collecting voice of the customer data, or VOC. The intentions of using Lean tools are to assist in increasing speed and throughput. Some examples of Lean tools include Value Stream Mapping, 5s, 5 whys, Fishbone Diagrams, error proofing, Kanban, Just in Time, Kaizen events and workflow/layout improvements.
Lean focuses on the elimination of waste; Six Sigma focuses on the elimination of variation within a process. The Six Sigma process encompasses the notion that products or services will not fail to meet customer specifications as long as there are six standard deviations (a measure of variation) between the process mean and the nearest specification limit. One of the most powerful tools that Six Sigma has to offer an organization is the DMAIC approach. The DMAIC technique is a systematic problem-solving method that consists of defining the problem, measuring/collecting data relating to the process problem, analyzing the collected data, improving the process based on data and implementing a control mechanism to sustain improvement within a process. Thus, Six Sigma is a process improvement method aiming for process perfection using data as a baseline to cultivate a culture of fact-based decision-making.
A Lean Six Sigma approach provides an organization the power of both Lean and Six Sigma as a means to become more competitive. The quickness of Lean process improvements combined with the data driven decision-making tools of Six Sigma are one of the most powerful process improvement methods available in the business world. As a result, the demand for Lean Six Sigma implementation is on the rise. Moreover, the demand for Lean Six Sigma green belts and Lean Six Sigma black belts is consistently growing.
Author: Nathan T. Navarro, MBA, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt