Lean and Six Sigma have the same objective – to eliminate waste. However, Six Sigma has a different view of waste to Lean. Six Sigma sees waste as a result of variation in processes and Lean sees waste coming from unnecessary steps that don’t add value in the production process. 

Lean and Six Sigma are not incompatible and can be deployed together under Lean Six Sigma for a more cohesive approach. 

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a problem-solving methodology that’s data-driven. An emphasis is placed on customer satisfaction and compiling and analyzing data is necessary to find out where processes are falling short and causing defects. 

The theory is that when defects are found and eliminated, manufacturing processes become more efficient. This lowers production costs and time and produces products that are higher in quality.

Six Sigma uses DMAIC as a tool, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. 

  • Define the problems and objectives. 
  • Decide what needs to be improved and how this can be measured. 
  • Analyze the causes of the issues by using tools, such as Pareto charts and root cause analysis.
  • Identify and implement improvements. 
  • Control by monitoring on an ongoing basis to ensure they are sustained. 

What is Lean? 

Lean focuses on creating an environment in organizations where all waste is eliminated. Customers don’t willingly pay for costs associated with “wasteful” activities and so the idea is to eliminate all operations that fail to create value for customers. 

The lean model was introduced over 100 years ago and has continued to evolve over time. In this model, different types of waste are labeled – overproduction, inventory, over-processing, motion, waiting, transport and defects. It is an ever-continuing approach to waste removal, promoting a chain of improvements and it can be applied in the manufacturing and service industries. 

The following five principles of Lean can be applied to any process to reduce waste:

  • Identify customers and what they value.
  • Map the value stream.
  • Create flow to the customer.
  • Establish pull based on customer demand.
  • Seek continuous improvement.

Benefits of Adopting Six Sigma and Lean 

Six Sigma and Lean can transform a company and a Lean Six Sigma approach is popular. However, adoption requires commitment from top management. 

Undergoing Six Sigma Certification enables employees to obtain Lean Six Sigma certification by combining Lean Flow Fundamentals with a Six Sigma Green, Black or Master Black Belt option. 

Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belts offer expert guidance in companies while project initiation and execution can come from a trained team of Six Sigma Black, Green, and Yellow Belts. 

6sigma.us is a leading training and consulting firm, headed by Peter Peterka, who has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. The company has delivered training programs with attendees from more than 5,000 organizations and provided training to over 25,000 students.

Companies are strongly impacted when connecting customer values with company strategies and linking them with process-based flows and trained and motivated employees.

Six Sigma and Lean both emphasize the importance of understanding the customer and what the customer sees as value. Designing a product or service that meets or exceeds customer expectations means defining what customers expect and what will delight them. Focusing on customer value means better products are created, market share improves and customers remain loyal. 

Seeing processes from the customer’s perspective allows for improvements with clear value for them. The process flow isn’t understood and improved from sitting in an office but by employees who are intimately involved in it on a daily basis. 

Creating active involvement of everyone in the company and having clear responsibilities and measures of performance helps to increase productivity and improve motivation throughout the company. All members of teams work towards a common goal and are able to learn and develop.