Join Steven Brown for an in-depth discussion in this video Why Lean Six Sigma?, part of Lean Six Sigma Foundations.
- "If you do what you always did, "you get what you always got." What better reason to always be improving. This saying is from an engineering textbook, and it explains why we do Lean Six Sigma. We want to do things differently, so we get better results. Lean Six Sigma is the application of Lean principles and Six Sigma methodology at the same time. Now that may seem rather simplistic, but it's a very important concept to grasp.
There actually is not a specific Lean Six Sigma methodology, or model, or set of principles. Few companies have people who are experts in both Lean and Six Sigma. How Lean Six Sigma is applied is up to you. You combine Lean's tools for reducing cycle time, for example, with the problem-solving ability of Six Sigma. Some projects need more emphasis on Lean, and other projects may need more emphasis on Six Sigma.
The problem itself and your desired results will determine the proper mix of skills. The use of Lean and Six Sigma in combination has, in most cases, evolved naturally. For example, a company may have started a Lean project to streamline a specific business process. Along the way, they discovered that there is significant rework, created by errors committed in several different steps, which in turn results in a high variation and processing time.
The Lean team now calls in a Six Sigma expert, to help attack those defects, and that variability. Over time, the company realizes the strong interaction between Lean solutions and Six Sigma solutions, and combines this expertise into Lean's Six Sigma project teams. Many companies today believe that whether you start out as Lean or as Six Sigma, ultimately you'll become a Lean Six Sigma organization. Here's an example of what I mean.
Let's say that you are a first-tier supplier to a major manufacturing company. Perhaps you are supplying car engines to Ford, for example. Your order lead time, the time for when Ford places an order until the time they receive the engine averages 14 days, plus or minus seven. This means that every time Ford places an order with you, they can expect to receive the engines within one to three weeks. Not very good news for Ford, because this makes it very difficult to efficiently schedule their automobile assembly line.
If you do not improve your delivery performance, Ford will most likely look for another supplier. So you begin a project to reduce your average lead time and to also reduce that 50% variability level. You need both Lean expertise and Six Sigma expertise. Lean will streamline your processes by eliminating non-value-added steps and waste, and reduce your average order time to four days, let's say. Although these improvements certainly will help reduce variability to some degree, Lean will not achieve the significant improvements needed in this case.
Six Sigma experts will do that by applying statistical approaches to reducing defects and bringing the process steps within control. The result is that now your order time is on average, four days, plus or minus one. Your order cycle time has shifted from one to three weeks to three to five days, making it much easier for your customer to schedule their assembly line. As you can see from this example, these two methods attack different types of problems.
And that's why there are so few experts in Lean Six Sigma. Lean addresses visible problems and processes, ones that can easily be seen like inventory, or material flow, or late deliveries. Six Sigma is concerned with problems that are less visible, like variability and performance, that can be caused by errors and defects. The tools and models and skills vary widely between Lean experts and Six Sigma experts. And because of its reliance on statistical analysis, Six Sigma does require some more advanced training.
Most Lean Six Sigma companies place a very high priority on simplifying every aspect of their business operations as they reduced waste across the organization. I believe this is the starting point of any successful Lean Six Sigma launch. You must first look at your operations with the goal of simplification, and build your program from there.
Steven outlines the process stages in Six Sigma (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control), along with the Lean toolkit: the 5s principles, kanban (scheduling), downtime, poka-yoke (error proofing), and kaizen (continuous improvement). He also explains how leadership works within Lean Six Sigma, the principles of project execution, and how Lean Six Sigma is applied to the service sector and supply chain management. Make sure to watch the "Next steps" video at the end of the course for further resources.
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- Why Lean Six Sigma?
- Understanding the five steps of Six Sigma
- Understanding the 5 Ss of Lean
- Leading a Lean Six Sigma project
- Controlling a Lean Six Sigma project
- Using Lean Six Sigma for services and supply chain management