What Is Lean Six Sigma? A Brief Explanation

In recent years, Lean Six Sigma has gained in popularity as an efficient, streamlined way of conducting business.

Everyone could use more streamlined processes – especially if they lead to a consistently high-quality product. That’s why you should consider Lean Six Sigma for your business.

But what is Lean Six Sigma? And what relation does it have to previous business management practices?

Here’s what you need to know, so you can decide if it’s right for your organization.

What Is Lean Six Sigma?

The history of Lean Six Sigma is really the history and combination of two different methodologies: Lean and Six Sigma.

The former was pioneered by Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota. Issues such as a lack of space for large factories and few necessary natural resources led Toyota to work lean,  building smaller factories that could only house materials needed for immediate manufacturing.

Six Sigma was pioneered by Motorola, in an effort to identify defects in their production process. Six Sigma’s chief goal is to “work for the customer” by ultimately producing a better product with fewer variations or defects.

The purpose of Lean Six Sigma is to eliminate the waste of resources, effort, talent, and time in an organization while helping them improve its performance.

The concept of Lean Six Sigma became popular in the early 2000s as it branched off from Six Sigma and became its own process.

The Lean Concept

The lean concept of management focuses on reducing eight kinds of waste.

These eight types of waste are known as DOWNTIME:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non-utilized talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra-processing

Lean refers to any method or tool used to eliminate waste. You may have heard of Lean manufacturing. It’s a method similar to the “just in time” manufacturing model, but with a focus on finding and identifying DOWNTIME waste.

The Six Sigma Concept

Six Sigma is a methodology used in Lean Six Sigma that consists of 5 phases.

These 5 phases are DMAIC:

  • Define the problem
  • Measure the performance of the current process
  • Analyze the process to identify issues and defects
  • Improve the process by eliminating the causes of defects
  • Control the new process to ensure it continues to work.

The end goal of any Six Sigma project is to identify and eliminate variations in quality caused by defects.

Putting It All Together

Lean Six Sigma combines both methodologies to reduce waste and improve a company’s processes to create a better and more reliable product.

The benefits of lean six sigma include more sales and revenue due to streamlined processes. By minimizing defects, a company can save money and time. The use of Lean Six Sigma is a business process improvement that benefits everyone, from the organization itself to its customers.

In order to demonstrate an individual’s knowledge of the Lean Six Sigma system, an individual may be certified with different colored belts: white, yellow, green, black, master black, and champion belt.

Choose Lean Six Sigma for Measurable Improvements

So if you’ve wondered, “What is Lean Six Sigma?” now you know – it’s a combination of two popular business methodologies. Lean Six Sigma may use business tools and techniques such as Kaizen practices or the Kanban inventory control system. Regardless of the exact tools and techniques used, the overall purpose is to reduce waste while creating a product with minimal variation and defects.

For more great articles on business management, check out other articles in the Business section of our site.

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