Organizations have to adapt to changing markets and look beyond proven business approaches and tools. Lean Six Sigma is one case where a cohesive methodology emerged from two different approaches. Motorola developed Six Sigma to improve process management and Lean was derived from Toyota’s production model to maximize productivity while reducing waste.
Lean Six Sigma is now a specific process for Six Sigma. Today, it’s a widely accepted concept for improving the manufacturing process.
Both Lean and Six Sigma are processes for continuous improvement, but they’re different in their approaches. While Lean focuses on waste elimination, value stream mapping, process simplification and rework reduction, Six Sigma utilizes people-aligned processes and systems to improve quality consistency. Combining the two creates a pragmatic approach for improving processes in an organization. Lean Six Sigma is a multi-pronged approach that fixes value-chain blockages and ensures consistency in delivering quality, defect-free products.
Let’s look at another example. Danny adopted the Six Sigma approach but failed to evolve with time. He owned a popular household-gadgets manufacturing firm, suffering from negative feedback and overproduction. He made two mistakes: not allocating his resources effectively to quicken customer-response time and increasing production capacity without upgrading his product. Customers were disgruntled with backdated products with no scope for upgrade and poor customer-care response. The research unit identified Lean Sigma as a potential method to tackle these problems and used Lean Six Sigma project examples to identify ways to discard the waste. Although both the methodologies aim to achieve the same things, for Danny, adopting Lean Six Sigma methodologies meant correcting his approach to suit the market and finding an efficient way to yield benefits.
Lean Six Sigma aims to eliminate waste, minimize defect rates and reduce variation in the production process. Waste is anything that is not essential to add product value and affects time and resources negatively. Unnecessary movement, doing more work than needed, excessive transportation, excess products in the inventory, delays, defects, overproduction and unused talent are all waste in the manufacturing process. Lean Six Sigma methodologies eliminate waste and defects instead of simply identifying or rectifying them.
Read on to know more about the meaning of Lean Six Sigma.
What Is The Meaning Of Lean Six Sigma?
According to the American Society for Quality, Lean Six Sigma is a data-driven, fact-based philosophy of improvement that focuses on defect prevention rather than defect detection. Lean Six Sigma can correct inefficiency, remove waste, improve working conditions, eliminate problems and positively impact response to customers. Lean Six Sigma project examples demonstrate the proven results that this team-oriented approach has in maximizing efficiency and improving profitability. It combines methods, principles, tools and approaches of both Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma to improve organizational operations. It can alter an organization’s culture to drive growth.
The three key elements of Lean 6 Sigma are:
- It’s important to offer the best product and services to customers, focusing on satisfaction and quick response.
- An organization has to be consistent with its output in terms of quality. Quality is fundamental for customer retention.
- Lean Sigma must drive an organization’s culture to ensure that employees and stakeholders work according to the methodology. This will lead to innovation and growth.
Lean 6 Sigma has to be in the DNA of an organization. Only then will employees practice a culture that makes quality and customer satisfaction the top goals.
Lean Six Sigma project examples show that organizations use these principles to connect with the core goals of the business. It helps an organization adapt to changes by improving bottom-line results and quality, boosting efficiency and employee satisfaction and improving agility by promoting operational excellence.
The fundamental principles of Lean Six Sigma are:
- It’s important to define quality and customer satisfaction. Business and customer goals are achieved by aligning processes with people.
- Organizations must define and identify roadblocks for quality consistency. Quantitative and qualitative data analysis is essential for a rational approach in meeting stakeholder and customer needs.
- Identifying what the customer doesn’t want and eliminating inefficiencies by measuring outcomes is key.
- There has to be seamless communication between people across the organization for problem-solving.
- Organizations must be capable of adapting to dynamic shifts and aligning with newer strategies.
In a changing market, Lean Six Sigma methodologies allow organizations to implement solutions with innovation instead of relying on tried-and-tested approaches.
Now that we know the meaning of Lean Six Sigma, let’s look at the benefits and traps associated with it.
Benefits Of Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma is known to impact the core of an organization. It deals with various aspects of improving customer outcomes. Here are the benefits of Lean 6 Sigma:
Efficient business processes enable quality delivery. Decisions are made based on data, there’s greater transparency and the approach to improve quality is mainly customer-centric. This lets an organization quickly adapt to changing demands.
Lean Sigma engages every person in an organization and equips them with the principles and practical application of its techniques. This sharp focus on individuals develops their talent to improve outcomes and constantly evolve.
Lean Sigma is applicable in manufacturing and across other sectors, such as retail and IT. Its application capabilities make it scalable across different sectors.
Organizations can drive continuous improvement with cutting-edge technology and digitization. Lean 6 Sigma can be the basis of high-quality technology deployment.
An organization that focuses on high quality and customer service is bound to enhance its brand value. Consistency and quality always have a huge impact in boosting image.
Lean Six Sigma methodologies offer a set of tools for continuous improvement. It encourages measuring factors, like customer’s voice and delivery success, to sustain benefits.
Lean Six Sigma Traps
Although managers try to upgrade skills and thrive in a changing market, they sometimes don’t comprehend the meaning of Lean Six Sigma. They get tangled in needless information, look for quick fixes and don’t visualize long-term benefits. Some traps associated with Lean 6 Sigma are:
- Rather than the application, managers focus on theoretical knowledge.
- Managers can lack the focus to optimize and utilize resources.
- To ensure results, executives can rely on age-old traditional approaches over newer dynamic measures.
- Individuals may not realize that data collection is useless without driving business intelligence.
- Managers can fail to align individual and organizational goals.
It’s fundamental to drive innovation in dynamic markets. Managers have to train and build confidence to take risks by moving away from traditional practices. While traditional methods of developing strategies and using data can control short-term damage, they hold organizations back from long-term goals and profits.
Lean Six Sigma Belts
Lean Six Sigma defines the roles of trained individuals within an organization using different colors, similar to martial arts. A belt color signifies the level of certification that an executive has. Here are the different belts in Lean Six Sigma:
1. Master Black Belt
Executives with a Master Black Belt are experts in Six Sigma methodology and statistical tools. They provide technical leadership and guidance in a specific department.
2. Black Belt
These are full-time professionals who lead projects. They’re experts in Lean Six Sigma methods, responsible for training Green Belts.
3. Green Belt
These are individuals responsible for functional roles. They are leaders who drive operational excellence within teams. They manage projects under the guidance of Black Belts.
4. Yellow Belt
This is a recent addition that signifies certification in basic knowledge of the methodology. These individuals are usually placed in supportive roles in projects.
Belts allow managers to allocate roles to employees based on their capabilities in handling aspects of a project. The belts in certification allow organizations to assign the right employees for management, supporting and leadership roles.
Lean Six Sigma is capable of tapping the full potential of an organization to bring improvement. A combination of two methodologies, it uses both their principles to first eliminate waste and then improve process variations. Combining two methodologies results in streamlined processes, positive outcomes and high quality. Organizations are increasingly relying on Lean Six Sigma as it meets business goals by lifting bottom-line profits. This integrated management approach is reliable because organizations can promote effective change for exceptional performance across all departments and grow new leaders.
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