What is Lean Six Sigma?

In manufacturing, efficiency is key both for quality and for profit — and where there is waste, efficiency is lost. Waste is a concern for any business, but in manufacturing in particular there are eight different kinds of waste to be aware of:

  • Transportation: the loss of time and expense by unnecessarily moving processes and products
  • Inventory: that is, more inventory than you can reasonably use before deterioration or longer lead times set in
  • Motion: whether it’s moving people or moving machines, a process that requires too much motion to complete creates waste
  • Waiting: any idleness in the production process, from idle equipment to people waiting on equipment or supplies
  • Overproduction: when the production of supply outpaces demand
  • Overprocessing: unnecessary steps in production (including tolerances that are tighter than what the product demands) or unneeded features in the end product
  • Defects: any products or components that are not fit for use
  • Skills: failure to use all the available human talent and ingenuity

Lean Six Sigma is a method for reducing waste (and therefore increasing efficiency) through collaborative team efforts focused on improving performance. Lean Six Sigma has its roots in two different forms of manufacturing efficiency management: Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma.

Lean enterprise has historically been focused on the elimination of the eight kinds of waste described above in order to provide added value for the customer. Six Sigma generally focuses on minimizing variability and removing causes of defects in order to improve overall manufacturing quality. Combining these schools of thought, Lean Six Sigma improves efficiency by identifying and addressing the causes of all kinds of waste.

How Can Lean Six Sigma Help Your Business?

Implementing any new process requires an investment of both time and money. Lean Six Sigma is no different; in order to use this tool effectively, employees will need to be trained and certified while existing practices are evaluated to find areas for improvement. So why go through all this effort? There are some surprising benefits that Lean Six Sigma can provide for your business.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

Lean Six Sigma can help you identify the root cause of any existing customer dissatisfaction — even issues that you don’t know are there. Often customer dissatisfaction comes from inefficient processes, which lead to longer wait times, higher prices and disgruntled employees. By improving efficiency, you can improve everyone’s experience and increase the likelihood of returning customers and long-lasting business relationships.

Increased Productivity

Lean Six Sigma allows you to directly analyze time spent on each activity in your manufacturing process in order to identify bottlenecks and potential sticking points. By noting and removing these problems, production time decreases and work time of both humans and machines is used more effectively.

Reduced Operating Costs

With a reduction in waste comes a reduction in operating costs. A Lean Six Sigma methodology can help eliminate the extra time and resources spent on defective products and slow production lines so that expenditures go exclusively towards profit-generating activities.

Better Time Management

Trimming waste also includes trimming wasted time from production processes, leading to more efficient manufacturing and more productive employees. As a bonus, more productive employees are likely to report higher job satisfaction and increased opportunities for professional development, so your manufacturing process will function better with experienced employees who are invested in their continued success at your company.

Getting Lean Six Sigma Certified

Lean Six Sigma certifications are offered at a number of levels based on mastery and complexity. Like in martial arts, these levels are referred to as different colored “belts” that indicate how advanced an awardee is. Belt colors include:

  • White (early mastery)
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Black
  • Master Black

There are a number of accredited institutions that are able to provide Lean Six Sigma belt certifications, ranging from independent online learning programs to various universities. Because Lean Six Sigma is a methodology that is tied to manufacturing, most of these certifications will have general ties to the manufacturing process. However, some programs do offer specialization in certain kinds of manufacturing, like automotive or medical products.

The official industry standard for Lean Six Sigma certification is provided through accreditation by the Council for Six Sigma Certification. While the council accredits many different institutions, including those described above, it also provides its own certifications at both primary (White Belt, Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt) and advanced (Green Belt Level II, Black Belt Level II, Black Belt Level III, Master Black Belt) certification levels.

At Thogus, we use Lean Six Sigma to keep our processes running smoothly and to better serve our customers. Contact us here to learn more about working together.