Lean Six Sigma — The organizational culture change

If you know about management methods and process improvement, you’ll probably have heard of Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma.

The two strategies have been used for decades to improve production, reduce cost and eliminate waste. Now, smart minds have combined the two tool sets to get even closer to their combined goal: less cost, more profit and most importantly, satisfied customers. Here’s what Lean Six Sigma is all about.

Lean Six Sigma

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is a managing tool- and mindset that combines the practices of Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma. When implemented correctly, its methods focus on improving processes and reducing waste and defects. Following the key concept of Lean Enterprise processing, it sets out to eliminate eight kinds of “muda” (muda being Japanese, meaning futility, uselessness, or wastefulness):

  1. Defects,
  2. Over-Production,
  3. Waiting,
  4. Non-Utilized Talent,
  5. Transportation,
  6. Inventory,
  7. Motion, and
  8. Extra-Processing.

Which makes it seem as if it is purely meant for production-based manufacturers and the like. While in fact, the methods of Lean Six Sigma are meant to improve any kind of performance by relying on collaborative team efforts and systematically removing anything that holds them back. To get there, a company can rely on consultations or join Lean Six Sigma Training provided by the Lean Six Sigma Company itself to gain all the knowledge needed to implement the change in their business.

Lean Six Sigma’s goals are to:

  • improve productivity,
  • increase customer satisfaction and
  • reduce operational costs.

The concept of muda

When it’s said that Lean Six Sigma is meant to eliminate waste, it’s not necessarily talking about actual trash. It’s more of a synonym for anything that is unnecessary or hindering when we look at a process. The term stems from the Lean Enterprise side of Lean Six Sigma and was first used for the Toyota Production System, implemented by Taiichi Ohno.

There are two types of muda:

  • Muda Type One — It adds no value but is necessary for the end-customers and therefore hard to eliminate.
  • Muda Type Two — It adds no value and is unnecessary for the end-customers. There is no profit gained here, and it should be eliminated to reduce hidden costs.

Types of muda Taiichi Ohno identified when he was looking at Toyota’s production line were things like overproducing ahead of demand or machines and people moving more than actually necessary to perform a process. If you eliminate these kinds of muda you can reduce wear and tear for machines and strain injuries for humans.  It’s these kinds of steps that reduce cost in the long run.

Which values does this strategy bring to a company?

When using Lean Six Sigma to improve processes, the focus lies on:

  • reducing waste and overproduction
  • eliminating mistakes
  • reducing costs
  • working efficiently

The first goal is to fulfill your customer’s expectations and demands, and to do so economically.

Lean Six Sigma tools

Lean Six Sigma management uses value stream mapping to eliminate waste and unnecessary steps. It focuses on standardizing and simplifying processes and streamlining production. Detailed investigations into the main causes of waste in a business allow them to simplify process steps and eliminate error sources. On top of that, it values the ideas and observance of every single employee, which can, in turn, lead to higher motivation and better job performance.

The process steps, coming from the Six Sigma method, are:

  • Recognize,
  • Define,
  • Measure,
  • Analyze,
  • Improve,
  • Control,
  • Standardize, and
  • Integrate.

With these steps, you can use this method to look at a process and takes it apart till it’s as good and improved as it can be.

Recap

Lean Six Sigma takes the best of Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma to ensure you reach their combined goal. It’s all about analyzing, recognizing and eliminating faulty processes. With its methods, you can find out what is costing you more money than necessary and how to streamline your business. All in the name of eliminating waste, or muda, and making your customers as happy as can be.