Why is Lean and Six Sigma Relevant Today

The best practices in any industry are based on timeless principles, and that is why Lean and Six Sigma, or the integrated Lean Six Sigma, remain relevant options for businesses today. Here’s a refresher on Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma and the benefits of pursuing continuous, measurable improvement with the elimination of variants and defects that waste resources and repel customers.

What is Lean?

Lean manufacturing has had proponents throughout the industrial age including Henry Ford and Sakichi Toyoda (Toyota). The current iteration of Lean has its roots in Japan where Toyota popularized waste-reducing manufacturing processes during the 1980s and 1990s on its way to becoming the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world. Combined with increased efficiency, a reduction in defects and precision workflow standards, Toyota’s approach led to better quality even as profit margins increased.

What is Six Sigma?

Lean deals with the concrete factors related to manufacturing as exhibited in the Toyota Production System and the North American version known as Just-in-Time. Six Sigma is more conceptual, and therefore more transferable. Its foundational practices are:

Define: Problems, goals, resources, the customer and more.

Measure: Establishing current baselines to demonstrate improvement.

Analyze: Identify the root causes of defects such as measurements, methods and personnel.

Improve: Identify and test solutions, then implement the one that works through processes like the Plan-Do-Check-Act/Adjust cycle.

Control: Solidify the gains achieved through implementing and monitoring necessary change and repeating this DMAIC cycle.

It’s easy to see how these principles can be applied to any business process, but only when each member of the leadership team buys into the process and commits to its implementation is success maximized. Another key is learning to apply the principles in industry-specific ways. This has been done successfully in logistics, health care, service industries, software development, R&D, retail and government in addition to manufacturing.

It’s easy to see how these principles can be applied to any business process, but only when each member of the leadership team buys into the process and commits to its implementation is success maximized.

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The Benefits of Lean and Six Sigma

Lean and Six Sigma form a powerfully productive methodology for business success. Among the benefits you can expect to achieve when Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is properly implemented are:

Decreased costs & increased profits: A study of Six Sigma results by General Electric showed that its implementation produced more than $2 billion in annual savings/profits. As defects and other types of waste are decreased while quality and productivity are increased, profits will naturally grow.

Efficiency is improved: Not only does efficiency aid in greater profitability, it has a very human element too, especially beneficial in underserved communities and countries.

For example, studies have shown that after processes are improved using Lean Six Sigma, doctors are able to see more than twice as many patients and provide them with better care too.

People and team competency increases: When correctly implemented, Lean Six Sigma invests in people to develop their skill set and core competencies. With its combined team approach, Lean Six Sigma maximizes:

  • The contributions of each member
  • Their appreciation for the important roles played by others
  • Personal ownership in collective goals
  • Healthy accountability

On a personal level, morale, confidence and productivity are measurably increased as the team succeeds together.

Better customer service and care: These results are achieved in many ways across each industry. Efficiency, quality, product availability and faster response to customer demand are all benefits of LSS that improve the customer experience.

Workplace safety improves: Whether a by-product or a specific aim of LSS, a reduction of workplace accidents is achieved when processes are improved.

Let’s Discuss Lean Six Sigma and Your Company

LSS principles are transferable to any company within any industry. But what matters is that we have the experienced insight required to apply the principles and processes to your company. You and your people will experience corporate and personal benefits that epitomize success. Let’s have a discussion, so we can learn about your company, its current realities and your goals. Then we’ll work with you to tailor a comprehensive plan to maximize your company’s potential.