The business world has adopted a combination of improvement philosophies in lean manufacturing and six sigma and named it Lean Six Sigma.
The two methodologies have been around for a couple decades, but the combined method was only recently named and utilized in recent years. It only makes sense, as both are improvement philosophies with a set of tools and principles that help an organization improve in areas such as profit,productivity, waste, defect and variation reduction.
The reason almost all companies utilize lean manufacturing and six sigma is to increase profits. However, increasing productivity or reducing costs, quality problems, and waste all add to increased profit.
Prior to understanding lean or six sigma, corporations and individuals are often undecided about which method they should use. Some try six sigma for a while and then switch to lean or vice versa. Both work sometimes but when they don’t, the method often gets the blame. However, the real problem is in choosing a method.
Almost any business problem could be solved using lean manufacturing or six sigma, which is why the combined methods make sense. The best way to approach it is to let the problem determine which method and tools to use to solve it. It may take a few six sigma tools to help define the problem in terms of data and analysis, and some lean tools to fix the problem and sustain the improvement.
As an example, suppose a process was too slow and costly to continue. Productivity must either be improved or the process shut down.Through six sigma analysis, it might be determined that a specific type of product has a high productivity but long setup times that cost too much. This six sigma analysis may direct the sales team to obtain more business, but manufacturing must reduce setup times. The lean manufacturing principle of SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) could be used to reduce the setup time.
After using both lean and six sigma tools, the process might have much higher productivity and lowered cost, producing a mix with the highest profit.
This is just one example of many. The key is to not force the tools on the problem. If the team working on the problem has received lean manufacturing training as well as six sigma certification, they will be able to utilize the tools necessary to solve the problems.