The most important thing about Lean Six Sigma

Imagine you are assigned a really important project at work. The company you work for makes luxury cars. Production numbers are falling and fewer and fewer cars are being made each day. Also, there seems to be a problem with the quality of the wipers that these cars are equipped with. The question you have is, is there a way for the company to stop the shutdown and production and go from 1000 to 2000 production per day? to increase. Also, is there a way to find out what is causing the wiper quality loss?

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma gives you the tools and techniques to identify what’s slowing down manufacturing processes, how to eliminate the delays, improve the processes, and fix other problems along the way.

Since then, the term Six Sigma has become established worldwide and aims to reduce time errors and process variability throughout the organization. A defect-free product can be made 99.9996 percent of the time, allowing for only 3.4 defects per 1 million possibilities. Six Sigma also increases customer loyalty to the brand, improves employee morale, and leads to higher productivity.

The six sigma refers to the six standard deviations, and in statistics the error of measurement is indicated by the symbol sigma. And in each distribution is the number of elements that fall outside of six. Standard deviations from the mean are a vanishingly small amount.

Six Sigma is used in all industries. Many vendors, including Motorola, offer Six Sigma training with specific certifications.

However, Six Sigma is about more than just achieving quality standards. It is a set of tools and provides tools for improvement and a mindset that often shapes corporate culture. And of course it is also the basis for a huge consulting and training industry. Six Sigma focuses on customer needs and requirements, as well as eliminating defects and waste in manufacturing processes.

Important aspects

So the main benefits are

  • Higher quality – also called Six Sigma quality
  • reducing waste
  • Reduction of manufacturing costs
  • Increased customer satisfaction.

Key Principles of Six Sigma

Focus on customer requirements

The ultimate goal of every company is to bring maximum benefit to the customer. To achieve this, a company needs to understand its customers and their needs, what drives sales or builds brand loyalty.

use data

Gather relevant data to identify the specific problem area that needs to be addressed or changed. Organizations need to clarify the goals for data collection, including defining the data to be collected. After the accuracy of the measurements is assured, a standardized data acquisition system should be established.

Continuous Improvement

Once the problem is identified, changes should be made to the process to eliminate deviations and thus errors. Remove the activities in the processes that do not add value to the customer. Eliminate unwanted bottlenecks in the process and continuously improve it.

involve people

Involve everyone involved, introduce structured processes in which your team contributes their diverse expertise to solve problems and works together.

Six Sigma processes can have a major impact on an organization. Therefore, the team must master the principles and methods used.

Flexible and responsive work environment

The essence of Six Sigma is the transformation and change of companies. Eliminating a flawed or inefficient process requires a change in work practices and employee attitudes.

The people and departments involved should be able to easily adapt to change. To make this possible, they should develop processes for quick and seamless adoption into manufacturing and business processes.

Six Sigma and practical example

Here are some real-world Six Sigma examples :

Air traffic controllers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States handle 28,537 commercial flights per day in a year, or about 10.46 million flights per year. Based on Air Traffic Control’s Five Sigma process, errors occur in the handling of approximately 2,426 flights per year. With a six sigma process, the risk drops to 35.41 errors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 51.4 million surgeries are performed in the United States each year. Assuming an accuracy rate of 99.97, physicians would make mistakes in 11,976 surgeries per year, or 230 surgeries per week .

With Six Sigma, that error rate drops to about 174 errors per year for the entire country, or just over 3 errors per week.

Six Sigma – Lean Management Methods & Tools

Six Sigma Lean Management or Lean Production has developed an extensive toolkit of very powerful and useful business improvement tools, the first of which is used in building the life cycle of a Six Sigma project, but also in a problem often referred to as DMAIC -Process method is described: DMAIC stands for problem solving and the life cycle phases of a Six Sigma project: define, measure, analyze, improve and control. We define the problem, we measure as much data as possible to characterize the problem, and then we analyze that data.

Based on that, we make the improvement and then control the process to ensure that the improvement is sustainable and forms the basis for future improvements.


Let’s take a pizza restaurant called Pizza Family . Two years ago, the demand for pizza was pretty high, but since then, customers have been coming back less and less. So the Pizza Family team decided to make a change, through process improvement, to keep all customers happy and coming back. The pizza team has started asking customers what they like and don’t like about pizza. The majority of customers said the pizza tasted good, but they expect their food to come faster, especially during breaks at work.

Pizza Family took the opportunity to improve, with the aim of delivering food to customers faster but with the same level of quality. It was crucial to understand what this expectation of getting the food faster means.

There are three employees trying to fulfill the orders. Each employee takes an order from start to finish. The delivery time is 25 minutes on average, but with a deviation of 15 to 40 minutes. This time is also referred to as the throughput time. This was determined by mapping and measuring the current process. From customer feedback, customers would be satisfied and happy if the pizza was delivered in 10 minutes or less.

The team found that there are some activities that add to the wait time. The ingredients and the oven are often arranged between all three cooks. The oven is also quite a distance from where the pastries are made. There are too many ingredients and some of them are rarely used.

Of the 40 different types of pizza currently on the menu, 10 are ordered 80% of the time. Changing all of these wastes would help improve business processes, reduce lead times, and make variations more responsive to customers’ needs.

The first change is that the team has reduced the list of pizzas on offer from 40 to 15 types of pizza. 12 pizzas with meat and 3 with vegetables. This allowed the ingredients to be cut in half, which also reduced the footprint.

The second change was to move the oven closer to the dough surrounded by the ingredients, cutting the labor in half.

The first cook takes care of making the dough, the second makes the pizza bread and adds the ingredients, the third cook operates the oven and the cash register.

Two of the most popular pizzas are also available to take away. Workplace visualizations were created for each workplace as the key to sustainable change. An installed measuring system shows the customers and the team how quickly they take their pizza.

Fortunately, the current average throughput time is eight minutes, with a range of between 7 and 10 minutes. The new, improved process brings more satisfied customers to the pizza family restaurant.

Key takeaways about Six Sigma DMAIC:

  • It is a robust method for process improvement.
  • It is a team effort to solve non-obvious problems.
  • It consists of five phases: define, measure, analyze, improve, control.

The Six Sigma development process DMADV in detail

As mentioned, DMADV within the Six Sigma method stands for: define, measure, analyze, design and check . The verification phase consists of testing the design and taking it through prototyping and a number of different design phases.

Example of Six Sigma projects

define phase

There is a global company that makes bicycles called Bike Mania . Five years ago, this Spanish company expanded its production to Brazil and two years ago to Singapore. The European markets for bike mania are quite stable and growing. However, the South American and Pacific markets are struggling with growth in these regions falling short of initial expectations. Research has shown that the company needs to adjust its prices to become more competitive. A multi-opportunity strategic business plan was established to focus on one of the opportunities, which was direct sourcing of components owned and used by the supply chain organization. There are several suppliers that supply raw materials and components to the parent companies in Spain. This material is then redistributed to the subsidiaries,

This increases delivery times and, on top of that, requires double processing. All this has a direct impact on the final price.

The goal of the improvement team is to route 100 outsourced products from external suppliers to Brazil and Singapore. The international team consisted of members from the fields of production, logistics, technology, law and of course supply chain. All three locations were represented in the team. The future state of this process was also presented step by step. A material diversion guide was also developed for this event.

This will help teams work in unison to understand the best strategy and set a due date for the final diverted parts. A few more details were yet to be revealed.

measured phase

There are too many components that need to be transferred from different suppliers. There are also some deviations in demand between the subsidiaries. Both plants brought a list of parts to be sourced through the parent company. Eighty percent of the parts were identical. Twenty percent of the parts that were not identical were needed due to small differences in local markets to handle the volume of work. In order to cope and manage the work, three project generations were defined.

analysis phase

The team decided to focus on the highest volume common parts in generation (1). The maturity date for this generation has been set at 9 months. Lower volume common parts for Generation 2 with a duration of 6 months. The third generation will focus on non-everyday parts and will also last 6 months.

design/development phase

The legal department has contacted all suppliers as part of Generation 1. It was explained what the new expectations are. There will now be three different destinations for the products.

In order for suppliers to know where to deliver the required quantities, the series of production orders have been changed. Each order must include the identification number, name and quantity of the part required.

New contracts with component suppliers have to be signed and supply chain team members have calculated the new expected order quantities.

Based on the increased volumes, component price forecasts were revised and lowered. Logistics had to contact transport companies. It had to be clarified which type of delivery is most suitable with optimal prices and delivery times.

The contracts with the new transport companies had to be signed. Engineering team members reviewed the drawings and documentation for the transferred components. The intention was to review the possibilities to reduce some component discrepancies.

In order to improve the situation, a process review was initiated with the suppliers. In the event of a discrepancy, direct communication has been established with the supplier’s quality department. A common documentation of the deviations was defined.

verification phase

To verify the new process, the first pilot components were transferred in a new way. There were challenges at customs.

Different documents must be submitted in different countries. The correct documentation has been checked and updated. After the pilot project was completed, the remaining parts could be transported without major problems.

The first generation took three months longer than planned. This was due to the changes required in the purchasing software.

the 2nd and 3rd generation went smoothly according to the original plan.

The new process is going well and the company was able to improve its business results and competitiveness in the local market by 15% by implementing the direct sourcing strategy that other teams were also working on.

Six Sigma improvement projects typically last between three and six months, although there are no rules.

Lean Six Sigma certifications

The Six Sigma certification proves that a person has demonstrated practical knowledge and know-how about Six Sigma. Some organizations offer internal certification procedures. Most people seek certification by enrolling in online or on-site Six Sigma training courses. Most organizations that offer Six Sigma training also offer a route to certification. You can take courses for certification at different levels.

Six Sigma Lean certification levels

The Six Sigma levels are differentiated according to belt levels:

Six Sigma Yellow Belt

The white belt is the easiest level for a newcomer to enter.

A simple Six Sigma White Belt is familiar with the basic principles of Six Sigma methodology. However, they are often not regular members of process improvement teams. The White Belt training is a good introduction to Six Sigma for support staff within an organization. It can provide the information needed to understand why project teams do what they do. The training enables staff to review project processes and understand the information presented in milestones and meetings, and to better participate in project selection processes.

White belt training can also be used at all levels of employees as organizations seek to adopt a Six Sigma culture.

Not all Six Sigma professionals recognize this Six Sigma certification as “real”.

Six Sigma Yellow Belt

The Yellow Belt certification is considered a basic introduction to the Six Sigma concept. It often includes concepts related to Six Sigma rules, team development and management. Basic quality tools such as petal charts, flow charts, scatter plots and histograms, general sigma metrics, data collection, measurement, system analysis and root cause analysis will be learned.

Yellow belt training also provides an introduction to hypothesis testing. At the yellow belt level, training is often focused on an understanding of overall ecology and basic data collection.

Yellow belts do not need to know how to conduct hypothesis tests, but they do need to understand the language of hypothesis tests and the conclusions drawn from such tests. The yellow belts are often employees who need to know about the overall process and why it is being carried out.

Six Sigma Green Belt

Certified Sigma Green Belts usually work in Six Sigma teams under the supervision of a Black Belt or Master Black Belt. In some cases, Green Belts can also lead smaller projects or work on them independently. Six Sigma Green Belts generally have intermediate statistical analysis skills. You can delve into data and analytics. They help the back belts apply Six Sigma tools to a project or teach others in an organization about the overall Six Sigma methodology.

The Green Belts can be middle managers, business analyst project managers, and others who are regularly involved in process improvement initiatives but may not be fully-fledged Six Sigma experts in the organization.

Green Belts are sometimes considered the worker bees of the Six Sigma methodology, as they perform most of the statistical data collection and analysis under the supervision of certified Black Belts. Training for Green Belts often includes concepts for all of the information listed for Yellow Belt certification: Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, Project and Team Management, Probability and Central Limit Theorem, Statistical Distributions, Descriptions of Statistics, Conducting Basic Hypothesis Testing, Eliminating Waste and Kaizen, and a concept for the basic control charts.

Six Sigma Black Belt

A certified Six Sigma black belt typically works as a Six Sigma project manager on process improvement projects. They can also work as management analysts or planners in the company.

The general minimum requirements for black belt certification include all of the requirements listed for yellow and green belts, plus:

  • Advanced project and team management skills Knowledge of the extensive list of Six Sigma brainstorming and project tools
  • Intermediate to advanced knowledge of statistics and understanding of other process improvement and quality programs such as Lean and Total Quality Management
  • Ability to design processes
  • Advanced skills in creating process diagrams, including flowcharts and value stream maps
  • Using software to perform analysis such as Excel or Minitab

Six Sigma Six Sigma Master black belt

Sigma Master Black Belt is the highest level of certification that can be achieved for Six Sigma in an organization. Master black belts typically lead black belts and green belts.

They advise on particularly difficult projects, provide advice and training on advanced statistical concepts, and educate others on Six Sigma training.

Conclusion and differences between Lean and Six Sigma training

Lean focuses on efficiency by identifying value from the customer’s perspective, eliminating unnecessary steps in the process, and improving process speed. Six Sigma, on the other hand, focuses on effectiveness through breakthrough processes that identify root causes and reduce variability.

So when Six Sigma is combined with Lean, it is possible to achieve business transformation. So remember, Lean is about speed with an emphasis on efficiency, Six Sigma is about achieving a quality goal with an emphasis on effectiveness, and Lean Six Sigma brings the best of both together.

In order to achieve a better result, the first approach should be to adopt Lean to streamline the process. This helps to understand chronic problems and find the ways to solve them quickly. Once the problem is identified, the Six Sigma method is used to analyze the problems and improve business processes.

In other words, Lean is used to reduce waste and Six Sigma to reduce variation.

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