What is "Six Sigma"?
Six Sigma is a comprehensive and flexible system for achieving, sustaining and maximizing business success.
What makes Six Sigma different?
Six Sigma is uniquely driven by a close understanding of customer needs, disciplined use of facts, data, and statistical analysis, and diligent attention to managing, improving, and reinventing business processes.
The Six Sigma methodology is based on the concept that "process variation" (e.g., customer waiting times at a call center waiting varying between ten seconds and three minutes) can be reduced using statistical tools.
The ideal goal is to fix a process so that it will be 99.9997% defect free or produce only 3.4 Defects per million opportunities or less!
For example, this could mean 3-4 broken light bulbs in one million produced, or 3-4 customer calls with waiting times more than one minute. From a statistical standpoint, this means that a process centered at the target has six Standard Deviations (sigma) between the process mean (the target) and the nearest specification limit.
The Five Phases of Six Sigma
Six Sigma projects are built on a DMAIC framework of five phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.
These phases each contain a set of tools and techniques that guide the problem solver through the improvement process from start to finish.
Then what is "Lean"?
Lean (also referred to as Lean Methods or Lean Speed) is a set of tools developed to reduce the waste associated with the flow of materials and information in a process from beginning to end. The goal of Lean is to identify and eliminate non-essential and non-value added steps in the business process in order to streamline production, improve quality and gain customer loyalty.
Lean Methods can be employed within the DMAIC framework to augment Six Sigma tools when the project focus is to improve process speed and efficiency.
So how did it become Lean Six Sigma?
Using more problem-solving techniques can help solve a larger number and variety of business problems. Starting in the 1980's, consultants trained in both techniques realized the synergy between Lean and Six Sigma and began to push for the combination of the different tools of Six Sigma (focused on improving quality) and Lean (focused on removing waste).
Thus, Lean Six Sigma (LSS) was born.
A combined management approach, LSS amplifies the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of both approaches when used alone.
Increasingly popular, Lean Six Sigma first emphasizes the use of Lean methodologies and tools to identify and remove waste and increase process velocity, then follows that with the use of Six Sigma methodologies and tools to identify and reduce or remove process variation.
Most deployments (organizations that run quality initiatives within a company) now choose to use Lean Six Sigma rather than just one or the other methodology.
A "Belt" signifies experience. Practitioners are given a "Belt" title (Black Belt, Green Belt, Yellow Belt) that corresponds to their level of experience.
This roughly corresponds to their hierarchy in martial arts, with darker colored belts indicating more experience (more training, more knowledge and skills).
Methods, Tools & Techniques
Define & Prioritize
• Affinity Diagram
• Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA)
• Process Flow Chart
• Project Priority Calculator
• Value-added Flow Chart
• Value Stream Analysis
• Measurement System Analysis (MSA)
• Pareto Chart
• Six Sigma Conversion Table
• Statistical Process Control (SPC)
• Trend Chart
Analyze Root Cause
• 5-Why Analysis
• Design of Experiments
• Fishbone (Ishikawa) Diagram
• Regression Analysis
• Statistics Handbook
• 5S Tool
• A3 Report - NEW!
• Corrective Action Matrix
• One Piece Flow
• Pull Scheduling
• Quick Changeover (Single Minute Exchange of Die [SMED])
• System Diagrams
• Total Productive Maintenance
Control the Process
• CHECK Process
• Control Plan
• Standardized Work
• Statistical Process Control (SPC)