What is Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma is all about quality. Since the beginning of time, man has strived to deliver quality results. From the pyramids of Egypt to the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, man has been on the search for excellence and optimal quality. Quality is the totality of features of a product or service that helps satisfy stated or implied needs. Simply put, quality means ‘fit for purpose’. Quality itself is an outcome. It can only be achieved when the right inputs are well-managed. The management of inputs such as people, processes, tasks, activities, etc., is referred to as quality management.
In today’s competitive world, the need for quality management cannot be over-emphasized. When quality is managed effectively, cost is reduced, while revenue and customer satisfaction are increased. For instance, Motorola generated more than $2.2 billion in revenue within four years and $16 billion within 15 years by setting up a quality framework. Also, General Electric (GE) was able to save more than $12 billion in five years by adopting a quality framework.
The need for process improvement and quality management standard
As with all professions e.g. accounting, medicine, law, etc., generally accepted rules and guidelines are set to provide direction and guidance. These guidelines help to understand what to do and how to do them. They are developed in collaboration with professionals who have used, tested and tried different methods. The standards they come up with are based on openness, consensus, and due process.
Due to the highly sensitive nature of people towards quality, there was a need to come up with a quality management standard. This standard gives professionals a common set of knowledge, requisite skills, tools, and techniques. In other words, when the art of managing quality was standardised, the right foundation was set for all professionals to use a generally accepted quality framework. Lean and Six Sigma were developed as standards for quality management.
How Lean started
Lean began with Henry Ford who was the first person to integrate an entire production process. He created a ‘Flow’ production in 1913. Several years later, Toyota reinvented and popularised the Lean concept. Lean focuses on removing waste. Waste is anything that does not add value to your product or service. In other words, you need just the right amount of equipment, materials, parts, space, and workers time. Anything that exceeds this is considered a waste.
How Six Sigma started
On the other hand, Six Sigma was conceived by Motorola when they lost market share in 1979. Two engineers at Motorola pioneered the work at improving processes and resolving defects. Six Sigma focuses on identifying and removing the causes of defects in processes.
How Lean Six Sigma came into being
The concept Lean Six Sigma was first used in a book titled ‘Leaning into Six Sigma: The Path to integration of Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma’. The book was written by Babara Wheat and others and published in the early 2000s. The effective blending of Lean and Six Sigma gives a synergised concept called Lean Six Sigma. Today, most organisations around the world are adopting and implementing Lean Six Sigma.
Lean Six Sigma Certification bodies
Unlike other certifications, the Lean Six Sigma certification is not centrally coordinated. To this end, different bodies offer certifications at different levels e.g. yellow belt, green belt, black belt, etc. To prove your knowledge and experience in quality management, you must sit and pass an exam with any of the certification bodies. Some of the popular bodies are Lean Six Sigma Academy (LSSA), International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC) and American Society for Quality (ASQ).
Benefits of Lean Six Sigma to individuals and organisations
With a rapidly growing need for certified professionals, it is no surprise that certified professionals significantly increase their earning potential and marketability. When an organisation adopts and implements the framework, it shows a mark of commitment to global best practices. In addition, the organisation can leverage the framework to meet customers’ expectation and satisfy stakeholders’ needs.
Having discussed the basics of Lean Six Sigma, let’s now ask more specific questions as seen below: