The Power of Lean Six Sigma

By Greg Ford, UT CIS Manufacturing Consultant Resource


Today’s companies are looking for ways to continuously improve their products and services.  The complexity of today’s business world and the need to meet and/or exceed customer expectations make it a necessity.  Six Sigma is a methodology that allows organizations to make operations more efficient by reducing variation and eliminating defects in processes.   Lean helps identify and remove waste to improve efficiency and cycle times.  The combination and synergy of the two offer a proven methodology to identify and solve problems to help companies continuously improve.  And though both originated in the manufacturing world, Six Sigma at Motorola and Lean at Toyota, they can just as easily be applied to a wide variety of operational and transactional business processes in every type of industry to drive efficiency and improvement.

A Proven Methodology

Six Sigma process improvement is based on the DMAIC methodology.  DMAIC is an acronym that stands for define, measure, analyze, improve and control:

  • Define – define the problem.
  • Measure – quantify the problem.
  • Analyze - identify the cause of the problem.
  • Improve - implement and verify the solution.
  • Control - maintain the solution.

How many times in our project efforts do we jump to improve without a thorough analysis of the problem?  Six Sigma forces us to really define, measure and analyze the problem to effectively improve and create a more robust control plan to sustain the gains.  Six Sigma utilizes a data-based approach to help us understand the starting baseline and help monitor and measure future improvements.  The statistical tools integrated into the training are not meant to turn people into statisticians, but rather turn data into useful information to help solve problems.

Lean helps to focus on the value stream to produce a product or service and eliminate non-value added activities to improve flow and drive value for the customer.  Integrating Lean tools to eliminate waste with Six Sigma tools to reduce variation creates a powerful project roadmap using the DMAIC methodology.

A Team Approach

Lean Six Sigma resources are trained using a belt ranking system similar to the system used in karate.  The designations include Yellow Belt (beginner training for team members), Green Belt (area project leaders working with Champions and/or Black Belts), and Black Belt (company project leaders).   Other support functions play a key role in accomplishing project objectives, including the Champion (site or business leader) and the Process Owner (area process leader).  A Lean Six Sigma project is typically staffed by a cross-functional team that is involved with different aspects of the process being analyzed and led by the Green or Black Belt.  It is this team-based approach to solve problems that not only improves productivity but can also have a positive impact on a company’s culture.  If your organization is constantly reacting to problems and “putting out fires”, then Lean Six Sigma is an alternative, proactive approach to help improve your problem-solving efforts.

A Measurable Benefit

If you could eliminate waste, improve cycle times, reduce variation and complexity, and improve process control what kind of impact would that have on your business?  Implementation of a Lean Six Sigma program to drive productivity has the goal of not only process improvement, but also tracking the resulting financial benefit the company will see.  During the Green Belt and Black Belt training, trainees are requested to bring a project idea to class to work in conjunction with the training to apply the tools.  Bottom line, Lean Six Sigma is a continuous improvement methodology.  The concepts, tools and skills related with Lean Six Sigma provide a clear path using the DMAIC roadmap for organizations to improve their operations and enhance customer satisfaction.

How We Can Help Your Company?

At UT CIS, we have seen the DMAIC methodology used by companies to help achieve their productivity goals.  We have trained many Green Belts over the years and offer some customization of the training based on the needs of the organization.  We also offer a Green Belt to Black Belt class to transition previously trained Green Belts to the Black Belt role.  Both classes are offered as 10 days of training, often done in 5 – two-day sessions.  Whether your company needs incremental step-by-step or breakthrough improvement, Lean Six Sigma using the DMAIC roadmap is a proven methodology that can be used to help achieve your goals.

Free informational webinar will be held on Friday, June 25, 11:00 – 11:30 AM EST. Click HERE to register.

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training in Knoxville begins on Thursday, July 29.

Lean Six Sigma Green-to-Black Belt training in Knoxville begins on Thursday, September 16.

Tags Manufacturing Six Sigma