Lean vs. Six Sigma: How They Differ

Lean and Six Sigma are markedly different methodologies, but when combined, are a powerful business improvement practice.

Lean is defined as:

  • The removal of waste from a process(es) to increase efficiency and lower costs.

A few examples of waste are:

  • Wait time (slow computers, waiting on answers, waiting on purchase orders, et al).
  • Movement of people more than necessary (printer located many feet from people who use it)
  • Rework of parts (rework is not doing the work correctly the first time, which is very expensive)
  • Excess inventory (holding inventory is costly, especially if it becomes obsolete)

Six sigma is defined as:

  • Reduction of variation to improve quality

A few examples of variation are:

  • Two or more people processing a sales order in a completely different way (no standard work)
  • Multiple methods for a customer to check in at a hospital or hotel creating variety in the data collected
  • Parts that have excess variety because of lack of material specifications
  • Too many suppliers making the same parts to non-standard specifications

Combining Lean and Six Sigma is an excellent means for considering all business practices.  The combination of Lean Six Sigma helps organizations:

  • Reduce or eliminate waste which in turn reduces cost – the lean effort
  • Reduce variation which in turn improves overall quality to the customer – the six sigma effort

Using the combined Lean Six Sigma methodology takes maximum advantage of the power of both.  One without the other can lead to higher cost or higher reject rates, respectively.

Learning Tree is now offering Lean Six Sigma training in partnership with Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College:

Individuals seeking to gain knowledge and maximize their contribution to an organization are prudent to consider training to gain depth in these business concepts. Certification provides immediate value to employees and employers alike!  Certification from a highly respected institution (Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College) provides lasting value!

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