Lean & Six Sigma – a quick, efficient, and focused FAQ

by Fleming. Team

Improving efficiency, saving time, cutting costs and satisfying the customer - those are universal goals that companies strive to reach. However, when it comes to identifying the methods of improving the business, things get tricky. Which processes could be done better? What does “better” even mean? And how does one measure what really “works”?

One of the universal ways to shed some light on efficiency, value, and control, is following the Lean & Six Sigma methodologies, which oftentimes go hand in hand. They adopt very simple mindsets and efficient toolkits to achieve all of the aformentioned goals. To start off, let's answer a few questions.

What is “Lean”?
In short, the goal of Lean is to minimize waste and maximize the value delivered to customers – and to do it systematically. Waste can mean anything: physical waste (i.e. defected products), but also overproduction, waiting, or rework/ correction. It is about “making the right work easier to do” - lean categorizes all the stages of delivering a product as problem-revealing “experiments”.

What is “Six Sigma”?
Six Sigma is a data-driven systematic approach that values defect prevention over detect detection. It uses facts, data, and statistical procedures to reduce the variance. In other words – Six Sigma controls exactly what you produce by using its DMAIC (Define – Measure – Analyze – Improve – Control) scheme.

It still sounds so broad… where can they be applied?
The short answer is: basically everywhere. Here are just a few examples of industries and fields which may benefit greatly from Lean & Six Sigma: manufacturing, construction, logistics, pharma & life sciences, security & defence – and many more.
Simply put, there are wasteful processes to eliminate everywhere. The same fact applies to measuring the outcome and securing that the customer always gets the maximum quality. In the end, the question is not whether Lean & Six Sigma can be applied, but how you can use them to improve efficiency.

How do Lean and Six Sigma differ and how do they synergize?
The Lean focuses more on saving time and “trimming the fat”, Six Sigma focuses more on controlling and analyzing the final product to ensure its quality. However, their philosophies are very close and aim to improve processes in general, which is why they often come hand in hand to form the “Lean Six Sigma” methodology which combines both of them and influences managers and workers alike.


Certified Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt

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Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt

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How can my company benefit from Lean Six Sigma?
As you go through the various levels of the Lean & Six Sigma training, you will be expanding your toolkit to remove a wasteful process and control the outcome. Think of it as martial arts – you start off with a few simple moves, but the more you learn, the more tricks you can pull off and the stronger and better you get. If you are a persistent student, you will be able to:

  • Focus on the customer
  • Understand how work gets done and identify weaknesses
  • Manage, improve and smoothen the process flow
  • Remove non-value-adding and wasteful steps
  • Minimize variation and manage by using factual information
  • Involve the people in the process
  • Improve your processes systematically

You mentioned there are various levels. How much do I need to learn to start putting Lean Six Sigma to work?
Continuing the martial arts metaphor, there are several belts for you to acquire. At its simplest, there are four levels with different “belts”:

  • Yellow Belt: Has a basic awareness of Lean and Six Sigma tools.
  • Green Belt: Can use Lean Six Sigma tools and apply them to projects.
  • Black Belt: Very thorough understanding of the toolkit, usually a full-time project improvement professional.
  • MBB (Master Black Belt): An experienced Lean Six Sigma veteran with outstanding knowledge.

Where do I start with Lean Six Sigma?
Perhaps you may be interested in our two trainings certified by the IASSC (International Association for Six Sigma Certification): Certified Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt & Certified Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt trainings in Nairobi, Kenya, taking place June 6-7, 2016 & June 8-10, 2016, respectively. You can follow up on your Yellow Belt immediately and get a Green Belt right afterwards.


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