Lean Six Sigma

Written by Elisabeth Forsythe
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If you run a manufacturing company--or nearly any business, really--your two main priorities are speed and quality. You want to produce as many products as fast as possible. But you also want your products to be free of defects. These two goals may seem to be at cross-purposes: doing something fast and doing something well don't usually go hand-in-hand. But companies who implement a Lean Six Sigma program find that they can achieve both goals: they can supply their customer base with a large number of products that are virtually defect-free.

Lean Six Sigma is actually the combination of two methodologies, Lean Implementation and Six Sigma. Lean Implementation lends itself to speed: every process is analyzed as to whether or not it adds value to the finished product. Wasteful processes are eliminated, and new, efficient processes are adopted. This usually increases production, because the factory's time and resources are devoted exclusively to actually making the products--not changing dies or setting up different tools.

Six Sigma is all about the quality. A sigma is a step of one standard deviation. Six Sigma's goal is to have any failures happen beyond six sigmas of probability. No workplace is perfect, and employees are only human. But with Six Sigma, five deviations could occur, and the product would still have no defects. That means that per one million products, fewer than 3.4 would have any flaws that would lead to customer complaints.

Speed, Meet Quality: Lean Six Sigma

When Lean Implementation and Six Sigma are combined, a powerful team is born. Six Sigma makes up the overall infrastructure: the processes that will ensure failure is virtually nonexistent. Lean Implementation then helps organize and combine processes for the fastest results. So speed and quality can get to know each other quite well, after all.

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