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Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing or Both – Which is Right for Your Manufacturing Business?

Posted by Goldin Peiser & Peiser on Jan 10, 2019 4:53:34 PM

When many people think of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, they don’t always consider them synergistic. While they evolved from different paths, they share many of the same functional characteristics, as well as end goals of efficiency, consistency, and quality. In fact, they are similar enough that a hybrid discipline – Lean Six Sigma – evolved and is now used by businesses throughout the manufacturing sector.

Whether your manufacturing business integrates lean manufacturing, embraces tenets of Six Sigma or applies Lean Six Sigma, the results have the potential to positively influence manufacturing initiatives throughout your enterprise. 

Lean Manufacturing

First, some background on each discipline. Lean manufacturing or lean production, often simply referred to as "lean," is a business discipline developed by Toyota Motor Corporation, which took lessons learned from the Ford Motor Company manufacturing system and elevated them to boost efficiency and profitability, save waste and save associated costs. A lean manufacturing process is all about maximizing production and minimizing waste. Lean’s method for accomplishing this within a manufacturing system strives for maximum efficiency and has been adopted by countless manufacturers throughout the world. 

Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a set of management techniques intended to improve business processes by greatly reducing the probability that an error or defect will occur. Its origins are officially traceable to Motorola, Inc. which combined the element of financial accountability with existing quality tools already in the market.

In 2001, the first concept of Lean Six Sigma was introduced in a book titled “Leaning into Six Sigma: The Path to Integration of Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma.” While lean traditionally focuses on the elimination of waste, Six Sigma is designed to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects, as well as mitigating process variability. Through Lean Six Sigma, sources of process variation are exposed by lean, while variation reduction is achieved through Six Sigma. 

Similarities Between Lean and Six Sigma

As improvement practices, lean and Six Sigma share distinctive similarities:

  • Both approaches require teams
  • Lean and Six Sigma each function best when managed by certified individuals (e.g., Six Sigma black belts and green belts, lean consultants)
  • Behavior and systems change is necessary to drive measurable improvement
  • The end results – efficiency, consistency, and quality – are attainable through effective implementation and dedication to each practice over time

So, how should your manufacturing business approach lean and Six Sigma?

Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma are both effective approaches to accomplish their goals within a variety of environments, including manufacturing businesses. That said, not every manufacturer utilizes one or the other, and there are no hard-and-fast guidelines for their adoption and use. A manufacturing business that depends heavily on robotics and/or machinery is probably better suited to employing Six Sigma principles, while a business with labor-intensive manufacturing processes may benefit more from integrating lean principals. It’s also possible to gain positive outcomes from each via the adoption of Lean Six Sigma. For example, your business could leverage lean to achieve process improvement, while Six Sigma could be useful in the drive to reduce process variation.

Whatever your approach may be, it should be used to support broader business goals and facilitate the long-term viability of your business.

Learn more about lean principles by attending our upcoming presentation: Principles of Lean Office & Administration on Thursday, January 17, 2019. Check here for details and registration information here. 

Goldin Peiser & Peiser works with manufacturers on business strategies that will help them meet their financial goals and objectives. Learn more about the Manufacturing and Distribution Services Group at Goldin Peiser & Peiser. For more information, please contact Kevin Harris, CPA, at 214-365-2473.

Topics: Manufacturing, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma