Magazine article Strategic Finance

Combining Lean and Six Sigma

Magazine article Strategic Finance

Combining Lean and Six Sigma

Article excerpt

Manufacturing firms in the United States and elsewhere are under tremendous pressure to compete in the increasingly global arena. While some may feel that competing in such an environment is a daunting task, Bill Carreira and Bill Trudell, authors of Lean Six Sigma that Works, believe that it's possible for a company from any geographic location to become a fierce and successful player in the international arena by adopting the operating philosophies and tools of Lean Six Sigma.

What is Lean Six Sigma? According to Carreira and Trudell, Lean Six Sigma is a combination of the best features of Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing. Six Sigma is an integrated, disciplined approach for improving processes by understanding and controlling variation, which results in an improvement in the predictability of business processes. The basic values of Lean manufacturing include high quality, low cost, short cycle times, flexibility, the continuous pursuit to eliminate waste, and customer-defined value. While the classic tools of Lean address process definition, high materials velocity, and balance, the tools of Six Sigma address data-driven variation reduction.

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Lean Six Sigma effectively combines the principles of Six Sigma with Lean manufacturing to spur a relentless pursuit of sustained improvement. Lean causes products to move through processes faster, and Six Sigma improves quality, so integrating the two complementary methodologies can yield even greater benefits than implementing them separately. For example, many businesses direct their improvement focus on maximizing localized pieces of a process while failing to analyze the impact across the entire process. By integrating the Lean principle of a system-wide analytical view, i.e., the value stream (the total cycle of activities needed to produce a product or service), organizations can maximize the benefit from their improvement efforts. …

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