Lean and Six Sigma are like Water and Milk combination — they make great TEA/COFFEE
Think of Lean and Six Sigma as pieces of the puzzle that interlock and create tremendous value for any kind of organization. One of the techniques to do when doing value stream mapping is to take the data output from the value stream mapping and begin to identify which relatively few steps in this value stream account for most of the effort that’s being spent. At the same time, examine the steps to see which few steps make up most of the defects and the mistakes that we’re finding across this value stream.
These would be the key vital steps where the bulk of the opportunities lie. Next, we need to decide which tools come into play. We can use Six Sigma to reduce the variation and reduce the number of defects. And we can use the Lean techniques to speed things up and create stability in the process. Lean and Six Sigma overlap, and are very powerful when working together to eliminate waste and variation, to drive value for any organization.
Remember, on the Lean side, we’re going after speed, and flow, eliminating waste in its various forms. [like excess inventory, transportation, and wasted time and motion.]
And in removing constraints that are preventing a smooth flow of product value. We are also working to increase flexibility and reduce complexity. At the same time, we’re working on this, we will also identify opportunities to strategically and tactically apply Six Sigma concepts. With a focus on what the customer requires, we work to reduce defects and improve our performance. We also engage in fact-based decision-making, optimizing and controlling the infrastructure, and developing teams of people that can support us as we develop and implement our overall methodology. When working to mix Lean and Six Sigma, there are some considerations.
The various criteria include the time frame, the nature of the problem, the capacity for culture change, and just how pervasive the problem is. When comparing Lean and Six Sigma, it becomes evident that certain methodologies have advantages in certain circumstances. For instance, if it’s relatively inexpensive, low risk, and we can do something quickly, the Lean tool is superior.
However, what if there are a lot of risks associated with making the change? If safety is a top priority and there is a risk of compromising safety in implementing a change without thoroughly testing it, we’re probably better off using Six Sigma tools. That would take a longer time, with much more rigor in the data analysis. If we want to go after the waste and improve speed when we have too much inventory, Lean is the great way to go.
If, however, we are making a lot of mistakes and we’re putting a lot of inventory through re-work because we can’t count on reliable results, this is where Six Sigma is very powerful.
What about capacity for change?
If we want to ease change into the organization, build quick wins, and drive long-term behavior, Lean is a wonderful technique.
With Six Sigma, it can take longer because we need data and a longer period of time to show the results.
Finally, the pervasiveness of the problem is a consideration as well.
Is the problem isolated or is it something we can easily identify and go after as low-hanging fruit with Lean methods?
However, if mistakes and defects are rampant, it will require a more intensive and data-based approach utilizing Six Sigma.
Overall, Lean and Six Sigma make a great combo just like gold and copper while making ornaments and Water & Milk while preparing Tea/Coffee.
If you have already implemented the powerful combination of tools, share your experience in the form of comments.
Thanks for reading!