Lean Six Sigma is a set of business practices that can be used to improve efficiency and reduce errors. It was developed by Motorola in the 1980s and has since been adopted by many other companies around the world. Six Sigma focuses on eliminating defects and reducing variability within processes. The goal of Six Sigma is to provide customers with products or services that are 99.99% defect-free, meaning they produce an error rate (defect) of 3.4 parts per million or less.
The 5 Key Principles of Six Sigma
- Focus on Customer: No matter what industry or domain you are in, every business survives on the customers and their needs. The primary goal is to keep the customers satisfied and create products as per their requirements.
- Map out a Value Stream: It is important to map the steps required to be taken before you improve the process. One way to do this is to take the help of flowchart that uses symbols to show the steps involved in any process. They are used for processes that have many steps, or where it can be difficult to understand what each step should be.
- Get Rid of Junk: If any problem is identified, make changes and remove the defects. If the value stream fails to detect, use tools that will help to detect outliers and problem areas. Lean Six Sigma encourages practices that streamline the functions to prevent junks. Some of the standard practices to reduce waste are using templates and checklists, documenting the processes, and automating the easy stuff.
- Create a Flexible Ecosystem: The fundamental essence of Six Sigma change and business transformation. When a defect or faulty process is removed, work practice will change. A robust culture of flexibility can endure changes in procedures, eventually leading to successful project implementation. People involved in the project will be trained for a quick and seamless adoption.
- Communication: Despite having a flexible ecosystem, if you cannot communicate the new processes effectively, your entire project may go for a toss. With proper communication, you can train your employees on the new processes and encourage taking their feedback to develop mutual understanding. Here are some ways for effective communication:
- Create process maps that will help you explain and make them easy to understand.
- Create a knowledge base and make it easily accessible for employees and stakeholders.
- Update the knowledge base to make it accessible for everyone.
Lean Six Sigma Belts
- White Belt: This is the basic level certification that sheds knowledge on six Sigma basic concepts. Individuals who have this certification are also able to participate in the problem-solving that local teams provide, which supports projects.
- Yellow Belt: The Six sigma yellow belt qualification teaches basic statistical analysis skills to help you make your company more efficient. It provides an overview of applying Six Sigma tools and techniques to business processes.
- Green Belt: The Lean Six Sigma green belt is a certification for those who have completed the yellow belt and are interested in continuing to become a Lean Six Sigma black belt. The green belt training focuses on identifying root causes of problems, statistical understanding process control charts, and quality improvement methods such as the design of experiments (DOE) and robust processes.
- Black Belt: They are experts in process improvement and have undergone extensive training to achieve this status. They also provide training along with leading projects.
- Master Black Belt: Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt is an advanced level certification that shows the individual has been trained in all aspects of this management strategy. If you want to earn the master black belt certification, you need to finish the black belt certification from a recognized institution.
The Six Sigma Methodology
The DMAIC methodology is a tool many organizations use to drive continuous improvement. It can be applied in any situation where you need to identify what needs to change, measure the results of that change, and then improve your process until it meets your desired outcome.
- Define: What are the problems that your company is facing?
- Measure: How do you know if you're making progress towards fixing them? Collect data that serves as a foundation for improvement.
- Analyze: What are the possible causes of these issues, and what should be done about them?
- Improve: Develop a plan for implementing corrective actions.
- Control: Implement your changes to see their effects on the problem.
DMADV is a framework for designing and analyzing the performance of any system. It is used when the existing processes do not meet customer expectations. The five phases are: D – Define, M – Measure, A – Analyze, D – Design, V – Validate
- Define: Define the process and objectives.
- Measure: Measure the characteristics and qualities of a product or service.
- Analyze: Analyze the data to find the best process.
- Design: Design and test the process or product/service.
- Verify: Ensure the designed product, circle meets the requirements and performs as per the expectations.
Six Sigma Career Roles
Many people know about Six Sigma and how it has been a popular tool for companies, but not everyone knows about the career prospects. These are some typical roles you might find in a company that practices Six Sigma:
- Six Sigma Specialist: This person creates the process map for projects within their organization. They also develop training materials and train employees on best practices when working with this system. They typically have an engineering or business degree background.
- Six Sigma Consultant: Six Sigma Consultants are experts in Six Sigma. They use their knowledge to improve business processes and reduce waste, defects, and errors. A Six Sigma Consultant will work with you throughout various stages of your project to ensure success for both parties.
- Innovation Catalyst: This position may be new to many organizations. Still, they are becoming more popular as time goes on because their primary role is to generate ideas quickly. They work with the six-sigma specialist to develop new ways to improve processes and products.
- Quality Engineer: This person is responsible for ensuring that all products and services meet customer requirements and company standards. They do this by inspecting and testing items at different stages of production.
- Process Engineer: The process engineer oversees the entire manufacturing or service process to ensure it runs smoothly and meets Six Sigma goals.
- Compliance Officer: This position ensures that all company policies and procedures are being followed, including those related to Six Sigma projects. They also work with regulatory agencies when needed.
- Project Manager: The project manager oversees leading Six Sigma projects from start to finish. They make sure all team members are on track.