lean six sigma frequent ask questions (FAQ)

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean six sigma is a scientific method that can be used to increase customer satisfaction by improving the performance of your products and/or services. It combines lean tools that focus on reducing the waste in a process and six sigma tools which focus on reducing variation in a process. Lean six sigma is more than a collection of tools, it is a mindset to look continuously for opportunities to improve the way you work.

Where did lean six sigma originate from?

Before we can answer that question you have to understand that lean six sigma comes from two methodologies. On the one hand, you have lean thinking and on the other hand, you have six sigma.  Lean Thinking started in the process engineering department of the car building company Toyota, while six sigma started in the quality department of a high-tech system manufacturer, Motorola.

At Toyota, they did not speak of Lean thinking but called their improvement system, the Toyota Production System. With their production system, Toyota tried to distinct their production from the traditional mass production. They wanted to district themself by producing products with less defect, at less cost and in less time compared to the traditional car suppliers. In other words, they wanted to use less of everything, therefore it was referred to as lean manufacturing by outsiders.

Since both methodologies are used to implement continuous improvement they have been combined over time and became lean six sigma.

Why should we use lean six sigma?

There are many improvement methodologies out there. So why should we use Lean six sigma? Lean six sigma has proven itself in the past. The scientific tools and techniques that are used are very effective. Due to this, there is a large community that uses lean six sigma to improve.  

But the collection of tools is not the only factor that contributes towards the success of lean six sigma. Lean six sigma strongly emphasizes the importance that all individual employees not only search for improvements but also actively contribute to the implementation of these improvements.

At Toyota, this is also known as "Building people before building cars". They are convinced that you need to engage the complete workforce in continuous improvement if you want to be successful and stay ahead of the competition.

Where is lean six sigma used?

lean started in the process department of a car builder and six sigma in the quality department of a high-tech system manufacturer, but over the years they have been evolved and have been used over the whole supply chain.  In other words, they can be used throughout the complete Order-To-Cash cycle to analyze and improve processes and solve problems. All departments can benefit from using lean six sigma: IT, logistics, maintenance, HR, ...

Lean six sigma is not only used in the make industry, but also service providers suchs as banks and hospitals can benefit from using lean six sigma.

This article was updated on November 30, 2022