Although Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma have been practiced for several decades now, Lean Six Sigma itself is a relatively new initiative being followed by companies worldwide. Whereas Six Sigma is focused on reducing variation and improving process yield using statistical tools, Lean is primarily concerned with eliminating waste by following a defined approach to implement various Lean principles. Lean brings action and intuition to the table; Six Sigma uses statistical tools to uncover root causes and provide metrics; Lean Six Sigma is a combination of both and provides the tools to create ongoing business improvement (Smith, 2003). The synergy of Lean and Six Sigma bring in the advantages of both, achieving results consistently superior than what either system could achieve alone.
Lean Six Sigma is different from Six Sigma in the sense that it marries the principles of both Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma concepts to produce a much enhanced system. Six Sigma is a process for eliminating defects and variation through the development of a disciplined data driven approach. However Six Sigma alone cannot dramatically improve process speed or reduce invested capital. Although it can bring a process under statistical control, variations will still exist in terms of delivery times, assembly times, routings, etc. Incorporating Lean principles within the Six Sigma framework enhances speed and quality by improving and streamlining the processes and creating excellent customer service. According to Badurdeen (2008), "to get to Lean Six Sigma an organization should first incorporate Six Sigma into their process improvement and then engage in Lean Six Sigma to speed up the processes after the systems have been broken down into smaller components".
Selecting the Right Team
As such, rightsizing Lean Six Sigma teams should be the first priority for businesses that want to ensure the success of 'Lean' projects and realize the full potential of such projects. Some of the factors that characterize an efficient Lean Six Sigma Team are:
High level of efficient communications amongst implementers, management officials and other entities associated with the 'Lean' project.
The team members are accountable since decisions and actions taken by the team can be traced back to individual members.
Team works with a reduced cost of operations because the lesser the numbers, the less will be the amount of resources used for performing the same tasks and duties
The team constantly strives in increasing efficiency in solving complex problems and issues and employees know the exact person to contact if they encounter problems during the implementation phase
The team shows less chance of conflicts and ego issues.
One way we evaluate the success of a Lean Six Sigma initiative or strategy is to measure the involvement in LeanSix Sigma by way of numbers of people involved, i.e., numbers trained, practicing, certified, etc.
DMAIC is a standard improvement model; it is a structured, disciplined and rigorous approach to process improvement consisting of 5 logically interlinked phases. The 5 phases are discussed in the following section (George, 2002).
Define: This is the first step which aims at clarifying the goals and value of a project. A set of tools such