Lean Six Sigma and Lean Thinking
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“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, exploits it as an opportunity” - Peter Drucker. On injecting the changes, the company must eliminate the unwanted processes in the organisation to enjoy the advantages of the changes made. Lean thinking is one such technique developed with the aim of sweeping away the unprofitable and undesirable areas without compromising on the quality.

Developed by Toyota, the technique of Lean thinking uses innovative techniques to wipe out wastage in the processes. The unwanted processes add to the cost of the product without yielding gains. Elimination of such activities adds to the profitability of the process besides adding momentum to the task. The gain over speed gives a competitive advantage to the business in the highly aggressive market.

Taiichi Ohno has identified the seven areas of manufacturing wastes as over production, transportation, processing procedures, motion, defects, waiting time and inventory. Lean thinking aims at performing only those actions that adds value to the customers. Easy adaptation of the products in accordance to the needs of the customer is made possible by Lean thinking.

The success of Lean Thinking developed by Motorola and Six Sigma pioneered by Motorola lead to an approach which combined the two techniques resulting in Lean Six Sigma or Lean Sigma. The technique was developed to enhance the profitability of the products and services delivered maintaining the quality of the same with control over the degree of variance. Lean methodology leads to process optimisation through the identification and elimination of wasteful activities. Six Sigma on the other hand enables to deliver better quality products and services by minimising process variations.

The first step involved is the recognition of the value stream or those processes involved in converting the raw materials into customer expectations. On understanding the value streams identify the processes involved and eliminate those which are irrelevant to the project. Lean methodology provides tools like the 5S – sorting the wanted and unnecessary items, setting them in an order, shining or cleaning the workplace, standardisation and sustaining the above processes continuously – to identify those which add to the profitability of the output. Then the application of Six Sigma techniques like DMAIC – define, measure, analyse, improve and control – or other tools are introduced to reduce variations from the expected results and to lead to cycle time reduction.

Lean Sigma is an ongoing process which requires the support of all levels of management for its effective functioning. The combination of Lean technique and Six Sigma focuses its attention on the processes through Lean tools and the problems through the statistical tools of Six Sigma. Lean Sigma enjoys the advantage of a system where the processes are analysed and standardised resulting in a lower cost of production and huge profits with control over quality. Similarly, with a good standardisation procedure the companies can analyse and alter the processes to meet the customer demands even on short notice. Thus Lean Sigma is an effective tool in quality if it is utilised with the support of the whole organisation.

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