Differentiating Between Lean Manufacturing And Six Sigma

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

In the business world, of late, you can witness a debate going on – Lean manufacturing Vs Six Sigma – which one is the best to opt to achieve your business goals. Many people have strong opinions about both methods.

However, both methods share the same goal that is cutting costs and eliminating waste. But, they use different approaches to achieve this common goal.

Lean manufacturing is a systematic and well-calculated way of eliminating waste and creating flow in the production process through the adoption of lean principles.

On the other hand, Six-Sigma is a set of techniques that focuses on reducing the rate of errors.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing technology is not new. This technology was first introduced by Henry Ford. He wanted to keep the production standards very high so that each step falls naturally into the next one, thereby reducing the waste gradually.

Then another automobile giant Toyota implemented this process and founded the Toyota Production System (TPS), which became one of the most efficient systems in the world.

The biggest difference between Lean and Six Sigma is that they analyze the cause of waste differently. 

Lean demonstrates seven types of wastes that are common in most production systems. 

The 7 Deadly Wastes

  • Overproduction – This occurs when the products are being developed more than the market demand. 
  • Waiting – It is the wasted time waiting for the next step in the process. 
  • Defects – Extra efforts caused by rework, scrap, and incorrect information 
  • Transport – Time being wasted on unnecessary movements of products and materials. 
  • Inventory – This occurs when excess products and materials in the inventory are not being processed. 
  • Over-processing – This occurs when more work is being done than is required by the market or customer. 
  • Motion – This refers to low work parameters and employees moving inefficiently between tasks.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a series of tools that are focused to identify, analyze, and correct statistical defects in products, by measuring whether the average variation in the quality of output is within the acceptable limits and researching the cause of any variation so that it can be minimized. 

Six Sigma was founded in the 1980s by a Motorola engineer named Bill Smith. Smith believed that by getting rid of variation you can improve the customer experience and increase your overall expense.

Six Sigma uses a DMAIC module for its process. Here DMAIC used for Define, Measure, Analysis, Improvement, and Control. 

What is DMAIC?

  • Define – Define the problem
  • Measure – Quantify the problem 
  • Analyze – Identify the cause of the problem 
  • Improve – Implement and verify the solution
  • Control – Maintain the solution

Six Sigma believes that variation is everywhere. And focuses on a particular goal that we need to identify, analyze, and get rid of. 

On the other hand, Lean has different goals; improves effectiveness and eliminates errors as well as producing increasing customer value and satisfaction. 

Six Sigma relies on data completely. It analyzes a few critical inputs to affect your output. 

While Lean has 6 different principles:

  • Focus on the customer.
  • Improve the value stream.
  • Maintain flow.
  • Pull through the system.
  • Strive for perfection. 
  • Respect customers. 

What is 5S Method?

The below mentioned 5S Method is the cornerstone of all Lean Manufacturing Tools:

  • Sort – Keep only the necessary items in the workplace. 
  • Set In Order – Arrange steps or items to promote efficient workflow. 
  • Shine – Clean the working area so it is always neat and well ordered. 
  • Standardize – Set standards for a constantly organized workplace. 
  • Sustain – Maintain and review standards.

You are free to share your thoughts on this most debatable topic in the business industry.

Contributed by Patrick Wagner  

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About John Ejiofor

John Ejiofor is a curious life-researcher, whose quest to finding answers to life's pertinent questions has led to founding Nature Torch. This blog aims to debate and explore many questions about our earth -- including those a lot of people are uncomfortable with asking. He has been published on some of the internet's most respected websites, which you can find online.
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