Friday, June 5, 2015

Choosing a Path For Your Company: Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing or a Combination of Both?

six sigma, lean or a combination of both?Every day, MMTC is out consulting with Michigan’s manufacturers about how to improve their competitiveness. While we work with a diverse group of companies – from food and chemical producers to automobile parts and metal manufacturers – organizations of all industries and sizes are focused on process improvement to boost profits.

This is great news. Continuously improving processes enables companies to produce higher quality goods, better meet shipping deadlines and shorten lead times. However, there seems to be a little bit of confusion regarding the best way to improve processes. Some manufacturers ask us about Lean Manufacturing, while others inquire about Six Sigma methodology. There is often the misconceptions that Lean and Six Sigma are the same thing, or they can’t be used simultaneously. 


Setting the Record Straight
There is a difference between Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. However, many of the objectives between adopting Lean Manufacturing principles and Six Sigma are similar, and the lines between the two are understandably a little blurry. Both Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing aim to help businesses:

  • Identify and eliminate waste
  • Deliver goods to their customers at a better rate
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Decrease production costs
  • Improve efficiencies

Focusing on LEAN
Lean Manufacturing focuses more on removing steps in the production cycle that are considered “non-value added” activities. Non-value added activities are considered those that a customer ultimately wouldn’t deem beneficial and want to pay for.

Lean’s objective, therefore, is to make sure your processes are providing value to your customers. If staff members have a laser focus on the activities that only provide value, manufacturers can produce goods and parts at a more efficient rate.

Lean also isn’t limited to your production floor – you can apply Lean principles to all areas of your organization, such as your office. There are various Lean tools including the 5S system, cellular & flow manufacturing, pull and kanban systems, and total productive maintenance (TPM).

Related blog entries on Lean include:


The Significance of Six Sigma
On the other hand, Six Sigma enthusiasts believe that waste occurs in a facility because of variations and deviations within their processes. Six Sigma includes methods and tools which help manufacturers identify and remove these variations and deviations from the production cycle. All results are designed to be measured and verified.

Six Sigma also extends to areas beyond the production floor – it looks to incorporate and streamline processes in places like shipping, delivery and customer services. Projects frequently are based on the acronyms DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) and DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Validate).

Related blog entries on Six Sigma include:


A Great Match
The needs and processes of a manufacturer are unique, which will ultimately determine what are the best method, or methods, for process improvement. Realizing the benefits of Lean and Six Sigma, manufacturers have adopted both the Six Sigma tools and Lean manufacturing techniques to create the Lean Six Sigma methodology. This combines Lean’s focus on waste reduction through eliminating non-value added activities with Six Sigma’s quality focus, ultimately accelerating your improvement efforts.

MMTC offers programs and services geared towards Lean, Six Sigma and the combination of the two. For more information, visit our Solutions page by clicking here or call us at 888.414.6682.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

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