What is Lean Six Sigma?
Many people ask about the definition of Lean Six Sigma. Lean is centred on the concept of flow, while Six Sigma focuses on reducing variation to eliminate defects. A major cause of variation is complexity of non-value-added waste. Lean is uniquely positioned to reduce complexity and inefficiencies. It is for this reason that Lean and Six Sigma work in synergy.
Achieving a performance level of 6 Sigma equates to 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Even if your goal is 99% quality, your results would be:
- Two unsafe plane landings per day at most major airports
- 500 incorrect surgical operations per week
- Almost two hours of unsafe drinking water per week
- 16,000 pieces of mail lost every day
- No electricity for more than 7 hours per week
σ is the symbol for standard deviation. This sigma level is a process performance measure which considers the extent of variation in performance. Let’s take a look at variation. Variation measures the spread of data. The wider your range of performance, the higher your variation. The Six Sigma measure asks the question “What percentage of the time do we meet our customer requirements?” Remember 99% of the time is not good enough.
What is the difference between Lean and Six Sigma?
Lean and Six Sigma are both proven approaches that seek to deliver sustainable business improvement. These two approaches were developed independently, but the modern way is to combine them into a holistic approach to solve the problem at hand. Lean improves flow while six sigma reduces variation.
Lean is an operational excellence strategy, a way of thinking and a powerful toolset for problem-solving. Lean principles are designed to focus on your customer’s needs in order to eliminate waste by removing non-value-added activities. It will help you standardise your business processes to improve productivity and ultimately reduce the cost of doing business. You will apply the FOCUS methodology (Focus, Observe, Create, Utilise and Sustain).
Six Sigma is a process performance methodology that focuses on reducing variation in a process, with a belief that zero defect rates are possible. Six Sigma uses statistical analysis to calculate deviations that do not meet customer requirements. You will apply the DMAIC methodology (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control)
Why is Variation the Enemy of Customer Experience?
Understanding your customer needs is crucial to deliver the ultimate customer experience. When a customer interacts with you, they want to have a consistently good experience every time. We can all understand the risk if you have variation in the quality of the product itself, how it’s unlikely that a customer will be satisfied if their experience with the product differs each time. Often the majority of efforts to reduce variation focus on the variability within the product. Yes the same attention is not always paid to the overall experience – from the moment the customer decides to act on a need, to investigating his/her options in the marketplace, to getting information and cost estimates, to placing an order, to receiving the product and paying for it – each touchpoint is an opportunity to either delight or disappoint your customer. Customers have expectations and requirements for each touchpoint along the way.
How do you measure these requirements to ensure you are meeting the needs and expectations of your customers? Mapping your customer’s journey through your organization helps all team members see the company from your customer’s perspective and understand the impact of their daily work on the customer value creation process. Our Lean Six Sigma courses will teach you how to collect, process and manage data in order to solve your company’s most complex problems or help create the next new product or service.
What are the options for Lean Six Sigma Training?
Lean Six Sigma Black Belt: An in-depth study of the DMAIC principles trained over three, 1 week sessions (15 days total). The purpose of a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification is to equip full time business improvement resources with a comprehensive toolkit to run advanced Six Sigma projects to solve complex business problems. This continuous improvement programme includes 12 months eLearning access with videos of our instructors, voice-over narrations, template toolkit, SigmaXL License, quizzes and an online exam for certification.
Lean Six Sigma Green Belt: The DMAIC principles are trained over two, 1 week sessions (10 days total). The purpose of the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course is to develop part-time resources with good understanding of Six Sigma to support and assist Black Belts to run business improvement projects. The programme includes 6 months eLearning access with videos of our instructors, voice over narrations, template toolkit, SigmaXL License, quizzes and an online exam for certification.
Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt: Aimed at the shop floor or team members, the Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt is trained within 1 week (5 days). The intention is to provide fundamental problem-solving skills, that will be applied together with larger scale projects to measure, identify and resolve everyday issues. The programme includes 3 months eLearning access that includes videos of our instructors, voice-over narrations, template toolkit, quizzes and an online exam for certification.
Lean Six Sigma White Belt: The White Belt is typically a 1 day overview of six sigma, intended to provide senior executives with an understanding of Six Sigma and their role to support Projects and Black Belts within the business.
Must I complete Yellow Belt before I advanced to Green Belt and Black Belt?
With TLC’s Lean Six Sigma courses, it is not a pre-requisite to have completed a Yellow Belt course before you embark on your Green Belt course. Equally, you do not need to complete a Green Belt course before undertaking Black Belt studies. If you have completed a Green Belt course and have been actively involved in running Green Belt projects, you would be able to undertake a bridging course to cover the additional modules in the curriculum needed to upgrade your qualification to Black Belt.
One exception is the journey to becoming a Master Black Belt, as you need to be a qualified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, before you can tackle the additional programmes and project-based experience that will lead you towards the ultimate certification in the industry, as a Master Black Belt.
Which is right for me, Green Belt or Black Belt?
The answer will depend on a number of factors, related to your job and career requirements, previous studies and their relevance to the curriculum, and the amount of time you can set aside for study.
Becoming a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt is a significant investment in both time and money. It is a challenging course and will demand your full commitment. If it is not needed for your job or your career plans now, or if you’re not sure whether you will enjoy the Lean Six Sigma field, it’s a good idea to start with Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. That way you can start with smaller projects, before deciding if the full Black Belt qualification is right for you. If you have successfully completed TLC’s Green Belt course, you can choose to do the bridging programme to Black Belt when you are ready, so you won’t incur double costs in going that route.
Development of TLC's Lean Six Sigma Training Programmes
TLC’s Lean and Lean Six Sigma programmes were developed by Master Black Belts with 20 years’ or more international experience spread across numerous industry sectors. Moreover, they are experienced facilitators and coaches, and have also become experts in instructional design. This unique blend of expertise has ensured that the courses are practical and realistic, not just academic theory. Examples are drawn from real-life case studies and projects, and the templates and tools have been tried and tested in multiple projects in different businesses. The learning process ensures that you have to apply your newly-acquired Lean Six Sigma knowledge, not just absorb it in theory, thereby ensuring that you develop the essential skills you need to make a difference back in the workplace. And best of all, the learning is filled with activities that mean it’s never boring; you’ll be active and engaged and having fun while you learn!
Are Lean and Six Sigma only suited for Manufacturing and Production Environments?
Most definitely not! While much of the history of Lean and Six Sigma is rooted in the production space, there is no doubt that both the philosophy, and the methodologies, can and do deliver immense value when applied in industries such as services, logistics and agriculture.
Often in our experience, there is in fact greater ‘low hanging fruit’ in these cases, as people have not yet started to ‘see’ inefficiencies, and are not yet attuned to the real opportunities in increased productivity, reduced cost and improved customer experience that comes with successful implementation of Lean Six Sigma thinking.
Equally, there is often significant opportunity in the so-called ‘back-office’ or support functions even in highly-efficient manufacturing businesses, as there is a natural tendency to focus on the value stream as a priority. If there is value to be had in the support functions in a production environment, there is just as much value in these functions in other types of industries.
We can quote examples of companies that have saved up to 400 hours of management and staff time to run a routine compliance meeting, in a company in the financial services sector. Or a medical centre that improved its Accounts Receivable processes to reduce accounts >90 days by over 70%. Neither of these is in manufacturing, yet both of these have seen tangible results added to the bottom-line through application of Lean Six Sigma.
What should I look for in choosing a Lean Six Sigma Service Provider?
Well, that depends on your particular needs. Are you an individual looking to boost your own skillset, in order to increase your marketability to future employers? Or are you responsible for a business function, or even an entire enterprise, and need to use Lean Six Sigma as your strategy to deliver sustainable Business Performance Excellence? Your criteria are likely to differ based on these needs.
Either way, you want a program that ensures you not only get a piece of paper to show for it, but that the training has delivered capability. In other words, the learning process goes beyond imparting theory, or passing an exam, to being able to apply the concepts and tools to solve real-world problems in the workplace.
So how do you know which Lean Six Sigma offering will do this? Well, it helps to look at the track record of the training provider. How long have they been in business? How many people have they trained? Better yet, who are those people and what is their track record?
It is also useful to consider the training provider’s accreditation, if any. While some training providers will be accredited with one or other industry bodies, this confirms only that their curriculum is academically accurate. To be sure that a course is designed to equip its attendees with the capability to apply their knowledge, look for an accreditation that confirms the provider is complying with the highest standards of learning design – such as IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training). In other words, they’re not just technical experts, they are also experts in upskilling others. Most of us can recall a school teacher or college lecturer who was academically brilliant, but who struggled to get students to understand them – they just couldn’t teach. You certainly don’t want the same problem with your Lean Six Sigma trainer! So it’s advisable to choose a course that was designed by people who are experts in designing courses, not just Master Black Belts. TLC’s trainers are both.
What is Waste?
Waste is work or use of resources that does not add any value to a product or service. The Japanese refer to this as ‘muda’. Lean thinking removes waste and inefficiencies in a rigorous process by eliminating non-value adding work and waste in the process and work environment. This is applied to both manufacturing and services industries. The 8 basic categories of waste are:
5S as a Gateway to Lean
The 5 S’s reference the 5 steps involved in getting your house in order all beginning with the letter “S”. Namely, Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. A Lean business has purpose. Its people embrace change, and challenge and train themselves to think differently constantly. 5s lays the foundation for this. It helps to create standardised work, visual management and total productive maintenance. The 5S’s are so simple that anyone can apply them. Whether in a factory, in an administrative environment, on your computer, on the road, in your management team and even at home. Make it fun, and use it to engage and encourage your people to make improvements in their own workplaces that will make every day easier.
Business Process Improvement
TLC’s consultants are experts in business process management consulting and provide several services in this space. A key step in implementing Lean is to standardise best practice, and becoming a systems managed business.
TLC offer a unique approach to standardising and stabilising business processes. The Standard Operating Model (SOM) method is designed to enable companies to move from chaotic and re-active management to a stable, pro-active approach in a matter of weeks, not months! TLC has developed a SOM for companies in industries such as Petro Chemical, logistics, insurance, retail and an international airline.
Franchise System – The SOM was used to develop the franchise management system for South Africa’s largest franchisor, The Corner Bakery, found in over 180 Engen Petrol Garages.
Baseline Tool – The SOM is used as a base lining tool and is a key enabler to the success of a Lean or Lean Six Sigma deployment.
Training Leadership Consulting (TLC) is an International Training and Consulting company, focused on Operational Excellence, Leadership Development and Business Improvement. TLC Global support their local business community and enterprises around South Africa to improve productivity and reduce the cost of doing business in this country. They help their clients to define their purpose, improve their performance, and increase their enterprise value.
Products and Services
TLC provide business improvement, leadership training and short business skills programmes as classroom training and online. Training programmes include Lean, Six Sigma, Change Management, Business Process Management, Train the Trainer, Business Improvement Consulting services, Learnerships, Skills Programmes and short business skills courses. TLC also offers project coaching and deployment support for programme management.