Lean Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service. Simply put, it is a method that provides the organization with tools to improve the capability of their business processes. This increase in performance and decrease in process variation helps lead to defect reduction and improvement in profits, employee morale, and quality of products or services.

The prefix “lean” here adds value to the processes of six sigma. Lean is a continuous improvement and a value oriented strategy of creating more value to the consumers using minimum resources and minimizing waste at every step of the process.

When used together, the lean six sigma program reaps off its benefit of bringing up quality in service, product or any business and cost reduction benefits of the lean systems.

This course was interesting as it linked to my passion for engineering and provided ways in which processes could be analyzed, and made more effective and productive. The main advantages of these lean six sigma processes can be seen in various field like manufacturing, information technology, telecommunication to name a few. It provided me with knowledge about the tools used in each sector to make the processes more efficient. Let’s take the manufacturing business as a Tools like the Kaizen and Kaizen blitz are used to gain momentum and build credibility while giving good results in the short term whereas tools like 3M used to release the overburden and unevenness in the processes.

The course also provided me with several real-time case studies of Fortune 500 companies like the Nike and Toyota that clarified and reinforced how lean six sigma was incorporated in the real world and how the business reaped it benefits.

Further, it shone light upon the history of six sigma and the most influential people that helped developed the theories in practice today. One of these is DMAIC, that is Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control which is a project improvement strategy. Each component of this method was further explained in detail with its own tools, examples, pros and cons. Another process that is used for introducing new products or services, DMADV that is Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Verify, was also introduced and elaborated upon.

All in all, the project lay a foundation of understanding the processes and ways to optimize them in various industries while also touching upon several tools and their applications in the real world. It piqued my interest in the subject and also lay a foundation for the Yellow Lean Six Sigma course.

Yellow Belt in the Lean Six Sigma

Building on the principles of the lean six sigma and white belt, the yellow belt takes the learnings to the new stage with additional and in-depth information. The yellow belt mainly focuses on the DMAIC, that is the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control, to improve and control which is a project improvement strategy. Each of the 5 phases have been explored in depth with related real-life examples and functional tools within them.

The define phase consists of assessing then risk factors while writing the problem statement and the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed) goals statement and taking into account the availability of resources. This aspect was really interesting as most companies don’t really take the time to understand the problem but jump to conclusions and take actions, which is actually not advisable. The right way is to define the customer expectations and the steps required to meet these adequately.

Next comes the measure phase which includes various mathematical tools such as value stream mapping tools, flow charts, statistical calculations and graphical analysis allowing for adequate data collection. The course provides with simulated case studies in this section in order to reinforce the concepts taught in the videos. These case studies along with the resources provided really helped me learn the concepts in an easy and structured manner.

Analysis is the next step that is extremely crucial in this process as it is where business draw conclusions about their data set and suggest ideas that could be used to improve the process. I found the value-added analysis and root cause analysis extremely interesting as it gave me a new perspective to the way business manage their operation. Being someone who is interested in engineering, these methods would really prove to be beneficial in the future when I’m taking decisions. The practical session and scenarios in this section further aided my understanding.

After this comes the improvement stage where business implement the proposed solutions to see their desired outcomes. Various tools like Andon, Kanban and Pull, 5S and Poka-Yoke are explained and their advantages in improving the conditions have been highlighted through case studies.

Lastly, the control phase depicts ways in which the business can control the implemented improvements to see the desired results in a specific period of time. The use of probability and triangular estimates further helps to quantify the impact and take steps if required in the future.

Case studies on Bank of America, Intel and others further reinforces the impact of this method and the changes they have brought about.

Finally, it sets the base for the next level that is the Green Six Sigma Belt.