What is Lean Six Sigma and Why is it Important in the...

What is Lean Six Sigma and Why is it Important in the Manufacturing Industry?

Lean Six Sigma brings together two processes; Lean and Six Sigma. Lean comprises of many methodical processes to streamline both the service and the production processes by removing waste to a particular degree. While Six Sigma is a way of solving problems with high efficiency and is often used to remove defects within a product.

A Little History about Lean Six Sigma

Six Sigma as a term existed since the 1920s, however, it was the Motorola engineer Bill Smith who came up with the name officially. During the 1980s, the chairman of Motorola back then designed the Six Sigma measuring system as a standard to measure productivity. Not just that, through this, they wanted to change the work culture of the company. The implementation of Six Sigma helped the company save $16 billion, and this made the company put their faith completely in this process.

Since then, the process has been adopted by many other companies. Mainly in the west, the system has gained mass popularity with its astounding delivery and efficiency.

Lean manufacturing originated in the nation of Japan under the leadership of Taichii Onho and the term was officially coined by John Krafcik in the 1980s. He published an article for the MIT Sloan School of Management and it was named, “Triumph of the Lean Production System”. The concept has its roots in the infamous Toyota Production System that was the go-to production management system in many companies that aimed for a lower wastage output.

It evolved over the years into a holistic system for both the manufacturing and service sectors. It too works to reduce waste, improve flow and increasing profits.


There are 5 main principles of Lean.
Define Value– This step deals with customer expectations and classifies the activities you need to add to make the product more valuable.
Value-Stream Mapping- This maps out the process flow and eliminates the non-value activities to save time.
Flow Creation– Ensure a continuous flow system in producing the product or service.
Create Pull– Establish a pull approach by meeting system beat time which is the rate at which a product must be ready to meet the customer demand.
Continuous Improvement– This process deals with seeking and finding new spaces for improvement within the processes to create a smoother flow.

Lean Six Sigma is a highly effective business management system focused on combining the efforts of the two concepts (Lean and Six Sigma). It is done to improve and enhance the current processes and making them more inclined towards less wastage and mainly the lowering the amounts of defects. This has greatly benefited the success of business performance and management in every sector possible. It was designed to be primarily implemented in the manufacturing industry, but now, it can even be found being used in human resources and healthcare.

The Necessity of Defect Reduction

Most of you might be familiar with the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle. The shuttle exploded upon its re-entry back to earth. In 2013, the company Toyota had to recall many of its vehicles because there were many cases where the car’s safety was jeopardized and there had been many injuries to Toyota users.

There are many more examples where defects, even on the most minor scales have caused horrendous consequences. The Columbia explosion claimed the lives of 7 people and the Toyota accidents caused over $2,000 million of loss globally.

Neglecting the defects of your products can cause widespread infamy about your brand. These minor defects often give rise to greater tears and ultimately cause your revenue to come down, lose your customers and even decline the popularity of your brand.

How Does Lean Six Sigma Help in Defect Reduction?

Lean Six Sigma has been a popular criterion in accepting people for any operations related jobs. Most companies usually prefer that their candidates possess at least the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. There are many certifications about this course that details the processes involved in it.

Some might even prefer a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt or Master Black Belt. Those are usually for higher designations in the corporate hierarchy.

Lean Sigma comes with two processes to curb defects and waste. They are DMAIC and DMADV.


DMAIC is a method of improving the processes with data-driven strategies and is used for existing processes mainly. DMAIC stands for:
Define– Identify the customer and the customer’s needs
Measure– Check the efficiency of the processes currently deployed
Analyze– The data collected is analyzed and the root causes of the defects and other issues are noted
Improve– Make changes in the process to get rid of those defects
Control– Taking steps to make sure that these new processes continue to live-on.

DMADV– The goal of DMADV is the same as DMAIC but this strategy is used mainly for new production systems and services. DMADV stands for:
Define– Identify the purpose behind the projects or process.
Measure– Measuring the aspects that are essential to uphold the quality of the product.
Analyze– The data collected for the measurement phase is analyzed and alternatives processes or strategies are given a glance.
Design– The analysis is then put in design and is established for the process.
Verify– The last step deals with verifying the process and if the process is suitable to bring defects to its lowest point.

Lean six sigma relies on a standard measurement of 3.4 defects per million. Companies who have implemented Lean Six Sigma keep this as a reason for an instrument to accept or reject. Any shipment that arrives for inspection is mandated to have 3.4 defects or fewer in a quantity of a million items. Any shipment where defects might more be more than this measurement is usually rejected.

To check if the defects are under control, 5 steps are usually mandated.

• The sample size is created and making sure that the size is manageable but also sufficient so that the issues of the shipment can be reflected in it.
• Determine the defect opportunities in a single unit.
• Determine the total number of defect opportunities for the sample size under consideration.
• Check the defect opportunities in the single sample group.
• The total number of defects is decided by the total number of opportunities.

This is how you will get the measurements for Defects-per-Million- Opportunities. This gives us an accurate perception of the efficiency of the process. This will determine if you should implement the process to reduce the number of defects in your products.

This is how the formula for measuring defects-per-million.

(Number of Defects / Number of Units X Number of Defect Opportunities per million) X 1 Million

Final Thoughts


Lean Six Sigma is an essential concept to be familiar with if you are planning to work with improving processes or any senior position in operations. Continuous improvements to create an environment of negligible defects is what every company would desire and for that having an understanding of Lean Six Sigma is crucial.

You can take a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification course or if you prefer you can go for a Lean Six Sigma black belt as well.

Let us know in the comments if you found this article informative and if you would like to know more about Lean Six Sigma certification courses.


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