Top 7 lean Six Sigma concepts

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Oct 16, 2023

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The project management methodologies evolved from the middle of the 20th century and there are now many methodologies available. For example, there are Prince2, PMBOK, XPM, six sigma (6σ), Lean, Agile, and Lean 6σ, etc.

It is required that the project managers who control and manage the project to master one of these methodologies and know at least a couple of them. There are many advantages in these methodologies, such as improving the processes, better management of the projects, better output or deliverables, better control over the projects, cost control, scope identification, and management, timely delivery, faster and first to the market, best quality, zero waste, and no defects. 

These things can be leveraged by adopting a suitable methodology for the project and the organization. It is required that in today’s world the project manager be certified with one of the methodologies and implement them successfully in the project and the organization. One of the key methodologies is the 6σ which is discussed below in this article.

Origin of Six Sigma concept

The Six Sigma concept came into existence in the early 1970s. It was the brainchild of the Motorola Company. At that time it was identified that the products of Motorola had many defects and the senior executive of the company who noticed this had to retrace the complete processes from the scratch. The result was that the first time 6σ was adopted and within no time the Motorola started producing the best quality products of those times.

First, the 6σ was adopted only for the manufacturing industry and today the concept is applied in almost every industry.

So what are Six Sigma concepts? 6σ is the framework or methodology for reducing the defects in the products or services and for reducing the variations in the processes. It is based on the statistical methods and is data and facts-driven framework for analyzing the processes and produce high-quality products or services. 

There are various levels of sigma from 1 to 6. The 1 sigma produces 691, 462 defects per million opportunities (DPMO). As the level of sigma increases the defects get reduced and efficiency of the processes goes up, so for 6σ, the defects produced are less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. The same is illustrated in the diagram below.

There are 2 sub-phases in the 6σ principles they are DMAIC which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. This is used for the old and matured process to find the process variability and remove defects in the products or services under statistical control. Another is DFSS which is Design for 6σ, it is also called DMADV which is Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Verify. This method is used for the new processes which are being designed or the pilot process or Proof of Concept projects.

What is the concept of Six Sigma

6σ is used for eliminating waste and inefficiency in the process thereby increasing customer satisfaction.

Each participant in the 6σ team has defined roles and responsibilities.

6σ is a data-driven concept and needs the accurate collection of data for the analysis

It is a business-driven and multi-dimensional concept for achieving the following,

  • Improved processes
  • Defects reduction
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced process variability
  • Costs reduction
  • Reducing the time for the products or services
  • Improved profits
  • Improved customer satisfaction levels

The key concepts of 6σ are 

  • High-Quality output - As per the customer expectations.
  • Defects reduction - Defects per million opportunities (DPMO), is one the key concept of 6σ to reduce the level of defects systematically and statistically.
  • Reduce Variations in the process - Reduce the variations in the process by improving the processes and outputs.
  • Process Capability - Calculation of the Cp and Cpk factor for the process capabilities
  • Design for 6σ (DFSS) - This is used for new processes that are newly designed.
  • Stable Operations - To make the operations stable, repetitive, consistent, predictive, and adaptable.
  • DMAIC - This stands of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. This is done statistically and is a data-driven approach.

Advantages of the concept of Six Sigma 

  • It paves way for constant success
  • It is used for executing a strategic change in the organization
  • Increases teamwork, collaboration and improved communication in the team
  • Distinctive roles and responsibilities for everyone in the team
  • Promotes learning and development for each member of the team
  • Produces high-value products or services to the customer
  • Enhances customer satisfaction levels
  • The high rate of improvement in the processes of the organization
  • Helps to achieve the performance goals of everyone in the team
  • High-quality products or services
  • High rates of defects reduction in the products or services
  • Eliminating the process variability and enhances process capabilities.

Top 7 lean Six Sigma concepts

Lean methodology reduces the 8 types of waste in the line of operations. Those wastes are,

  • Defects
  • Extra or over-processing
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Non-utilized talents
  • Overproduction
  • Transportation
  • Waiting time

6σ as we know reduces the defects in the products or services and eliminates the variability in the processes.

Lean Six Sigma concepts combine the above 2 principles.

The 7 top tools or concepts of lean 6σ are as follows,

1. Cellular Manufacturing - Here the cell is a mini production unit or area of production demarked within a boundary. The responsibilities of a family of parts or components are within each cell.

2. Takt Time - This is nothing but the rate at which the products get finished or completed and delivered to the customer. This measures whether the products or services flow smoothly from one station to another, also it ensures the continuous flow of products or services and high utilization of machines or processes. It is represented by the formula T = Ta/D that is Takt time is equal to the Time available for production after subtracting the breaks etc and D represents the demand for the product from the customer

3. Standardization of the work - The lean 6σ helps in the standardization of work and it is a very important tool or concept. We need to set the standards and follow the best practices of any products or services production.

4. Continuous flow or One-piece flow - This is one of the lean Six Sigma concept in which the components of parts flow continuously from one station to another without any delay in time. You need to balance the batch size accordingly to reduce the system's constraints.

5. Kanban Pull system - It is also called as Just-In-Time manufacturing. Here the concept is that the products or information is done when required at the right time without overproduction or less production. That is why you need to pull the products from one machine to another.

6. The 5 Why's - This is one of the concepts in which the 5 why's are employed to detect the root cause of the problem and then taking corrective action on the root cause.

7. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) - This involves the accountability and the responsibility of the people in the maintenance of the systems or equipment for improving the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) that includes performance, availability, and quality.


We have seen both the concepts of lean and 6σ and primarily focusing on the 6σ topics. For learning 6σ you need to learn one or more of the certification namely white belt, yellow belt, green belt, black belt, master black belts, and champion. 

StarAgile provides online training on green and black belt which is authorized by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and IASSC – International Associations for 6σ Certifications. 


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