Lean Six Sigma is a powerful methodology that combines two world-class process improvement systems: lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. The ultimate objective is to improve processes by reducing variation, product defects (Six Sigma) and eliminating waste (lean) while delivering product value and customer satisfaction.
This integrative methodology is structured around teams that work collaboratively within an organization to significantly improve performance and decrease costs. Lean Six Sigma is organized around process improvement projects that generally yield, on average, savings of $100,000+ per year. Most Lean Six Sigma projects take about six months to complete.
Practitioners of Lean Six Sigma are described in terms of “belts” in a hierarchy, much like the martial arts. The most basic of the belts is the White Belt. White Belts are trained to understand the structure and the goals of Lean Six Sigma and some basic vocabulary.
Just beyond the White Belt is the Yellow Belt. Yellow Belts learn everything a White Belt learns plus the basic methodology known as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). Yellow Belts only work peripherally on Lean Six Sigma projects, if at all.
The next level up is the Green Belt—the real workhorses of a Lean Six Sigma project. Green Belts receive extensive training that includes all Yellow Belt materials plus a very deep dive into DMAIC. Most Green Belts also work with statistical software and run basic statistics. Green Belts may lead projects and report up to a Black Belt—the highest belt level—if there are multiple projects running simultaneously.
The highest level of the Lean Six Sigma world is the Black Belt and the Master Black Belt. If the Green Belt is the workhorse, the Black Belt is the power horse. The role of the Black Belt is to serve as the team leader or the leader of multiple teams as well as the resident statistician. The Black Belt also works with the Project Champion and Steering Committee to ensure ideal communications about the progress of all Lean Six Sigma projects.
When the Champion, usually an executive of the organization, has sanctioned a project and the team has been identified and the project charter written, the initial focus will be around Lean concepts. The reason it starts with Lean is that Lean methods remove waste from the process. It only makes sense that before the heavy statistical analysis occurs, all of the “noise” within the process should be addressed first.
Lean has an impressive toolbox of its own that includes:
- Value stream mapping
- Takt time
- Cause-and-effect diagram and 5 Whys
- Load balancing
- Mistake proofing
These tools work in conjunction with the five phases of Six Sigma. Remember, Six Sigma reduces the amount of defective products manufactured or services provided, resulting in increased revenue and greater customer satisfaction. As such, it is a longer, deeper analysis into the process to determine the root cause. The methodology is rigid and robust and as such, uses the DMAIC to structure the various phases.
Business operations that have successfully used Lean Six Sigma have ranged from manufacturing, banking, healthcare, government, higher education, logistics and construction. In other words, every industry can benefit from the use of this methodology. New product development has also successfully integrated these methods into the process with outstanding results. Companies such as General Electric, Bank of America, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Boeing, Motorola (the birthplace of Six Sigma) Raytheon and the United States Marine Corp, just to name a few, have experienced amazing results such as:
- Savings in the operation of a business of around 10% to 30%
- Significant improvement in the quality of products and services
- Significant reduction in the costs of the products due to improving the production or service process
- Greater competitiveness as the company becomes more agile and productive than the competition
- Qualified and certified personnel to generate constant savings for the company
- A culture of agile thinking and better decision making
So, what are you waiting for? Get your Green Belt certification with Towson University Continuing & Professional Studies’ new online Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program. Our online program will prepare you to be a Green Belt in any industry. You will work with Black Belts to develop a project that immediately applies your experience, as you learn. You will be prepared to take the next step in your career.