Where it use to be a time when inspecting products was pivotal, it came to awareness that a process underlies the essence of quality. In a nutshell, ensuring the quality of process is synonymous to ensuring the quality of whatever it is that we do. Today, Lean and Six Sigma is the most sought after process improvement methodology that businesses use to increase their market value.
A single methodology was usually preferred in any circumstance because having too many may complicate things further. However time has changed and the need for extensive improvement methodology necessitates. The fusion of process improvement methodology of Lean Six Sigma is now known for its robustness in apprehending process barricades in a much effective and efficient fashion. Nevertheless the reason behind this synthesis seems to be in the grey shade for most.
Lean is a concept that was uttered in the 1990s though a research on the future of automotive industry. Benchmarking the remarkable transformation of Japanese auto firms, the best practice of those firms were characterized as being analogous to befitting to only what is needed or better known as value adding. Thus the word Lean became relevant on this call. The motive of Lean is emphasized towards eliminating wastes or better known as Muda in Japanese. Waste as per Shigeo Shingo and Taichi Ohno puts it belongs to seven categorized types. The proponents of Lean advocates that waste comprises most of a process which makes it sluggish and back lagging. The tools and techniques which came with the Lean concept are made to identify wastes and tackle the improvement efforts. Kaizen is one of the efforts which targets improvement undertaking in a short term and ad hoc bases, which is as and when necessary. This make Lean much more fluid and flexible in tackling process problems.
On another note, Six Sigma is a concept brought into the industry by Motorola and made renown by succeeding firms employing it on a full scale root such as Honeywell and GE. Six Sigma contrary to Lean, focuses on variations within a process. The notion behind Six Sigma is that variation is evil and which digresses process off from an appropriate state. Proponents of Six Sigma claim that variation is something inherent in a process and will always be, especially so long humans are involved the variation would be there, citing human as the predominant source to variation existence. However tackling variation subjectively wouldn’t resolve the issue instead tends to exaggerate the issue. Thus tackling it requires data to confirm innate issues that reflects variation. Which explains why Six Sigma is a vigorous data oriented process improvement methodology. Data in Six Sigma is the utmost crucial element through which decision makings are based. Statistical analysis made will set to narrow the spread from the mean of the data in order to reduce variation. Elimination of variation is unlikely given the nature of human involvement.
Given the focus and emphasis of both methodology, it seems quite vaguely that each may be perfect in its own stance. Nevertheless this has been debated on many fronts. Elimination of waste causes the process to be accelerated though non-value adding extraction whereas Six Sigma’s variation reducing efforts largely and significantly affect the quality of process. Notice that both the concepts seems to hit a snag between speed and quality. Which means both the concepts has specified drawbacks. The adhesion to either method could prove prejudice to one aspect per se neither quality nor speed. Pretty much what the traditional quality management advocates there couldn’t be two advantages at one go. Should there be no quality, speed would be evident but if speed is there then quality may be questionable.
This barricade led to the accentuation of the fusion of Lean Six Sigma where by the speed of Lean is supplemented by the quality intensity of Six Sigma. Waste elimination through Lean unfolds the bottlenecks to ensure an accelerated process meanwhile quality of this speed is verified through Six Sigma’s variation trim. As time expands competitiveness becomes even stringent and in need of improvisation. Lean management would increasing provide customer with high value on the customer’s viewpoint but in terms of producer cost would be still tentative. For Six Sigma on the other hand may continuously reduce the cost of producer but in terms of customer value addition may back lag as shown in the figure below (Arnheiter & Maleyeff, 2005). Corresponding to this notion, it is amenable to adopt a fusion of Lean and Six Sigma which caters the need of the hour in terms of speed and quality of process that delivers customers’ desire at need.
Nature of Competitive Advantage
Source: Arnheiter and Maleyeff (2005)