You are on page 1of 9

The original purpose of Six Sigma, as developed by companies like Motorola and G

eneral Electric, was to identify and eliminate causes of manufacturing defects w

ithin large-scale industrial projects. Over the past few decades, a legion of ma
nagers in a variety of industries have adapted Six Sigma methodologies to suit t
heir own uses. For example, some project management professionals rely on Six Si
gma tools to measure team effectiveness.
Five Clues to the Purpose of Six Sigma
In general, companies tend to adopt Six Sigma for five specific reasons:
1. Improve Customer Satisfaction
At its core, the purpose of Six Sigma is to measure and eliminate defects in man
ufacturing and development. While some managers use Six Sigma to increase effici
ency, the most successful companies rely on the system to reduce customer compla
ints and product malfunctions. When used in a project management setting, Six Si
gma can provide a framework for repetitive project cycles that helps measure pro
gress against long term goals.
2. Standardize Business Development
Companies that adopt Six Sigma can choose between two implementations of the str
ategy, depending on their desired outcome. When the purpose of Six Sigma at an o
rganization is to overhaul an existing product or service, leaders can use the DM
AIC method, in which participants define, measure, analyze, improve, and control
their results. The DMADV method helps companies that view the purpose of Six Sigma
as an opportunity to develop entirely new products and services by defining, me
asuring, analyzing, defining, and verifying their plans.
3. Coordinate Metrics with Suppliers and Customers
Six Sigma incorporates a variety of established quality management measurements
into its own methodologies. Therefore, many companies use Six Sigma to interface
more directly with both clients and vendors. For example, a client organization
that relies heavily on customer surveys and a third-party supplier that analyze
s manufacturing variances can both be addressed through a unified Six Sigma stra
4. Ensure Industry and Government Compliance
At it's core, the purpose of Six Sigma involves reducing manufacturing errors to
a rate below 3.4 parts per million. Many key enterprise purchasers, including l
arge corporations and government offices, now use this metric to review prospect
ive vendors. Implementing Six Sigma strategies can help companies win or maintai
n lucrative, large contracts.
5. Develop Career Growth Opportunities
For many companies, the purpose of Six Sigma involves one or more of the goals o
utlined above. However, individuals can enjoy tremendous professional developmen
t opportunities by helping their employers adopt Six Sigma tools and training. A
long with the inherent benefits of improving business practices, executives with
exposure to Six Sigma methodologies can more easily shift jobs to other compani
es that share similar outlooks. Promoting a yellow belt, a green belt, or a blac
k belt in Six Sigma on a resume signals key competencies to prospective employer
Finding Your Own Purpose of Six Sigma
Depending on its implementation, Six Sigma can be seen as a rigid system for sta
ndardization or a common ground for innovation. As with any project management p
rocess, setting expectations for outcome early can mean the difference between s
uccess and failure. Fortunately, the broad support for Six Sigma in the business
sector allows managers to easily find guidance and support for its methodologie

Overview of Six Sigma
Since its formulation in 1986 at Motorola, Six Sigma has spread like a wildfire
throughout corporate America. Unlike trendy methodologies that pass through the
business world and disappear as quickly as they came, Six Sigma is here to stay.
There are a number of articles here on Bright Hub's Project Management Channel
that go into the details of this process, but the purpose of this segment is to
give an overview of Six Sigma for those who are new to the subject. See the last
section of this article for a list of recommended further reading as well as a
link to free templates you can download for use in Six Sigma related projects.
What is Six Sigma anyway?
Six Sigma is a business management strategy that focuses on improving processes
and solving quality-related problems by finding ways to minimize defects in a go
od or service. Take a look at How to Implement Six Sigma for a more detailed dis
cussion on this topic.
Do I have to be a math genius to learn and use Six Sigma?
No, not at all. Some Six Sigma components require statistics so that improvement
and quality can be measured. However, very few Six Sigma tools involve anything
more complex than basic statistics. Many of the results are expressed in terms
of raw numbers or percentages.
Whenever I hear people talk about Six Sigma, they use a lot of acronyms like DMA
IC, DMADV, and DFSS. What do these mean?
There are two key methodologies used in Six Sigma projects, one for dealing with
existing processes and another for implementing new processes. DMAIC is an acro
nym for Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control, the five Six Sigma components th
at are utilized in a project designed to improve existing practices.
Likewise, DMADV stands for Define-Measure-Analyze-Design-Verify, the steps taken
in the creation of a new product or service design. DFSS, or Design for Six Sig
ma, is simply another name for the DMADV process.
If you would like to explore these Six Sigma components in more detail, Natasha
Baker s article Key Concepts of Six Sigma and this document offered by the Carnegi
e Mellon Software Engineering Institute are great places to start.
What s the difference between Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma is a melding of Six Sigma components with those from Lean Manufac
turing. While Six Sigma focuses on the quality of the final product or service,
Lean is primarily concerned with speed and the elimination of waste and unnecess
ary steps. In Lean Six Sigma, these two approaches are consolidated in recogniti
on that both speed and quality are important. More information on the topic of L
ean Six Sigma can be found here.
Is Six Sigma the only project management methodology I ll ever need?
No. Six Sigma is a powerful tool for process improvement, but it is not a replac
ement for general project management. Many of the Six Sigma components can be ap
plied to make any project run more smoothly and efficiently, but they should onl
y be incorporated into your project management program when applicable.
When should Six Sigma be used?
The answer to this question can vary a great deal depending on the type of busin
ess involved. In general, whenever there are processes that generate a lot of ne
gative customer feedback, whether that customer is internal or external, the com
ponents of Six Sigma should be considered as a means to study and rectify the pr

Read more:

What happens when two techniques or set of practices, both conceptually differen
t, are brought together? You achieve speed, discipline and excellence in quality
from the manufacturing processes. Lean Manufacturing Six Sigma is a collaborati
on of techniques from Lean Manufacturing and the Six Sigma approach. Ideally, th
e Six Sigma approach provides the impetus to excellence in quality aspect wherea
s the Lean technique focuses on speed with discipline.
An example in the case .
My mind rolls back to a company which used to manufacture printers for its custo
mers. Based on a lot of complaints that it received from the customers on the qu
ality of the products, the company established a small team to understand what w
as going wrong. The small process improvement found that the manufacturing proce
sses were highly unorganized. This led to slowing down of the end production tim
e and also caused variations in quality. All the company did to fix this was str
eamline its processes and it was able to deliver quality, cost-efficient product
s. Moral - one can achieve speed with quality only if it has discipline.
What does Lean Manufacturing Six Sigma advocate?
Lean Six Sigma deploys this concept for manufacturing processes to come up with
a streamlined set of processes which would deliver quality products with speed a
nd maintaining the discipline factor as well. Lean Six Sigma means that processe
s would need to be streamlined to achieve quality products efficiently. The Toyo
ta lean manufacturing technique is a classic example in this case. Toyota has re
engineered its production processes by the name of Toyota Production Systems and
deploys Just In Time Production with Six Sigma approach to generate maximum cos
t advantage off its production processes.
Lean Six Sigma can be applied to a value-stream which is highly testing-sensitiv
e like software development. By using Lean Six Sigma, one can streamline process
es in software development which would include naming and coding conventions, al
gorithm designing, coding, testing and integration. Employing Six Sigma with lea
n techniques adds the speed aspect to the software development process.
Lean Manufacturing advocates the principle of knowledge creation whereas Six Sig
ma counsels Knowledge replication. Companies who intend employing Lean Six Sigma
would need to be careful in getting the right mix of both to ensure that the ba
sic purpose of Lean Manufacturing - knowledge creation is not defeated. Knowledg
e replication would result in a lean process would result in slower cycle times
and a lot of redundancy. And it is the knowledge creation step advocated by Lean
Manufacturing techniques which helps in maintaining short, frequent learning cy
cles. Professionals with lean six sigma certification enable companies to create
lean six sigma processes in their production cycle.
Lean manufacturing 5s

Would you wish to know about the waste reduction system which optimizes producti
vity in a production process? 5S is a method of Lean Manufacturing which does ex
actly this by maintaining a very orderly workplace to achieve operational result
s on a consistent basis. A lot of Lean Manufacturing analysts confer that 5s is
the most comprehensive and well laid out method to reduce wastes in a production
What is 5S all about?
5S is all about a step by step process of reducing wastes. It advocates the wast
e reduction mechanism by an end-end stage process of Sort-Sustain. Each of those
stages have a Japanese nomenclature. They are Seiri (Sort), Set in Order (Seito
n), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu) and Shitsuke (Sustain). As it can be s
een they themselves are a step by step process of reducing wastes and maintainin
g a very orderly workplace. The 5S method is the most basic method of all Lean m
ethods and it provides a good platform for introduction to techniques like Cellu
lar Manufacturing, Just in Time production etc. Needless to say, why is 5S able
to do that? Because the heart of the 5S philosophy is the heart of any lean manu
facturing technique - Waste reduction.
What are its benefits?
A lean manufacturing 5S philosophy when applied to a production process, ensures
that waste is reduced at all costs from the production processes. Lean Manufact
uring waste as one of the major lag times in production processes. Reduction in
waste would mean faster cycle times for the process and hence increased customer
satisfaction levels. 5S also advocates maintaining a clean workplace which goes
a long way in the workers maintaining healthy work conditions. As a method, 5S
also aids workers' efforts to reduce unplanned downtime which at time can be qui
te a bit of pain for production cycle times as unplanned downtime directly impac
ts productivity in a negative way. 5S also enhances techniques which reduces the
in-house inventory. In-house inventory has been attributed as one of the main r
easons why lag times in production cycles increase. By reducing the in-house inv
entory, one can effectively employ lean techniques on a production process to ge
nerate optimum advantages.
5S is a philosophy which should be implemented in every Lean Manufacturing initi
ative on production processes. Implementation of 5S not only ensures that waste
is reduced by means of a simple technique of maintaining an orderly workplace, i
t also provides a good foundation for a lot of the production oriented technique
s like Cellular Manufacturing can also be launched. Though, before implementing
5S Methods on a production process, the lean professional would need to have stu
died the entire waste reduction process in totality.
The 5s Housekeeping Approach Within Lean Manufacturing
What Is 5S?
5S is a set of techniques providing a standard approach to housekeeping within L
ean .
It is often promoted as being far more than simply housekeeping and some of the
elements described below certainly have broader implications.
It originated, as did most of the elements of JIT, within Toyota.
A cornerstone of 5S is that untidy, cluttered work areas are not productive.
As well as the physical implications of junk getting in everybody's way and dirt
compromising quality, we are all are happier in a clean and tidy environment an
d hence more inclined to work hard and with due care and attention.
Naturally enough, the elements of 5S are all Japanese words beginning with the l
etter S. Since their adoption within Western implementations of JIT, or Lean , v
arious anglicised versions of the terms have been adopted by different writers a
nd educators. These are listed below against the individual elements and it can
be seen that none are entirely satisfactory.
Lean Manufacturing Housekeeping 5S "pillars"
The individual items within 5S are known as the "pillars" and are:
5s Seiri (Sort)
Seiri is the identification of the most successful physical Organisation of the
It has been variously anglicised as Sort, Systematisation or Simplify by those w
ishing to retain the S as the initial letter of each element.
It is the series of steps by which we identify things which are being held in th
e workplace when they shouldn't, or are being held in the wrong place.
Put simply, we may identify a large area devoted to tools or gauges, some of whi
ch are needed regularly and some used infrequently. This brings all sorts of pro
blems, including:
Operators unable to find the item they need, being unable to see wood for trees.
The time spent searching is a waste (or in Japanese speak a muda) and if we onl
y held the items needed regularly in a prominent position we would save time.
Quality issues when gauges are not calibrated on time because too many are held.
Safety issues when people fall over things.
Lockers and racking cluttering the workplace making it hard to move around or to
see each other and communicate.
Some of the standard texts also talk about the elimination of excess materials a
nd WIP.
This is a complete restatement of all the JIT goals of releasing capital, reduce
d movement, shorter cycle times and so on. The question may be asked: should we
then see inventory and WIP reduction as part of the implementation of the lean a
pproach or as an element of 5S? The answer, as ever, is that keeping inventory a
nd WIP to a minimum is simple good practice. Whether we view it as JIT, or lean,
or 5S or assign any other term is quite frankly irrelevant.
The major element of Seiri is simply a critical look at the area. Involving cros
s-functional teams, or looking at each other's areas, is an obvious first step.
People tend to be blind to failings in their own work place and a fresh pair of
eyes can be useful.
Another element of the standard approach is 'red tagging' where items are given
a tag which says what the item is, which location it is in and when it was ident
ified in this location. We then leave the area for a while and anybody using the
item notes this. We go back some time later and can readily identify things tha
t haven't moved, or been used.
Items which have not been used can then potentially be disposed of. As a first p
ass we should perhaps create a quarantine area before throwing items away, selli
ng them or reworking them into something else. Other items may be deemed necessa
ry but used infrequently and so an alternative location can be found. If the ope
rator needs a particular tool only once or twice a month then a 20-yard walk is
not a problem - especially if the space thus saved on the workbench helps to mak
e the workplace more productive, or helps address quality issues.
5s Seiton (Set)
Seiton is the series of steps by which the optimum organisation identified in th
e first pillar are put into place.
The standard translation is Orderliness but again some wish to keep the initial
S and use Sort (yes, that is also one of the translations of Seiri), Set in orde
r, Straighten and Standardisation.
The sorting out process is essentially a continuation of that described in the S
eiri phase. Removing items to be discarded or held in an alternative location wi
ll create space. This space will be visible and facilitate the alternative layou
t of the area.
In some cases, of course, we are talking about what a fitter will have on his be
nch, or in racks alongside the bench. In other cases we may be considering where
we should locate a piece of plant - for example we may relocate a coin press to
enable items to be completed in one work area rather than requiring a significa
nt movement down the shop.
This is something which we also undertake when adopting cellular manufacturing.
We then look at how we can restructure the work content so that certain operatio
ns can be carried out within the cycle of others - for example we may carry out
a trimming operation on a steel component while the press which produced it is b
usy creating the next one. Again, is this a 5S initiative, or part of a kaizen p
rogramme, or something else? Again, who cares, as long as we get on and achieve
an improvement in business performance?
Standardisation includes all the elements of setting out a consistent way of doi
ng things. This includes standard manufacturing methodologies, standard equipmen
t and tooling, component rationalisation, drawing standardisation, consistency i
n the documentation which accompanies work, design for manufacture (or concurren
t engineering) and standardisation in the clerical processes which deliver work
to the shop floor and track its progress.
All of this could be said to be part of a basic Total Quality approach. The stan
dard ways of doing things should include poka-yoke or error-proofing. Again it m
ight be asked whether this is part of 5S or one aspect of a broader programme.
5s Seiso (Shine)
Anglicised as Cleanliness but again the initial S can be retained in Shine, or S
The principle here is that we are all happier and hence more productive in clean
, bright environments.
There is a more practical element in that if everything is clean it is immediate
ly ready for use.
We would not want a precision product to be adjusted by a spanner that is covere
d in grease which may get into some pneumatic or hydraulic fittings. We would no
t wish to compromise a PCB assembly by metallic dust picked up from an unclean w
ork surface. Other issues are health and safety (perhaps slipping in a puddle of
oil, shavings blowing into people's eyes) and machine tools damaged by coolant
contaminated by grease and dust.
The task is to establish the maintenance of a clean environment as an ongoing, c
ontinuous programme.
Some time should be set aside for cleaning each day, or each shift. (We may have
cleaners who come in a sweep office floors, and even clean the floor in a produ
ction area, but they do not clean the production equipment. Even if they did, th
is would miss one of the opportunities available - an operator cleaning and lubr
icating his machine tool will spot worn or damaged components.)
Cleaning then begins to impinge upon what we already know as preventive maintena
Cleaning critical components of a piece of equipment is already one element of t
he activities carried out under the PM banner.
The implementation of Seiso revolves around two main elements.
The first is the assignment map which identifies who is responsible for which ar
The second is the schedule which says who does what at which times and on which
Some of these happen before a shift begins, some during the shift and some at th
e end. Again, this is very reminiscent of what we do when adopting PM.
The standard texts such as that of Hiroyuki Hirano then go on to talk about esta
blishing the shine method for each item / area. This includes such elements as a
greeing an inspection step at the beginning of each shift, establishing exactly
how each activity within the programme is to be carried out. A key aspect is ver
y much akin to set-up reduction (or SMED) in that we should be aiming as much as
possible to internalise the activities - in other words, to minimise the downti
me needed to keep the facilities clean.
Finally the standard texts talk about preparation - making sure the equipment ne
eded to clean is always available, always ready for use. The excellent parallel
to this is, again, with set-up reduction, which itself is often compared to Gran
d Prix teams preparing to change tyres. As with many such topics, we are talking
about here is to a large extent simply common sense. We do not wish to allocate
5 minutes for a bed to be swept on a piece of grinding equipment if the operato
r is going to spend 4 minutes finding his brush.
5s Seiketsu (Standardisation)
This is well described as Standardised cleanup, but other names adopted include
Standardisation (not to be confused with the second pillar), Systematisation and
Seiketsu can be the thought of as the means by which we maintain the first three
There is, obviously, a danger in any improvement activity that once the focus is
removed and another 'hot button' grabs management attention, things go back to
the way they were before. Seiketsu is the set of techniques adopted to prevent t
his happening. Basically this involves setting a schedule by which all the eleme
nts are revisited on a regular basis - usually referred to as the '5S Job Cycle.
The first step in the cycle is a periodic review of the area, perhaps involving
red tagging but certainly involving people from other areas of the business.
This will identify where standards have slipped - for example where pieces of to
oling or fixtures which are used infrequently are no longer being put in the rem
ote location agreed at the outset and consequently a bench is now cluttered with
the regular items buried under a pile of irregular. (In other words, the Seiri
phase is undertaken periodically - usually monthly, perhaps quarterly.)
The second step is to undertake Seiton activities as required - that is, as prom
pted by the first step.
Finally within Seiketsu people from other areas visit and cast a critical eye ov
er the state of the area.
Again, an external assessor may notice degradation that is not clear to the peop
le who work in the area. Hirano talks of a checklist within Seiketsu whereby the
external visitors mark the area on a number of key criteria defined at the outs
et of the programme. For example, are the storage areas still clearly defined? D
oes the tool rack still have clear outlines or profiles for each tool to be stor
ed in it? Does the area meet the general standards of cleanliness?
5s Shitsuke (Sustain)
The final stage is that of Discipline. For those who wish to retain the use of i
nitial S's in English this is often listed as Sustain or Self-discipline.
There is a fundamental difference between Seiketsu and Shitsuke.
The fourth pillar is the introduction of a formal, rigorous review programme to
ensure that the benefits of the approach are maintained.
The fifth pillar is more than this; it is not simply the mechanical means by whi
ch we continue to monitor and refine, it is the set of approaches we use to win
hearts and minds, to make people want to keep applying good practice in shop org
anisation and housekeeping. In this sense, discipline is perhaps an unfortunate
term as it implies people forced to do something, with consequent penalties if t
hey do not.
The way in which management achieves this establishment of ongoing commitment wi
thin the workforce depends, of course, on the culture already in place. As with
the adoption of kaizen (continuous improvement) or quality circles we have to pr
ess the right buttons to stimulate people. If the business has a history of trea
ting people like cattle, giving no credence to their suggestions and simply tryi
ng to improve performance by driving the workers ever harder, then enthusiasm fo
r any sort of initiative aimed at building a better environment is going to be h
ard to generate.
There are a number of elements to any ongoing improvement activity in any busine
ss. Which take pre-eminence in a particular organisation varies with the history
and culture of that organisation. Suffice to say that key points are:
Communication. We need people to be aware of what we are trying to achieve, and
Education. They need to understand the concepts and the individual techniques.
Rewards and Recognition. People need to feel that their efforts are recognised.
Whether the reward is a senior manager walking past and saying "that's very good
, well done" or some form of award (financial gain, prize or formal presentation
of a certificate) depends on the organisation.
Time. If we want people to spend five minutes every four hours removing swarf fr
om the floor around their machine we have to make sure that we allow them this t
ime. We cannot give this as an instruction yet at the same time push for more ti
me spent achieving productivity targets.
Structure. We need to identify what is to be done, by whom, and ensure that sche
dules are updated and clearly visible.
Implementing 5S Housekeeping and Lean Manufacturing
Would we want to launch 5S as a stand-alone project, as a complete entity?
The elements of 5S are all valuable in their own right but they simply form part
of the bigger picture of establishing good practice. They sit alongside the oth
er elements of Lean , or Just in Time, or World Class and some of the elements i
n, for example, Seiton (standardisation) are in fact straight lifts from textboo
ks on other forms of improvement activity. There is nothing in any 5S material,
for example, to give guidance on improving the clerical processes for generating
production paperwork following receipt of a sales order!
The answer, surely, is to understand 5S as we understand all aspects of other ty
pes of improvement and problem-solving activity and then to agree a change progr
amme for our own business. This is not to say that we must not launch a project
which we call "5S" - some businesses have more success if improvement initiative
s are launched with a generic, well-publicised term as project name. Equally, th
is is not a good solution in other organisations. Again, the history and culture
of the company or the specific plant have to be taken into account when this de
cision is taken.