Is Lean Six Sigma Right for You?



A few weeks ago, The Center’s Brian Mamo wrote about great food pairings as a way to define the combination of “sales” and “marketing” into “smarketing.” An equally dynamic pairing provides manufacturers with valuable tools for reducing waste and improving quality as well as efficiency: Lean and Six Sigma.

What Does “Lean” Mean?
Coming from the Toyota Production System in Japan in the 1990s, the Lean methodology aims to eliminate anything that does not add value in a given process by targeting variation and defects. With an emphasis on standardization, the goal of Lean is to eliminate variation caused by human operators to improve both quality and efficiency in a factory. A variety of Lean tools, from 5S to Kaizen to Value Stream Mapping, can be used to identify and measure production problems, implement standard systems, and continuously monitor production to automatically know when an issue arises. Due to its ability to maximize profitability and eliminate waste while increasing value for the customer, Lean has become a widely-used methodology among manufacturers of all sizes.

The Six Sigma Side
Six Sigma was originally introduced to the United States in the late 1980s after proving its success at Motorola. Six Sigma is a statistical approach to diminishing variation in production, with the goal of achieving no more than 3.4 errors per one million opportunities. This method of analysis targets true process variation – rather than man-made variation – to improve things like process yield, down time, etc. This is accomplished by identifying the underlying causes of issues in production to eliminate defective processes and ultimately improve the effectiveness of business practices.

A Powerful Pairing: Lean Six Sigma
Taking Lean’s focus on adding value and eliminating waste, and Six Sigma’s emphasis on reducing process variation, Lean Six Sigma is created. This comprehensive methodology brings together the best of both tools, combining statistical analysis with standardization to make for the most effective production transformation possible. Although these techniques have slight differences in how they approach problems, they each seek to accomplish the same things: reduce waste and variation in business processes to maximize profit and customer satisfaction.

The application of Lean Six Sigma unfolds in just a few steps. First, Lean principles are applied to identify the eight different kinds of waste in a company’s processes and eliminate them, along with all man-made variations in production. Once these elements have been removed, Six Sigma methodologies are applied to identify any remaining process variations and, from there, reduce defects and improve business practices.

Although many companies utilize Lean and Six Sigma separately, they have more power when used together. Manufacturers who have applied Lean Six Sigma have realized greater and more prolonged impacts compared to using only Lean or Six Sigma. By combining methodologies, workers are equipped with more tools for fixing problems, essentially maximizing the opportunity for improvement. The benefits and effectiveness of Lean Six Sigma have been proven over decades of use, making it a popular management technique and a viable option for your company to consider utilizing in the future.

Mastering Lean Six Sigma: It All Starts with a Belt
When it comes to implementing Lean Six Sigma, having a strong understanding of the central ideas behind each methodology is necessary to achieve success. Recognizing this, The Center has developed a fundamental training course called Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt to assist all levels of an organization in developing the skills necessary to participate in Six Sigma initiatives. This unique, introductory-level course serves as a preface to the Belts of Six Sigma, ideal for manufacturers looking to learn more about Lean Six Sigma or contribute to Six Sigma projects in a supportive role. Those who attend this three-day course can learn how to implement, perform, interpret and apply Lean Six Sigma principles in a skilled, yet limited, context, with a focus placed on the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) method and basic Lean Six Sigma teachings.

If you are interested in attending a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt class, or would like to learn more about the offering, view the upcoming course schedule.

If you have already started your Lean Six Sigma journey, view the schedule for our Lean Six Sigma Green Belt courses and other upcoming Six Sigma training.


Anna StefosOperational Excellence Manager
Anna Stefos has a diverse background in automotive spanning 20 combined years at GM and FCA, ranging from international manufacturing to product development, strategic planning, program management, corporate strategy and international operations. Anna’s experience in partnering with C-level executives provides a strong foundation for and advising small and medium-sized companies to achieve Enterprise Transformation and propel them towards Operational Excellence. Anna has a passion for Lean Six Sigma and is a trained Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Lean Principles, Six Sigma