The Trinity – 5s Lean and Six Sigma

I have completed separate projects in 5s Lean and Six Sigma.  It was only when asked to explain the differences between them to a person who knew nothing about them that I realized how closely linked they are.

Presenting Lean 5s Six Sigma results

An extremely brief, simplistic (non-technical/non-statistical) overview of the 3 are:

  • 5s – Improving workplace organisation, establishing a visual workplace, cleanliness and standardization.  Starts by sorting through what is needed and not needed, removing what is not needed and setting an order and standard for what remains.
  • Lean –  Elimination of anything considered waste (usually considered what the customer is not willing to pay for).  This can be processes, materials, checks, etc.
  • Six Sigma – Reducing variations in outcomes of processes which may result in defects.  It is about making processes as consistent as possible.

All 3 more or less lead to making available the right amount of the right product at the right time to the people at the right price.  This doesn’t necessarily mean selling products to an end customer, this could be supplying information to another department or person and not necessarily the end customer who is paying.

I knew that 5s was very closely linked to Lean and that there was some crossover between Lean and Six Sigma, but it was only after talking to my friend that I realized how close they are and that they might actually be 3 tools making up one methodology, rather than 3 separate methodologies.

I decided to go back to one of my first projects which was a Six Sigma project.  With over 2 years of results recorded, I had exceeded my 6 sigma goal, variation was removed and the process was stabilized with increased reproducibility.  I revisited this project from a Lean viewpoint and found further improvements that could be made.  If I passed the 6-sigma goal, how is there room for improvement?

In the case of my 6-sigma project, the customer wanted to spend no more than 8 hours per week performing a task.  Afterwards they consistently spent between 5 and 6 hours per week on the task.  But, this time allowed for rechecking.  From a Lean point of view, I looked at why there was an allowance for rechecking.  Once I worked on this I removed a lot of the rechecks and this reduced the amount of time spent on the task to about 4 hours per week.

Making an allowance for rework in a process = making an allowance for waste.

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