“Quality is the best business plan of all.”
This timeless quote by Pixar’s John Lasseter in 2008 still holds water today as it did years back. Amidst changing times, changing systems and methodologies, changing innovations, and many other changes that are taking place on the face of the earth, quality remains a constant in the business world. Simply put, businesses thrive where quality is valued.
Quality control and a continual effort to improve it should be the goal of every organization and is mostly carried out by green belt certification professionals alongside others. Quality control began in the 50s in Japan courtesy of veterans like Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum whose help Japan producers sought so that they can help improve products that were deemed cheap imitations. As quality control gained popularity in Japan, it evolved into Total Quality Management (TQM). TQM ultimately evolved to the Six Sigma methodology that organizations are implementing up to today.
Importance of Six Sigma for businesses
Six Sigma is a disciplined, structured, and data-driven approach aimed at improving production processes. This is done by reducing defects to achieve quality ultimately improving the profitability of a business.
This approach focuses on prevention rather than detection. Prevention means identifying and addressing causes of defects which in turn reduces variability in production processes resulting in better quality output.
Six Sigma refers to the performance of business processes. It is a measure of quality. Quality is measured in seven levels in terms of defects per million where Six Sigma is equal to 3.4 defects per million which translates to 99.99966% quality perfection and this is the top level.
Here is why Six Sigma is important to businesses.
1. Facilitates process mapping
Referred to as flowcharting, involves documentation of processes where each step is detailed including employee roles and decision points. This ensures that production takes place in accordance with performance and client requirements. This way, it is easy to make improvements to the process.
2. It helps identify and eliminate variation and waste
Variation in Six Sigma refers to any result that does not match customer expectations while waste is everything in a process that does not contribute to a product or service that will be delivered to the customer. Variations are eliminated by establishing standards while waste is eliminated by continuous improvement of processes. This can be done by using DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) tools.
3. Helps reduce defect rates
The aim of Six Sigma, as already mentioned, is to reduce defects level to only 3.4 defects per million. A defect is a failure in a service or a product and this leads to customer dissatisfaction. Six Sigma methodology makes it possible to identify and address the causes of defects in a process.
4. Facilitate continuous improvement
The overall benefit of implementing Six Sigma is to equip employees with tools, techniques, and skills to identify problems in the production process. This kind of environment promotes continuous improvement in processes for improved performance and quality.
What is Lean Six Sigma
Six Sigma is focused on continuous improvement of a process to achieve quality. Lean, on the other hand, is focused on understanding customer needs. The idea behind Lean management principles is that customers should only pay for what they find value in.
Lean Six Sigma combines the principles of Six Sigma of reducing defects and eliminating variation with Lean’s management principles of reducing waste and improving efficiency from a customer’s perspective. While Six Sigma defines waste as everything in a process that does not contribute to the product/service that will be delivered to the customer in the end. Lean sees waste as anything that does not add value to the customer.
Lean Six Sigma combines these two frameworks into one methodology that aims at reducing waste and variation in a process with a keen focus on customer needs. It incorporates Six Sigma’s data-driven approach to identifying defects, eliminating waste, and improving processes. Ultimately, a business that adapts the Lean Six Sigma approach reduces costs, improves quality, enhances customer loyalty, and motivates employees.
In essence, Lean Six Sigma improves the overall productivity and profitability of a business.
Why adopt Lean Six Sigma principles
There are many reasons why a business should adopt Lean Six Sigma principles. Here are 5 overarching reasons why.
1. Improved efficiency. While this methodology focuses on quality, there is a lot that goes into quality and efficiency is one of them. By addressing waste problems in the system, an organization optimizes its production capabilities.
2. Lower costs. Waste and variance represent unnecessary costs in processes which if eliminated reduce production costs significantly. However, these are noticeable costs. Hidden costs are usually higher and harder to track. Lean Six Sigma, if well implemented will help unearth unnecessary hidden costs in processes.
3. Empowered employees. An empowered employee is a productive employee. Lean Six Sigma empowers employees to be problem solvers while giving them a sense of direct responsibility to the quality of the end product. This way, an employee is motivated to deliver from the word go regardless of his/her role. Most important of all is giving employees comprehensive training on Lean Six Sigma methodology to equip them with the appropriate skills.
4. Satisfied customers. Lean focuses on customer value by giving customers needs first priority. With this approach, it would be hard not producing what customers value. Every aspect of the implementation of Lean Six Sigma methodology including improved service, reduced waste, reduced variance, and others all point to creating value for the customer.
5. Increased revenue. The final result of implementing Lean Six Sigma successfully is a steady growth of revenue.
Lean Six Sigma Certifications
Lean Six Sigma principles apply to all industries and have been widely adopted. Because these principles empower employees in all roles, training is a valuable investment to both the individual and the organization he/she is working for.
Lean Six Sigma certifications are awarded in levels called belts. In the industry, roles are also delegated based on these belts. These include:
● Management Certification. This certification is meant for business owners and executives. It empowers leaders to implement Lean Six Sigma tools and principles and lead change through its application.
● White Belt certification. Meant for individuals in supportive roles, this certification equips them with foundational knowledge on basic tools and methodologies and empowers them to execute small Lean Six Sigma projects.
● Yellow Belt Certification. Designed for specific employees who are directly involved with process improvement, this certification equips them to lead and sustain Lean Six Sigma projects as their job role.
● Green Belt Certification. This certification is designed for employees charged with the key role of initiating change in high-impact projects. These individuals have mastered the framework and can promote sustainable continuous development and manage the production process. They work under the supervision of black belts.
● Black Belt Certification. This certification is for leaders involved in implementing Lean the Six Sigma framework in advanced improvement projects. They understand advanced tools and expert-leveled problem-solving systems.
● Master Black Belt Certification. These are experts in specific tools or methodologies and this is the highest–level Lean Six Sigma certification.