What is the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox?

What is the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox and why do you need it? A toolbox is incredibly useful. Everything you need to get the job done is at your fingertips. Some tools are used every day and become well worn. They rest at the top of your toolbox ready to grab without even thinking. Other tools are specialty tools. They are at the bottom of the toolbox, maybe shiny and new, but you know they are there and when the time comes you reach deep in your Lean Six Sigma Toolbox and pull out exactly what you need.

Foundational Tools in the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox

The Lean House - Essential tools and principles of Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System

While not a comprehensive list the following tools are essential to the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox and should be understood by leaders responsible for continuously improving your business.

  • Just In Time
  • Continuous Flow
  • Kanban
  • 8 wastes (7 wastes if you’re a purist)
  • Reducing Variation
  • DMAIC – Project Management
  • Kaizen Event – Rapid Project Management
  • Poka Yoke – Mistake Proofing
  • Quick Changeover
  • Standard Work
  • 5S

As you can see from the above image, Lean is built on a foundation of respect. If that does not exist, you cannot and are not a Lean organization. This key point is missed by most and results in catastrophic failure by companies trying to be Lean without it. Respect is the foundation of the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox.

Six Sigma – Part of the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox

Today Lean and Six Sigma have been combined into a single methodology to improve your business. It is important, however, to understand that the history and approach used by Six Sigma is fundamentally different than Lean. Lean or the Toyota Production System came from Japan, from Toyota, from the teachings of Deming and Ohno and Shingo. Six Sigma came from the United States, from Motorola, from Bill Smith and others. They brought together a lot of quality tools and ideas to eliminate defects in manufacturing, save money, and become more efficient. While the desired outcome is similar to Lean the approach is very different.

Six Sigma is built on a foundation of data.

In God We Trust… All Others Bring Data!

-Six Sigma Gurus

The goal of Six Sigma is to eliminate sources of variation through structured problem solving. Sound familiar? Eliminating variation is 1 of the 3 focus areas of Lean.

The Six Sigma Toolbox

The Six Sigma Toolbox fits nicely within the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox because variation causes defects, rework, delay, which are all waste! Some key tools include:

  • Statistical Quality Control
  • Pareto
  • Control Charts
  • Correlation
  • Regression
  • Design of Experiments
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Hypothesis Testing
  • Control Plans
  • Voice of the Customer

There are a lot of quality tools. More than we could possible list here. Which ones are most useful? It depends on your industry, your job, and the problem you are trying to solve.

Six Sigma’s approach is more technical. You won’t be teaching everyone how to do a DOE (design of experiments), at least you shouldn’t. Some companies try, training all their employees in statistics when only a handful are really needed. What a waste! Lean is more of a “people’s approach” to solving problems. It uses basic tools like 5 Whys to help everyone solve problems. Everyone should be trained in these tools which is what Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt and Green Belt training accomplishes. Six Sigma historically relied on experts with a technical skill set. Using both Lean and Six Sigma together is the best way but you have to do this in the right way which is where the team here at Lean Six Sigma Toolbox can help.

The Key to Success

The Key to your success will be learning the foundational tools and putting them in your Lean Six Sigma Toolbox. Then using the tools that are most useful to you over and over again until they become second nature. It’s also important to grow your toolbox. Increase your knowledge and skill so you don’t start using a hammer for everything just because you are really good with a hammer.

Using Lean Six Sigma tools like a hammer on a screw.
Not everything is a nail. Use all the tools in your Lean Six Sigma Toolbox.

Who Benefits?

Healthcare is taking advantage of Lean Six Sigma in a big way. They are cutting wait times, improving patient outcomes, and making life easier on the staff. It is amazing to see how the same tools that evolved in manufacturing work so well in any environment, particularly healthcare.

Manufacturing. Of course the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox works in manufacturing. It was created there to solve real problems everyone faces like, too many defects, too much inventory, rework, scrap, long lead times, etc…

Your Team. Your employees are and should be the primary people who benefit. Lean Six Sigma should make their life easier. Overburdening is one of the 3 focus areas of Lean. It should be your focus as well! Happy employees make great products and provide amazing service. It’s true.

Your Customers. Lower costs, faster delivery, higher quality products. All of these promises can be delivered with a team of problem solvers on your side. Teach your team the tools in the Lean Six Sigma Toolbox and support them as they go to work solving problems for your customers.

Lean Six Sigma Works!

Sign up for one of our Live Online courses and see how Lean Six Sigma can work for you and your business.