Major process improvement programs that contributed to lean six sigma

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SSD Global

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Please Note: A summary outline is also available. The outlined version of this document follows the format of the Lean Certification Body of Knowledge as presented by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Six Sigma Body of Knowledge for Black Belts as presented by the American Society of Quality. This specific document represents the expanded version of the concepts as outlined in the Lean Six Sigma Body of Knowledge. Additional knowledge and education can be obtained in the textbook, Lean Six Sigma: Practical Bodies of Knowledge.

The first entities attributed with blending Lean and Six Sigma were Allied Signal and Maytag, independently in 1999. At that time, it was referred to as ‘Lean and Six” as both Allied Signal and Maytag realized that the two methodologies complement one another. It was not until several years later that the term Lean Six Sigma became popular and only since 2004 that being certified as a Lean Six Sigma practitioner gained recognition as a solid industry certification.

Over the past decade Lean Six Sigma adopted many tools and ideologies that were not originally based in Lean or Six Sigma. The newer leaner, Lean Six Sigma, has been improved to capitalize on any tools or thoughts that contribute to process improvement. In other words, Lean Six Sigma has become better, faster and more cost-effective as a methodology. In its new form, it is the only methodology that works in tandem with other process improvement methodologies.

Although Six Sigma is the dominant methodology in Lean Six Sigma, which is heavily influenced by Lean Thinking, the new more powerful Lean Six Sigma is actually comprised of several bodies of knowledge.

This document is an outline of the Lean Six Sigma Body of Knowledge (SSD Global Version 3.1). This body of knowledge is presented in four parts:

  • Major Process Improvement Programs that Contributed to Lean Six Sigma (Section 1)

  • Lean Six Sigma (Section 2)

  • Core Tools and Knowledge Used in Lean Six Sigma (Section 3)

Version 3.2 is scheduled for release in December 2010. It will not contain different captions but will have expanded narratives on several of the topics. SSD Global is committed to expanding the Lean Six Sigma Body of Knowledge as it evolves.

Section One


The Primary Recognized Process Improvement Programs

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a set of management practices throughout the organization, geared to ensure that the organization consistently meets or exceeds customer requirements. In a TQM effort, all members of an organization participate in improving processes, products, services and the culture in which they work. TQM can be traced back to early 1920s when statistical theory was first applied to product quality control.

This concept was further developed in Japan in the 40s led by Americans, such as Edwards Deming, who coined the phrase “Total Quality Management” and Joseph Juran who is responsible for much of the literature still used today on quality engineering. The focus widened from quality of products to quality of all issues within an organization. In the 1980s to the 1990s, a new phase of quality control and management began.

Now, typical definitions of TQM include phrases such as: customer focus, the involvement of all employees, continuous improvement and the integration of quality management into the total organization.

In 1988, a major step forward in quality management was made with the development of the Malcolm Baldrige Award in the United States. The basis of TQM is to reduce the errors produced during the manufacturing or a service process increasing customer satisfaction.

TQM is the foundation of most process improvement programs. TQM remains the foundation of all process improvement programs. The strategy is to embed the awareness of quality throughout the entire organization. It originated in the 1950's and steadily became more popular. Total Quality is a description of the culture, attitude and organization of a company that aims to provide, and continue to provide, its customers with products and services that satisfy their needs. The culture requires quality in all aspects of the company's operations, with things being done right the first time, along with defects and waste being eradicated from operations.

TQM supports:

  • Line Management ownership

  • Employee involvement and empowerment

  • Challenging quantified goals and benchmarking

  • Focus on processes and improvement plans

  • Specific incorporation in strategic planning

  • Recognition and celebration

International Standards Organization (ISO)

International Standards Organization (ISO) is an international-standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations (ISO) has developed over 18 000 International Standards on a variety of subjects and some 1100 new ISO standards are published every year. ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 are the best known standards. ISO is the world largest standards developing organization.

The ISO 9000 family addresses "Quality Management". This means what the organization does to fulfill:

  • Customer’s quality requirements

  • Applicable regulatory requirements

  • Customer satisfaction

  • Continual improvement of its performance in pursuit of these objectives

The ISO 14000 family addresses "Environmental management". This means what the organization does to:

  • Minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities

  • Achieve continual improvement of its environmental performance.

Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI)

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process improvement approach. This integrated approach is intended to help an organization improve performance by recognizing certain levels of performance. CMMI can be used to guide process improvement across a project, a division, or an entire organization.

In CMMI models with a staged representation, there are five maturity levels designated by the numbers 1 through 5

  1. Initial

  2. Managed

  3. Defined

  4. Quantitatively Managed

  5. Optimizing

CMMI was developed by the CMMI project, which aimed to improve the usability of maturity models by integrating many different models into one framework. The project consisted of members of industry, government and the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI). The main sponsors included the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the National Defense Industrial Association.

Six Sigma

Defect Reduction

The Six Sigma problem solving methodology is the most effective tool to quickly reduce and eliminate defects. It is a team-based methodology which works by systematically identifying and controlling the process variables that contribute to producing the defect or mistake.


Improvement of existing products or processes using the Six Sigma methodology is done in five steps:

  • Define

  • Measure

  • Analyze

  • Improve

  • Control


The purpose of the Define Phase is to make sure that everyone understands the project and the goals of the process improvement effort. The basic steps include:

  • Create a process improvement charter and process map

  • Identify or refine the problems in your process that must be solved in order to meet or exceed the customer's specifications or expectations.

  • Identify and quantify customer requirements.

  • Identify and quantify the process output and defects that fall short of these requirements and create a problem statement.

  • State the project goal, which also must be a clear and measurable goal, and include a time limit for the project's completion.

  • Determine the few vital factors that are Critical to Quality (CTQ), which need to be Measured, Analyzed, Improved and Controlled.


The purpose of the Measure Phase is to get a strong “as-is” snapshot of how the process is currently behaving. The basic steps include:

  • Select the Critical to Quality (CTQs) characteristics in your process. These are the outputs of the given process that are important to the customer. How are you doing now?

  • Define what that process output should be, which is done by looking at the customer requirements and the project goal.

  • Define the defect for the process. Remember, a defect is an output that falls outside the limits of customer's requirements or expectations and must be measurable.

  • Find the inputs to the process that contribute to defects.

  • Define the exact dollar impact of eliminating the defects in terms of increased profitability and/or cost savings.

  • Measure the defects that affect the Critical to Quality characteristics as well as any related factors.

  • Incorporate Measurement Systems Analysis - a method to make sure the defects are being measured properly.


The purpose of the Analyze Phase is to review the measurements and information from the previous phase and determine, based on that information, what 3-5 solutions might be appropriate to solve the problem or roll out the activity.

  • Determine root cause

  • Identify variations that could be reduced

  • Determine if correlations exist

  • Do what-if scenarios

  • Determine the time line and cost of solutions

  • Determine the sustainability of the solution


The purpose of the Improve Phase is to choose a solution, implement the solution and be able to definitively prove that a process improvement has been accomplished. This is done by comparing the as is state (Measure) with conditions after the process improvement has been rolled out. Basic steps include:

  • Articulate the 3-5 possible solutions to the sponsor or decision maker.

  • Gain consensus on the best solution

  • Pilot

  • Create an execution plan (Project Plan) if the solution is successful in the pilot

  • Choose another one of the 3-5 solutions if the pilot is not successful

  • Roll out


The purpose of the Control Phase is to sustain the improvement. Basic steps include:

  • Clearly articulating the process improvement achieved

    • Return on Investment

    • Other Benefits

  • Creating a control plan to keep the process in place

    • Step by step instructions if necessary

    • Any charts or graphs that need to be maintained or updated

  • Designing a transition plan for the new owner

    • Best practices

    • Where resources may be located

    • Any critical information needed for the success of the project

DFSS Model

Design for Six Sigma, also known as Design for Lean Six Sigma (DFSS or DFLSS) is applicable only in situations where a new product or service needs to be designed or re-designed from the very beginning. Many supporters of the DMAIC Design believe that this is accomplished in the Analyze and Improve Phases of the DMAIC model. However, supporters of DFSS believe a design component is necessary. Recently models based on the DMAIC thinking process that do not have a design component are also referred to as DFSS or DFLSS models.

Today the most popular DFFS model is Define-Measure-Analyze-Design-Verify

(DMADV). The DMADV model contains the first three phases of the DMAIC model. The last two phases, Improve and Control are replaced by Design and Verify.


Design details, optimize the design, and plan for design verification. This phase may require simulations.


Verify the design, set up pilot runs, implement the production process and hand it over to the process owner(s).

Statistical Thinking

Both the DMAIC and DMADV model are based on statistical thinking. The following principles form the basis for statistical thinking:

  • All work occurs in a system of interconnected processes

  • Inherent variation exists in all processes

  • Reducing variation is the key to successfully improving a process

Recognizing Individual Tasks within the Process and Assigning Major Causes of Variability

To successfully analyze a process using statistical process control it is important to break things down into to the smallest elements possible. Accepting all processes have inherent variability and that variability can be measured. Data is used to understand variability based on the type of variability. Deming used statistical quality control techniques to identify special and common cause conditions, in which common cause was the result of systematic variability, while special cause was erratic and unpredictable.

Common Cause

Common cause variability occurs naturally in every process. Common cause variation is fluctuation caused by unknown factors resulting in a steady but random distribution of output around the average of the data. Natural or random variation, that is inherent in a process over time, affects every outcome of the process. If a process is in-control, it has only common cause variation and can be said to be predictable. Common cause variations are due to the system itself and are somewhat expected. Examples of common cause of variability are:

  • Variation in the weight of an extruded textile or plastic tubing

  • Variation in moisture content of a resin

  • Particle size distribution in a powder

  • Poor training

Special Cause

Special cause variation is usually assigned to one of the following conditions:

Variation in the process that is assignable to a specific cause or causes. For example, a variation arises because of special circumstances. Special cause variation is variation that may be assigned to a specific cause. Examples of special cause variation are:

  • The first labels on a roll of self-adhesive labels are damaged, marred, or otherwise unusable.

  • The cartons near the door of a warehouse are exposed to rain and ruined

Stabilize Processes

Traditional tools for process stabilization include process capability studies and control charts. The Six Sigma methodology supports the concept that a process may be improved by simply stabilizing the process. Making a process stable means to bring the process within the upper and lower specification limits and as close to the norm as possible.

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