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Six sigma versus lean manufacturing

Before we can go on to discuss what the six sigma and lean manufacturing have in common and what is different about the two methods we are going to need to take a minute to discuss exactly what each method is. The reason for this is that you need to understand what each technique is and how the technique works so that you can then analyze the differences between the two and see which one is right for your company.

For those of who are unfamiliar with the term Six Sigma let's take a minute to find out what it is. Six Sigma is a method or a set of techniques and in the business world it has become a movement that is focused on business process improvement. Six Sigma is a quality measurement and improvement program that is designed to focus on improving the capability of a company's business processes.

Lean manufacturing is an initiative that focuses on cost reduction and increases in turnover by constantly and methodically eliminating activities that do not add value to the manufacturing process. Basically what lean manufacturing does is help companies to achieve targeted productivity, as well as other things, by introducing tools and techniques that are easy to apply and maintain. What these tools and techniques are doing is reducing and eliminating waste, things that are not needed in the manufacturing process.

Let's first take a look at how six sigma and lean manufacturing are alike. If you know anything about either of these two methods then you will know that both methods are basically keeping their eyes on the customer, what this means is that they have the customers best interests at heart. They also focus on implementing the new process from the top down, what this means is that upper management must be on board if the conversion is going to go smoothly. Something else that these two techniques have in common is that they are both out to eliminate waste from your manufacturing plant; it is just how they go about it and the methods that they use that are different. But perhaps the most important thing that both six sigma and lean manufacturing have in common is that both techniques are looking out for ways that you can improve things at your manufacturing plant and both techniques use the same combination of tools to avoid any unnecessary errors.

Now let's take a look at the differences between six sigma and lean manufacturing.
- Six sigma uses a DMAIC model while lean manufacturing uses five principles.
- Lean manufacturing uses a total productive maintenance technique to ensure reliability and greater uptime while six sigma uses project methodology to reduce the chances of a defective move.
- Six sigma is supported by a Black Belt with a cross functional team, while lean manufacturing uses a small operational team that is used to dealing with the day to day issues that can come up.
- Lean manufacturing uses value flow and six sigma uses process mapping.
- Six sigma uses a "Design for Six Sigma" strategy while lean manufacturing uses a Kanban strategy.
- Lean manufacturing uses a SMED technique to ensure a fast turn around, while six sigma uses advice from a Master Black Belt.
- Lean manufacturing uses the basic disciplines of5S: Sort, Simplify, Sweep, Standardize, and Self-discipline and six sigma uses the risk avoidance strategy of FEMA.

Now that you have seen how six sigma and lean manufacturing are alike and how the differ from each other it should be pretty clear that both methods are a great choice. Basically what this means is that neither one is better than the other what is important is that you choose the one that will best fit for your company and then get properly trained for that method.

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