lean six sigma supply chain
Every business is unique. For most, simply adopting a single, prescribed approach is a risky move. In the case of Six Sigma, it can be especially tempting to, seeing the success of major companies that have used the method in the past, simply declare Six Sigma the law of the land and start tearing into your supply chain. But without carefully honed expertise in the method, adaptation to individual business goals, and proper support, a well-intentioned project can fall flat.

With so many moving parts that need to mesh perfectly together, supply chain management is a delicate process. A seemingly small adjustment can have far-reaching consequences throughout the production cycle. This is why Lean Six Sigma can be such a powerful force. When applied by experts in its use, Six Sigma methodologies, paired with the Lean approach, help quality control officers and managers identify issues that would otherwise remain hidden.

Lean Six Sigma for Supply Chain Management

Supply chain optimization is a never-ending challenge, as it should be. Today’s businesses need to constantly seek out more efficient methods and processes. Lean Six Sigma provides an excellent framework for this endeavor, combining the defect prevention focus of Six Sigma with the emphasis on waste reduction and streamlining offered by Lean thinking.

There are a number of ways that companies around the world have used Lean Six Sigma methodology to improve supply chain performance.

Decrease waste

Reducing the 8 potential wastes that can affect a supply chain (defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra processing) is one of the central objectives of the Lean methodology. But what’s more important is how supply chain analysts determine what’s truly wasteful and not a necessary part of the process. For Lean businesses, this distinction is made based on one variable: value to the customer.

A Lean business aims to deliver the highest quality product at the lowest possible price, which means using few resources as effectively as possible to bring that product to market. Any part of the process that doesn’t actively and directly contribute to that goal is considered waste. Using the Six Sigma DMAIC/DMADV approach combined with the Lean method can help identify these wasteful elements, keeping costs low for the business and the customer.

Prevent defects

supply chain lss
The Six Sigma method was originally developed to combat defects in manufacturing, lowering them within an acceptable tolerance. The in-depth insight into quality control processes provided by Six Sigma analysis can be invaluable to any supply chain manager. Identifying the root cause of defects and refining the production process accordingly is made much clearer through the DMAIC approach.

Lean thinking has its role to play in this, as well. Any complex, convoluted, time-consuming process leaves more room for failure, opening up opportunities for human or technical error. By integrating the Lean method with Six Sigma analysis, processes can be simplified and streamlined. This means fewer defects, which helps maintain quality standards and decreases the waste caused by defective products.

Improve performance

The combined Lean and Six Sigma methods are uniquely suited to optimizing a supply chain. Together, these philosophies provide a unified focus on two fundamental aspects of manufacturing: efficiency and quality. Every stage of the DMAIC/DMADV approach is an excellent opportunity to refine processes, solve problems, and reduce waste. The result? A stronger bottom line.

The Lean Six Sigma method can help supply chain managers ensure that every part of their process isn’t just defect-free, but focused on their customer. By defining their customer base and needs early on in the DMAIC/DMADV process, businesses can align all of their process improvements to the goal of serving their customers with distinction. Every team member can stay focused on the ultimate goal, which is to make customers happy with their purchase.

This simultaneous focus on the customer and the process is what makes Lean Six Sigma such a valuable, high-impact skill-set. When everyone unifies to serve the customer, businesses thrive.

About Purdue’s Online Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Certificate Program

Purdue University offers comprehensive online Lean Six Sigma (LSS) certificate programs designed for working professionals with varying levels of Lean Six Sigma experience. The online Lean Six Sigma certificate courses prepare professionals to satisfy the immense demand for Lean expertise, skills and certification.

Purdue offers the following courses 100% online:

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