Quality management has been one of the most significant parts of the overall company management for decades. Total Quality Management and Six Sigma are the primary concepts in this area and suggest that quality is the top priority of any organization. Deriving from total quality management and adopting the key principles of lean manufacturing strategy, the concept of Lean Six Sigma ensures a thorough and precise evaluation and improvement of the company’s performance.
To understand the peculiarities of Lean Six Sigma, one should first define Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing. Six Sigma is understood as a business strategy and methodology aimed at detection and elimination of critical defects in manufacturing and other business processes. Six Sigma requires constant quality improvement, minimization of errors and deviations in operating activities. The goals of improvement should be measurable and precise. Sigma (σ) stands for statistical standard deviation. The quality of the process in is seen as the σ-rating deviation or the percentage of defect-free output. Lean manufacturing is the planning-based approach that focuses on cost reduction, minimization of waste and maximization of overall performance. Lean manufacturing is aimed at the increase of delivery speed, reliability and quality of the end products, requires the involvement of every employee and strives to meet the consumer demands at the lowest cost. Lean Six Sigma, thus, combines the principles and tool of lean management and Six Sigma, linking operational efficiency with measurable results of business activities. Such combination becomes effective because lean manufacturing is not focused on statistical process control while Six Sigma alone cannot significantly reduce process waste. Moreover, Lean Six Sigma allows to focus on process speed and to ensure customer satisfaction through production quality improvement.
Lean Six Sigma becomes the most efficient for the industries that require maximum precision and attention to operational costs, such as manufacturing, machine building, metalworking, engineering, healthcare, and others. In such areas, it is easier to gather statistical data, monitor defects, and changes. However, Lean Six Sigma may also be used to improve other kinds of processes including sales and marketing, product development, management of financial, administrative, and human resources.
Comparing Lean Six Sigma with total quality management, one may note that often TQM can be seen both as a predecessor of Lean Six Sigma or as a component that ensures the quality of the process. TQM is more customer-oriented and focuses on their loyalty while Lean Six Sigma sets providing no defects and improvement of financial performance as the key priority. TQM can be seen as a wider framework for streamlining the company’s performance. It suggests the establishment of a consistent and comprehensive strategy for quality improvement and does not need too precise data to work out this strategy. TQM is not a program, but a systematic, integrated and coordinated work style; every employee in the company is supposed to be engaged in TQM. In comparison with TQM, Lean Six Sigma provides a higher level of operational integration and focuses not only on the stabilization of quality but also on its actual improvement. TQM is suitable for less specific service-based industries where the customer satisfaction is hard to measure. Customer service department of the company can establish TQM as methodology and philosophy.
Overall, it can be seen that Lean Six Sigma is the most innovative modern approach to quality management. Lean Six Sigma ensures an efficient combination of lean management cost reduction principles and Six Sigma precise quantitative methodology for the establishment of effective corporate quality control. The statistical methods and general quality improvement measures are harmoniously combined in Lean Six Sigma, which makes it easy to conduct the thorough analysis. Lean Six Sigma together with its predecessor Total Quality Management help the organization to reach the best results in its performance.