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What’s Lean Six Sigma anyway? 【The Origin of Lean Six Sigma】

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What's Lean Six Sigma anyway? 【The O...

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The history of Six Sigma


Hi, this is Mike Negami, Lean Sigma Black Belt.


Today’s theme is ‘What’s Lean Six Sigma anyway?’ It is two approaches – Lean and Six Sigma – that are merged. Since saying or writing Lean Six Sigma many times is too long, I’ve decided to refer to it as ‘Lean Sigma’.


At first there was only Six Sigma. Since it became news that SONY and Toshiba introduced it in the 1990’s, Six Sigma became a little bit popular in Japan.  Six Sigma refers to production management techniques that were developed by Motorola in the 80s.


The word, “Six Sigma” originally, in terms of statistics, means no more than 3.4 defective parts per million opportunities. Among one million pieces of a product made, it maintains less than 3.4 defects. It’s equal to almost no defective pieces. It emphasizes eliminating variability of product quality and process procedures in the entire process.


It was not very popular in the Motorola era. After Jack Welch, a very famous businessman, became a young CEO of GE, he introduced Six Sigma company-wide. He created an in-house university and Six Sigma certification system. He even required all managers to obtain Six Sigma certification to be promoted.


Then GE became the world’s number one company in the 1990s. By the way, GE is the company that the invention King, Thomas Edison established. They are continuing to make light bulbs even now.


After seeing GE’s tremendous success, many large companies then introduced Six Sigma in their own operations. In 2003, I joined the security service company, ADT. Around that time the company introduced Six Sigma.


I remember that I participated in one of their Six Sigma training classes. But at that time I had never imagined that I would become a Black Belt.


GE learned from Toyota.


The 1990’s is the era that Japanese companies, especially in the automobile industry, were taking the US market by storm. When you drive on the US’s streets, it seems like half of the cars are Japanese cars.  What I think was great about GE was that, even though they were already the top company in the world, they were trying to further evolve. GE felt threatened by the Japanese companies, so they studied Japanese companies, especially, Toyota.


Toyota created the Toyota Production System, which has emphasis on eliminating 3M: Mura, Muri and Muda, which are Japanese for unevenness, overburden and waste. Because of this focus, it’s named ‘Lean Manufacturing’.
Lean, which focused on eliminating waste and Six Sigma, which focused on eliminating variability were merged. They were not only combined, but synergized each other.


Then, Lean Six Sigma was born as a totally new process improvement methodology. I’ll give more details in later videos, so please subscribe to this channel.


Thank you for listening.


<< Mike’s Comment >>


This is the 3rd post in this series.  I’m making each YouTube episode in both English and Japanese, so I’ve now uploaded 6 videos in all.


At the beginning, it took a considerable amount of time to prepare to film a video. I’ve gotten more used to it by now.   However, editing videos still takes some time, even so.


This episode explains the history of Lean Sigma and what Lean Sigma is.  We’ll start with Six Sigma, then I’ll go on to explain why and how GE evolved Lean Sigma.  Japanese companies influenced that evolution greatly.


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