Nathan Honeycutt

Learning new methodologies to compile and analyze data is not what most people would use to define an exciting experience; however, it does prove to be a very beneficial use of time to learn tools that can be applied to industry. The past few weeks have taken dedication and determination to complete a distance education class in Lean Six Sigma.

You might be wondering, “What is Lean Six Sigma?” Well, Lean Six Sigma is a powerful combination of two different types of process improvement methods – Lean and Six Sigma. There are different achievement levels of Lean Six Sigma ranging from white belt to black belt. Each belt achievement level mirrors typical martial arts hierarchy.  I chose to pursue a green belt, as the knowledge learned during this level is applicable to my expected career path and coincides with my current industry exposure.

The first major piece of Lean Six Sigma is Lean. Lean is the term used to define an approach to eliminating waste from a process while still delivering exceptional value to customers. It is important to eliminate waste from a process, for waste can also be considered a strain on resources that does not add value for a customer. Furthermore, all eight wastes (eg. defects, transportation, non-utilized talent, etc.) may not be present in every process, but it is important to determine where waste is in a process in order to continuously improve.

A Value Streaming Map for a Belt Change indicating processes that can be eliminated (black).

Six Sigma is the second piece of Lean Six Sigma and can be understood as the methodology needed to efficiently and effectively solve a problem. Another way to picture Six Sigma is that a Six Sigma process would only produce 3.4 defects, or less, per one million opportunities. This equates to a 99.9997% defect-free rate.

By combining the two process improvement methodologies, Lean Six Sigma is able to provide the necessary tools to efficiently correct an out-of-control process by analyzing a process via data rather than opinion. It is a simple data-driven approach.

Now that you know the basic fundamentals of Lean Six Sigma, you might understand the rigor of the course load and also the value of such education. Having the opportunity to learn a new skill along with the ability to test and receive an industry-recognized certification was a huge blessing. My experience in learning Lean Six Sigma was not one that brought me many smiles, but mostly late nights taking notes and working through scenarios on a fictional restaurant called Bahama Bistro. Yes, this data driven methodology can be effectively applied to a restaurant!

Developing professionally and gaining further knowledge of process improvement tools is something that is very rewarding. Knowing that industries around the globe use Lean Six Sigma is comforting. I am thankful to have had this opportunity and look forward to applying this knowledge to my own experiences in industry.

Industry Implementation of Six Sigma Techniques – learn how this experience is going to help Nathan in his future career path.