Continuous Improvement Overview

Lean process improvement was pioneered by Toyota and focuses on the elimination of waste to create a “flow” of value adding activities that respond to the “pull” of the customer. The principles and tools are most powerful when continuous improvement is practised by the whole workforce and becomes part of the culture.

Six Sigma process improvement was pioneered by Motorola and GE and focuses on applying a scientific approach to solving difficult problems such as poor quality, low or variable output and downtime. The approach works by identifying and validating the underlying (root) causes of these problems. Solutions are then implemented to address the root causes. A 5 step process known as DMAIC is followed:

The Lean and Six Sigma approaches complement each other as key components of a continuous improvement program. Both promote improvements in the overall business system where the human elements are just as important as the technical elements. There are tools to support the human and technical elements and as with any set of tools, the key is applying the right tool to the right problem in the right order.