How is Lean different from Six Sigma?

When looking for ways to improve a business, many people will look at Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma and see a lot of similarities. While it is true that they are both primarily focused on eliminating waste in the workplace. While their goals are similar, the methods that are used for achieving them is quite different.

Lean Focuses on Creating Flow

The main focus of Lean manufacturing is on creating flow throughout the process. This means looking at how a product is made from beginning to end, and making sure that there is as little waste involved as possible. This can include making sure machines are close to each other, and streamlining the process of moving parts from one place to the next.

One of the ways that Lean helps to streamline the flow of production is by using Just-in-Time practices. This is where production is triggered by customer orders so that only the amount that is needed is ever going to be created. Without JIT, companies will produce a lot of inventory, which is often stored for months before it can be stored. This is very wasteful and costly. Six Sigma isn’t going to be concerned with the flow of the processes.

Six Sigma Focuses on Eliminating Defects

Six Sigma may not be focusing on the higher up processes used to create products, but instead wants to identify and eliminate defects in the manufacturing process. The sooner a defect can be identified, the less disruption there will be. In addition, Six Sigma wants to get to the root cause of the defect rather than simply correcting the problem each time a defect is found.

While Lean manufacturing is certainly interested in identifying and eliminating defects, it isn’t the primary goal. Instead, Lean will want to figure out what is causing the defect because it is interrupting production, which is very wasteful.

You can Use them Both

While there are some key differences between these two methodologies, they can actually be quite complimentary. Implementing both Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma will help to ensure as much waste as possible is eliminated.


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