Verifying the value of Lean Six Sigma programs

To achieve and maintain a competitive position in today's turbulent economy, companies are pursuing a variety of different business improvement initiatives. As long as the enterprise is pursuing continuous improvement, does it really matter which of the various methodologies, ideologies or programs are followed? The short answer is a resounding, “Yes.


To achieve and maintain a competitive position in today's turbulent economy, companies are pursuing a variety of different business improvement initiatives. As long as the enterprise is pursuing continuous improvement, does it really matter which of the various methodologies, ideologies or programs are followed?

The short answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Aberdeen's 2009 survey of more than 600 business executives finds that those following the true rigors of Lean Six Sigma are better equipped to improve operational performance.

Lean Six Sigma is indeed a tough and demanding program, but when followed with the intended rigor and attention to its finer points, it yields demonstrable results that can be measured in millions of dollars and double digit improvements in profits, quality, and cycle times.

Other continuous improvement and operational excellence programs simply do not produce the same results.

Names aside, it is the true rigor of a Six Sigma program that seems to make the biggest difference.

For those who indicated in the survey that they had Six Sigma programs in place, we asked several other questions to further qualify them, and defined a category we call “True Six Sigma.”

Only 43 percent of those with Six Sigma programs in place qualified for the label “True Six Sigma.” But those that did were far more likely to outperform their peers.

Although we collected data on the average financial result from individual projects, as well as the total financial gains from the start of the initiative, we chose the financial results achieved in the first two years to drive our Best-in-Class criteria. By doing this, we smooth out the difference between newer and very mature implementations.

During the first two years, most companies look for low-hanging fruit in order to produce some immediate and tangible results. Where costs and processes are wildly out of control, these early results can be enormous… and easily gained. For this reason, we temper these savings with the ability to drive those results to the bottom line and improve profits, quality and cycle times.

While we did not require the use of Lean Six Sigma as a criterion for the Best-in-Class, our results clearly show that these management strategies produce more business improvement— and preserving the rigor of Six Sigma produces even more consistent and dramatic results. While all those using Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma were 1.4 times as likely to be top performers, those respondents that fell into the category of True Six Sigma were more than twice as likely to achieve Best-in-Class status.

By simply comparing the average financial results gained by the Best-in-Class and even the average True Six Sigma program, it's apparent that millions of dollars in savings can be produced.

Manufacturers that have previously confined Lean and Six Sigma efforts to the plant or shop floor should continue their journey to business improvement by bringing the same concepts to front and back office processes. Those in non-manufacturing industries that have yet to begin this journey are encouraged to take those first steps in the journey.

To obtain a copy of the full results of our benchmark visit:


Author Information

oversees research and client development related to manufacturing at Boston-based AberdeenGroup, and has more than 30 years worth of ERP and supply chain-related experience. Cindy, a former director for a prominent enterprise vendor, has authored numerous white papers as well as a book titled, ERP Optimization.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2015 Top Plant: Phoenix Contact, Middletown, Pa.; 2015 Best Practices: Automation, Electrical Safety, Electrical Systems, Pneumatics, Material Handling, Mechanical Systems
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Migrating industrial networks; Tracking HMI advances; Making the right automation changes
Understanding transfer switch operation; Coordinating protective devices; Analyzing NEC 2014 changes; Cooling data centers
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.