A Brief History of Lean and Six Sigma

A Brief History of Lean and Six Sigma

Lean and Six Sigma are two methodologies that focus on process improvement and efficiency in business operations. They have different origins and approaches but are often used together for optimal results.


  • Origins: Lean originated in the manufacturing industry, specifically in the Toyota Production System (TPS) in Japan, during the mid-20th century. The methodology was developed to improve efficiency and reduce waste in production processes.
  • Key Principles: Lean focuses on identifying and eliminating waste (muda) in processes. It emphasizes continuous improvement (kaizen), respect for people, and optimizing flow throughout the value stream.
  • Approach: Lean tools and techniques include value stream mapping, 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain), just-in-time (JIT) inventory, and kanban.

Six Sigma:

  • Origins: Six Sigma originated at Motorola in the United States in the 1980s. It was developed as a quality management methodology to reduce defects and improve consistency in processes.
  • Key Principles: Six Sigma aims to achieve near-perfect quality by reducing variation and defects in processes. It uses statistical tools to measure and improve processes, aiming for a defect rate of 3.4 parts per million.
  • Approach: Six Sigma follows a structured approach called DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) to solve problems and improve processes. It relies on data analysis and statistical tools such as control charts and process capability studies.

Lean Six Sigma:

  • Integration: In the 1990s, companies began combining Lean and Six Sigma to create a comprehensive methodology that addresses both waste reduction and quality improvement.
  • Benefits: Lean Six Sigma provides a holistic approach to process improvement by combining the strengths of Lean’s focus on efficiency and Six Sigma’s focus on quality.
  • Application: The methodology is widely used across industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and technology, to improve processes, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

About user

Milind patel is an experienced practitioner and thought leader in the field of Business Process Management (CI) and 0.4 lean application. He co-founded Pro lean academy, a consulting company focusing on performance improvements and appropriate digitalization application in manufacturing process