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Lean Six Sigma Tools for Process Improvement

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In today’s dynamic business landscape, organizations constantly seek ways to enhance efficiency, reduce waste, and deliver higher-quality products and services. Lean Six Sigma, a data-driven methodology rooted in process improvement, provides a comprehensive toolkit of powerful tools and techniques to achieve these goals. In this blog post, we’ll explore essential Lean Six Sigma tools that organizations can leverage to streamline operations, increase productivity, and drive continuous improvement.

  • Process Mapping: Process mapping, also known as value stream mapping, is a foundational Lean Six Sigma tool. It allows organizations to visually represent their current processes, identify bottlenecks, and pinpoint areas for improvement. By mapping out the flow of activities, teams can gain a clear understanding of how processes function and where optimization opportunities lie.
  • DMAIC Methodology: Explore the arsenal of Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques designed to revolutionize your processes and foster a culture of continuous improvement.DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) is the core framework of Lean Six Sigma. It provides a structured approach for problem-solving and process improvement. Each phase of DMAIC is supported by specific tools, making it a comprehensive methodology for tackling complex issues and driving sustainable change.
  • Root Cause Analysis: Root cause analysis tools, such as the Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa) and the 5 Whys technique, help organizations dig deep to identify the underlying causes of problems or defects. By addressing root causes rather than symptoms, teams can implement lasting solutions.
  • Statistical Process Control (SPC): SPC tools, including control charts and histograms, allow organizations to monitor and control process variation. They provide real-time insights into process stability, helping teams detect deviations early and take corrective action before issues escalate.
  • Pareto Analysis: The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that roughly 80% of problems result from 20% of causes. Pareto analysis tools assist organizations in prioritizing efforts by identifying the most significant contributors to problems or inefficiencies. This enables teams to focus their resources where they will have the greatest impact.
  • Lean Tools: Lean principles, such as 5S (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain), Kanban, and Poka-Yoke (error-proofing), complement Lean Six Sigma by reducing waste, improving flow, and enhancing workplace organization. These tools foster a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Data Analysis Tools: Lean Six Sigma relies heavily on data-driven decision-making. Tools like scatter plots, regression analysis, and hypothesis testing enable organizations to analyze data effectively, identify trends, and make informed decisions based on evidence.
  • Control Charts: Control charts are instrumental in monitoring process performance over time. They help organizations distinguish between common cause and special cause variation, guiding decisions on when to intervene or maintain the status quo.

The Lean Six Sigma toolbox is vast and versatile, offering a wide array of tools to address various process improvement challenges. Whether you’re aiming to streamline manufacturing processes, optimize service delivery, or enhance product quality, these tools provide the means to achieve sustainable improvements.

By mastering these Lean Six Sigma tools and integrating them into your organization’s problem-solving and improvement initiatives, you can not only drive immediate results but also establish a culture of continuous improvement that will propel your organization to new heights of efficiency and excellence.

About The Author

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Luis Socconini

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Lean Smarts

15 Essential Lean Manufacturing Tools and Principles

Of the many lean manufacturing tools and principles in use today, these are some of the fundamental tools and principles you  must understand to have a basic familiarity with lean.

Use this guide start-to-finish for a general overview of lean manufacturing tools, or skip to the topic of your choosing using the quick links below.

Quick Links

  • Value and Waste
  • Standard Work
  • Visual Management
  • Continuous Flow
  • Quick Changeover
  • Value Stream Mapping
  • Problem Solving
  • Lean Management

#1 Value and Waste

Value and Waste Process Diagram

What is value?

Value is defined as “whatever the customer wants.”

A value-adding activity is therefore an activity that creates value for the customer. This is something like: snapping, bending, stitching, sawing, painting, filling, etc.

What is waste?

Waste is everything else that is not value-added. There are 7 identified forms of waste, which include the following:

  • Transportation
  • Over processing
  • Over production

An 8th waste is sometimes added to represent wasted human potential. This is the waste of a disengaged workforce and is typically a failure of management.

Why does value and waste matter?

Eliminating waste is at the heart of lean manufacturing and central to the world class performance achieved by lean organizations.

Waste is everywhere and in everything that we do; the opportunity for improvement is found in eliminating these wastes. Then, value can flow!

#2 Stability (and the 4M)

Stability and the 4M of the lean house

What is stability and the 4M?

Stability is a prerequisite to any performing process. It can be evaluated via the 4M’s of man, machine, material, and method.

If there is instability in any of these four categories, the process will not support lean methods and continuous improvement. If you try to move forward, you may even find yourself like a dog chasing its tail!

Why does stability matter?

Every other activity or tool you might use with lean depends on sufficient stability of the process in question. You must learn to see instability for what it is and learn to stabilize it before moving forward.

#3 Standard Work (or Standardized Work)

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Standard Work Examples

What is standard work?

Standard work is a scientific approach to stabilizing the  methods used in an activity. There are many ways to document standard work but make no mistake: this is not just a “standard operating procedure” (SOP)!

Standard work comes in the common forms of traditional standardized work, a simple 8-step process, TWI job instruction, video, and more.

Why does standard work matter?

In the famous words of Taichii Ohno, “Without a standard there can be no kaizen.” Standard work is the starting point for kaizen and the baseline for continuous improvement. Without it, there is nothing to compare to.

Massive performance gains can be achieved by stabilizing production methods with standard work and training effectively. It also aids in quality, problem-solving, team member engagement, and continuous improvement.

Lean Manufacturing Tools: 5S Red Tag Sort Example

What is 5S?

5S is a productivity tool that increases efficiency and makes abnormalities visible.

It’s composed of five disciplines: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.

Why does 5S matter?

If you’re going to do well with lean, it’s important to master the basics. 5S is one of them!

It’s a primary tool to preserve the output of processes and make problems visible.

#5 Kaizen (aka Continuous Improvement)

What is kaizen.

Kaizen is the Japanese word for “good change” and represents the idea of continuous improvement.

Very often, people misunderstand kaizen to be an event-based practice scheduled over 5+ days of focused activity.

But the deeper and truer meaning of kaizen is the practice of creating small changes made by everyone, every day, everywhere.

Why does kaizen matter?

In many regards, kaizen is the essence of lean and the Toyota Production System. It’s a system of continuous improvement in which everyone participates every day.

If you don’t learn to practice kaizen, you’ll never eliminate waste at a world-class level.

#6 Heijunka (aka Leveled Production)

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Heijunka Production Schedule Bad

What is heijunka?

Heijunka is the lean concept of “leveled production” and is essential to establishing stability. It is a hallmark of a flexible lean production system.

Toyota uses a specific kind of production leveling called “every part every interval” (EPEI), but other methods of production leveling exist.

Why does heijunka matter?

It’s one of the ultimate forms of stabilization, which eliminates waste and makes your production system predictable.

#7 Visual Management (aka Visual Factory or Visual Controls)

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Visual Management Examples

What is visual management?

Visual management has to do with the scientific managing of processes following the PDCA method of comparing expected vs. actual performance.

It is more than simply making the workplace colorful and labelled! It’s also more than extensive use of charts, graphs, and data.

Why does visual management matter?

Visual management is like the nerve-system of a lean organization. It is a feedback-loop system that accelerates problem-solving and preserves the output of production processes.

It is also considered a crucial component for creating a lean culture (along with leader standard work and daily accountability).

#8 Continuous Flow

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Continuous Flow Example

What is continuous flow?

Continuous flow is about making processes move in small batches vs. big batches, and “one-piece flow” is the ideal. Various methods are used to improve flow including cellular manufacturing, kanban (pull systems), quick changeover, and minimum lot sizes.

Why does continuous flow matter?

Massive benefits can be achieved for lead time reduction, productivity, quality, and operational flexibility using the concept of continuous flow.

#9 Takt Time

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Takt Time Meter

What is takt time?

Takt time is the pace of production and is calculated by dividing planned production time by customer demand. For example, this results in a rate of 46 seconds per part.

Why does takt time matter?

It is used as a design specification in continuous flow processes so that the flow of production activities is smooth and steady. This eliminates the waste of overburden (muri) and unevenness (mura).

It is also used effectively to assess actual vs. expected performance, since the expected performance is determined using takt time.

#10 Kanban (Pull Systems)

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Kanban 2 Bin Pull System

What is kanban?

Kanban is a physical or digital signal that triggers production activities in small batches, and only when needed! It comes in various forms including: a kanban card, a 2 bin system, or kanban supermarket.

Why does kanban matter?

It’s not always possible to create one-piece flow or continuous flow between all operations. In these situations a pull system is useful to “pull” material and information to where it is needed.

With these two strategies (pull systems and continuous flow) the wastes of traditional batch-and-queue manufacturing can be wonderfully reduced.

#11 Quick Changeover (aka SMED)

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Quick Changeover Internal vs External Time

What is a quick changeover?

A quick changeover is a strategy of reducing setup times associated with changeover activities. In many cases, setups can be reduced to a “single digit” i.e. less than 10 minutes.

This is a synonym for the Toyota term “single minute exchange of die” (SMED).

Why do quick changeovers matter?

Reducing batch size is cost-prohibitive for equipment designed for batch processing unless the setup time can be reduced.

By applying quick changeover concepts and reducing setup times, the batch size is reduced, work in process (WIP) inventories are reduced, and flow is improved.

#12 Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Value Stream Map Example

What is value stream mapping?

Value stream mapping is a tool used to draw, analyze, and improve the flow of material and information through a “value stream.” The value stream is the complete series of activities required to produce a product or service from start to finish.

Why does value stream mapping matter?

This tool allows management to strategically redesign a value stream from its current state into a desired future state.

It can be used to plan the conversion of entire product families from traditional methods into lean methods of continuous flow and pull.

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Jidoka & Andon Example

What is jidoka?

Built-in quality, automation with abnormality detection, andon, and multi-process handling are all contained within the concept of jidoka.

With this practice in play, equipment, team members, and processes immediately stop whenever a problem or abnormality is detected.

Why does jidoka matter?

Jidoka is a mindset and set of practices used to create world class first time quality. Instead of endlessly firefighting, lean organizations apply jidoka methods to build quality in at the source.

#14 Problem Solving

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Two Types of Problem-Solving

What is problem solving?

Lean problem-solving typically draws from an common assortment of tools and a clear problem-solving process.

This problem-solving process is characterized by defining problems in the context of the big picture, thinking multi-dimensionally, going to the gemba, applying the PDCA cycle (Deming Cycle), and documenting the problem-solving effort in a standard format.

Why does problem solving matter?

Disciplined and scientific problem-solving is at the core of lean thinking. To make progress and reach your goals, you’ll have to learn how to flex these problem-solving muscles.

#15 Lean Management

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Traditional vs Lean Management

What is lean management?

Lean management is a “paradigm-shift” from traditional management and can be understood through cultural artifacts of lean management and less tangible management behavior.

The cultural artifacts are often captured through the trinity of practices of leader standard work, a daily accountability process, and visual controls.

Less tangible cultural characteristics include humility, elevating the role of the team leader and team member, learn by doing, scientific experimentation, failing early and often, and more.

Why does lean management matter?

Lean tools don’t stick unless the management system is also converted towards lean management practices.

If you’re going to “become lean,” you can’t overlook the importance of transforming your management system and underlying beliefs and practices.

Get Everyone Trained in Lean Manufacturing Tools and Principles

Want to learn more or get others trained? Checkout our Fundamentals of Lean course, covering all these tools and more!

Learn more about the Fundamentals of Lean

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

  • The Seven Steps of Problem Solving

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  • Select the issue.
  • Search for data to describe the situation.
  • Analyze the facts to obtain root cause(s) of the performance gap.
  • Select a solution.
  • Conduct a pilot test.
  • Evaluate performance.
  • Standardize the gains, reflect, and repeat the process.

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  • Lean Philosophy

Effective Lean Problem Solving


Solving problems in a business setting is an important part of the Lean methodology. Using Lean strategies, a company can better identify what problems exist, pinpoint the root causes, and come up with the right solutions to get the best results. Learning about how to effectively use Lean problem-solving techniques can help any business to improve and become more efficient.

Lean Problem-Solving Process

When working to make improvements in any business setting, it is important to start by identifying problems or potential problems. Solving existing issues is a great way to eliminate waste and improve efficiency very quickly. For many businesses, this is the ideal with to create a competitive edge that will help you to succeed.

When using the lean problem-solving techniques , you will go through a series of steps to get the results that are needed. The steps in the Lean problem-solving process are as follows:

  • Identify the Problem – The first thing to do is identify what the actual problem is. This should be as specific as possible and include as many details and other information as is available.
  • Break it Down – Breaking the problem down into different steps or parts is critical. This will make it possible to develop the right solutions for each aspect of the problem and help get things running as they should.
  • Establish Targets – It is difficult to solve a problem if you don’t know what a working system should look like. Establishing target goals for the system you are working on will help guide you through the rest of the process.
  • Look for the Root Cause – No problem can be truly solved without knowing what the root cause is. Keep asking questions about the issue at hand until you discover what is truly causing the issues. This can often be done using the ‘Five Whys’ technique , where you keep asking why something is happening until you reach the root cause.
  • Propose Countermeasures – Next, come up with ways that you can address the root cause. This could be one or more different actions that are designed specifically to deal with this issue.
  • Implement Countermeasures – Take the countermeasures that are proposed in the previous step and begin testing them. Ideally this can be done in a small test segment, but if needed it can be done in a full production environment. If a solution seems to work in a small system, expand it out to make sure the results scale up as expected.
  • Test the Results – Analyze the results by comparing the situation where the problem was found against your target results. If you are able to accomplish the goals identified as your target results, the problem-solving countermeasures are successful. If not, move back to proposing additional countermeasures to get the results you need.
  • Standardize – Once you have found a proven way to address the problem at hand, it is time to roll it out to the entire environment. Establishing new processes and procedures that will be followed by everyone in the facility is the last step in the problem-solving process.

Include All Impacted Parties

When going through the Lean problem-solving process it is important to consult with all the parties that are impacted by the problem at hand. It is quite rare that one person will be able to find the best possible solution to a problem, especially if they aren’t the ones who are directly impacted by the issue. Part of the Lean methodology is to work with various teams to come up with the best way of doing things. If you are facing a problem that needs a solution, you will want to include people from various groups such as:

  • Front Line Employees – These are typically the people who will deal with the problem on a regular basis. Nobody will have greater insights into the root cause, and potential solutions, than these employees. Having one or more people from this level helping to solve a problem is critical.
  • Supervisor – A supervisor or department manager will be able to provide additional insights into how the problem is impacting the business. They will also be the ones to help coordinate the implementation of any potential solutions so they should be involved.
  • Appropriate Management – If a problem, or the expected solutions, will require upper level management approval, someone from that team should be included in the process. It is easier to have someone from the leadership partnering with you from the beginning than to try to bring them up to speed for approval down the road.
  • Customers – When appropriate, having a customer available to discuss the problem can be very helpful. Customers are sometimes the ones who have the most information about the symptoms of the problem, which can make them very helpful.

Solving problems using Lean methodologies is a great way to help improve efficiency and eliminate waste in any workplace. Having an established process in place will allow you to quickly identify and solve a wide-range of problems in any environment.

Additional Resources

  • 8D for Problem Solving –
  • Training to Use 8D Problem-Solving Tactics –
  • Design Thinking: Empathy and Iteration for Innovation and Problem-Solving –
  • The Great Root Cause Problem Solving Debate –
  • “No Problem” is a Problem –
  • Lean Six Sigma in small companies, still effective? –
  • Lean Manufacturing Implementation – The First 5 Steps –
  • The Lean Method: Go To Gemba and Improve Your Quality Control –
  • Applying Hoshin Kanri –

Related posts:

  • Total Quality Management And Kaizen Principles In Lean Management
  • Why Lean Transformation Fails
  • 7 Reasons to Eliminate Waste and Go Lean
  • Go Lean – Visual Factory
  • Lean Layout Fundamentals
  • Why Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)?
  • Why You Should Use Takt Time Production & How To Do It
  • Why Six Sigma Root Cause Analysis is a Great Tool
  • Seven Forms of Waste – Lean Six Sigma

Lean Manufacturing 10

PPS: Resolución práctica de problemas mediante el lean manufacturing

Herramientas Lean Manufacturing | 4 Comentarios

En este post te voy a hablar del PPS (practical problem solving) , una herramienta lean manufacturing para resolver los problemas que puedan surgir en el proceso de producción y que no dejan avanzar la producción correctamente.

Veremos cómo aplicar el pps paso a paso, fase por pase.

pps resolucion practica de problemas

¿Qué es el PPS?

El PPS, es el acrónimo de su término en inglés «practical problem solving», lo que en español se traduce como resolución práctica de problemas .

La resolución práctica de problemas o PPS es una metodología de 8 pasos, probada y verificada por Toyota hace años. El sistema es estructurado, pero lo suficientemente simple y práctico como para tratar problemas desde la más pequeña naturaleza, hasta los temas más complejos.

El uso de una manera fundamental y estratégica para resolver problemas crea consistencia dentro de una empresa, ya que cuando basas los resultados en hechos, experiencias y sentido común, los resultados se forman de una manera racional y sostenible.

Los 8 pasos para aplicar el PPS o resolución práctica de problemas

Para la aplicación del PPS en la resolución de cualquier problema, se siguen los siguientes pasos:

  • Clarificar el problema
  • Desglosar el problema
  • Establecer el objetivo
  • Analizar la causa raíz
  • Desarrollar contramedidas
  • Implementar contramedidas
  • Monitorizar los resultados y procesos
  • Estandarizar y compartir el éxito

Los ocho pasos para la resolución práctica de problemas están incluidos en el ciclo PDCA: Planificar, Hacer, Comprobar y Actuar. Los pasos del uno al cinco están en la fase de planificar. El hacer se encuentra en el paso seis. El séptimo paso es la comprobación. El octavo paso implica la interpretación de los resultados del nuevo estándar.

La resolución práctica de problemas puede ser una herramienta muy poderosa para los problemas que pueden surgir en una empresa. Permite  tener una comprensión común del problema en sí y los pasos que se van a dar para superar el problema de la manera más eficiente posible.

Vamos a explicar con más detalle cada uno de los pasos.

Paso 1: Clarificar el problema

Un problema puede ocurrir dentro de estos tres escenarios:

  • Cualquier cosa que se desvía del estándar, como por ejemplo un lote de productos defectuosos.
  • Cuando hay una gran diferencia entre el estado real y el estado deseado, como por ejemplo, cuando la producción no avanza lo que debería.
  • El tercero es una necesidad del cliente no satisfecha, como puede ser el no cumplimiento del plazo de entrega.

Para aclarar mejor el problema, tienes que ver el problema con tus propios ojos . Esto te dará los detalles y la experiencia práctica que te permitirá entender el problema.

Paso 2: Desglosar el problema

Una vez que se ha visto el problema de primera mano, hay que empezar a dividir el problema en problemas más detallados y específicos.

Recuerda que mientras que descompones el problema, todavía necesitas volver a comprobar esos problemas individuales más pequeños con tus propios ojos.

Éste es también un buen momento para estudiar y analizar las diferentes entradas y salidas del proceso para poder priorizar los esfuerzos de manera efectiva. Es mucho más efectivo controlar y resolver muchos microproblemas uno a uno, en lugar de tratar de resolver un gran problema sin ninguna dirección.

Paso 3: Establecer el objetivo

El tercer paso se trata sobre todo de compromiso y enfoque.

Ahora tu atención debe centrarse en lo que se necesita para completar el proyecto y cuánto tiempo te llevará terminarlo.

Debes establecer objetivos que sean desafiantes, pero dentro de los límites y no poner una presión en la empesa que obstaculizaría el proceso de mejora.

Paso 4: Analizar la causa raíz

Este es un paso vital en la resolución de problemas, porque te ayudará a identificar los factores reales que causaron el problema en primer lugar.

La mayoría de las veces, hay múltiples causas de raíz para analizar. Asegúrate de que estás considerando todas las posibles causas de raíz y de que las estás abordando adecuadamente.

Un análisis de causa raíz adecuado, de nuevo implica que compruebes la causa tú mismo, en lugar de simplemente confiar en los informes.

Paso 5: Desarrollar contramedidas

Una vez que se han establecido las causas raíz de cada problema, puedes usar esa información para desarrollar las contramedidas necesarias para eliminarlas y solucionarlas.

Tu equipo debe desarrollar tantas contramedidas necesarias para abordar directamente todas y cada una de las causas fundamentales.

Una vez que hayas desarrollado las contramedidas, se puede comenzar a convertir en medidas más prácticas, para que su implementación en la empresa sea viable y efectiva.

Paso 6: Implementar contramedidas

Una vez establecidas las contramedidas y preparadas para su implementación de forma práctica, es momento de empezar a implementarlas.

La comunicación es extremadamente importante en esta fase de la aplicación del pps.

Debes seguir buscando ideas junto con tu equipo y continuar trabajando a través del ciclo PDCA para asegurarte de que nada se pierde por el camino. Considera la posibilidad de implementar una contramedida a la vez para monitorear la efectividad de cada uno.

Seguramente se cometerán errores en todos sus procesos de resolución de problemas, por eso aquí la persistencia juega un papel muy importante

Paso 7: Monitorizar los resultados y procesos

Como los errores ocurren y las contramedidas fallan, necesitas un sistema para revisarlas y modificarlas para obtener el resultado deseado.

También puedes determinar si el resultado deseado fue el resultado de la acción de la contramedida, o si fue sólo una casualidad. Siempre hay espacio para la mejora en el proceso de resolución de problemas, pero necesitas ser capaz de reconocerlo que a veces las cosas suceden sin esperarlo.

Paso 8: Estandarizar y compartir el éxito

Ahora que has tenido éxito en la aplicación del pps, debes establecer los nuevos procesos corregido como el nuevo estándar dentro de la empresa y compartirlos en toda la organización.

Una vez resueltos los problemas más importantes mediante la aplicación de esta herramienta lean manufacturing llamada PPS, tienes un nuevo punto de partida para seguir mejorando, siguiendo la filosofía de la mejora continua .

4 Comentarios

Ronel Segura

Muy buen artículo sobre este tema, mucho mas claro que otros que leí. Gracias

Marco Navarrete

¿El PPS es lo mismo que el 8D’s?


Hola! No es lo mismo. En las 8 disciplinas se siguen otros pasos distintos


Buen día Marco es lo mismo solo siguen otra estructura. en cada uno de los métodos la clave esta en el dominio individual de cada una de las herramientas por separado y en su seguimiento según la estructura.

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