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The 5 most important Lean Six Sigma tools to boost your process

The 5 most important Lean Six Sigma tools to boost your process

Lean and Six Sigma, both are two different approaches. The path they choose is completely different, but they work towards the same goal. Lean focuses more on the process where six sigma focuses on the quality of the output.

Lean is an approach used to achieve higher productivity using minimum resources. Eliminating wastes and reducing cycle times are the key factors in the Lean approach. Six Sigma focuses on maintaining consistency in the process. It is completely data-driven, unlike Lean, which is completely process-driven. Hence it is defined as 3.4 defects for every million opportunities.

Lean- Six Sigma is a combination of productivity and quality. This is what all the organizations strive to achieve, and customers expect. In order to achieve this, there are several Lean Six-Sigma tools.

The most important 5 Lean Six-Sigma tools are:

  1. The 5 whys

  2. The 5S System    

  3. Pareto Chart

  4. Kaizen

  5. Poka- Yoke

The 5 whys:

To solve anything, finding out exactly where the problem lies is important. The 5 whys is one such tool by the usage of which the actual problem can be found. It works in this way if you find a problem anywhere ask why it had occurred. If that answer is not the root cause of the problem, repeat the why question again. Repeat the loop until you find the root cause of the problem. You can ask why more than 5 times but in most of the cases the root cause is found before the 5 whys.

However, this cannot be applied in case of complex problems. In 5 why analysis the entire analysis is performed in only one track. In the case of complex problems, an analysis should be carried out in all possible perspectives, which is a limitation in 5 whys analysis.

Let us discuss this with an example from our daily life. “Wich and Fun” is a sandwich vendor. He got a corporate order to supply 100 sandwiches every day in the evening at 4.00 Pm. On the very first day, the contract got canceled. Below shows the 5 whys inquiry diagram.

the 5 whys analysis

5 Whys analysis example

The 5 whys analysis counter-measure

The 5S System:

It is a methodology which consists of 5 Japanese words. They mean “sort,” “set in order,” “Shine,” “Standardize,” “Sustain”. The words in the list tell how a workplace should be maintained. The effectiveness and efficiency of the work done in a place are directly affected by how the workplace is. With implementing 5S in any organization brings 5 benefits into the organization. They are:

  • Reduced Costs

  • Higher Quality

  • Increased Productivity

  • Greater Employee Satisfaction

  • A Safer Work Environment

Let us discuss in detail how 5S will derive these 5 benefits.

Sort: It helps the user to determine what is actually needed and what are not in the work area. Some common question which is used in this phase are

  • What is the purpose of this item?

  • When was this item last used?

  • How frequently is it used?

  • Who uses it?

  • Does it really need to be here?

These questions help to determine the values of the items and help in deciding what to be kept in the work area.

Set In Order: Once all the unwanted is removed from the work area, next comes setting them according to the convenience of the people who use them. They can be segregated in several ways, according to the frequency of usage, space occupation, the colour of the objects, etc. 

Shine: Everyone knows the importance of housekeeping. Having a clean and hygienic work area creates interest to the employee to accomplish the task assigned. In industries and plants, shine refers to performing regular maintenance on equipment and machinery. This prevents machinery from getting a breakdown.

Relate this to the example quoted in the previous discussion i.e. 5 whys analysis. If there had been regular maintenance of the grilling machine, the breakdown would not have happened.

Standardize: Now, the work area is clean. All the required equipment and tools are available in perfect condition. The work area is very clean. In the early times of 5S implementing everything will be perfectly set, and setting back things after use is also easy. In the long run, having no set of instructions in the work area leads to misplacing things and again brings the same old situation back to place. So having standardized operating procedures is very much essential to bring all the results as mentioned in the beginning of the discussion.

Sustain: The last and important step in implementing 5S in an organization to sustain. After the first 3S’s were implemented, to perform them a standardized operating system need to be framed. After the operating system was designed, it needs to be sustained in the organized. For a successful implementation of 5S in an organization, employees from various departments at various levels need to contribute to achieving the desired outputs when and where required. 

Difference between before and after 5S being implemented.     Difference between before and after 5S being implemented.

Difference between before and after 5S being implemented


Consider the same example of “Wich and Fun” as quoted under the explanation of 5 Whys analysis, and this is how a kitchen with 5s implementation and without 5s implemented looks like.

Pareto Chart:

It is a combination of a bar graph and line graph. The bar graph is in descending order, and the line graph is in ascending order. The horizontal axis consists of the list of causes for the problem. Each bar represents one factor Left vertical axis represents the frequency of occurrence or the cost incurred by that defect etc. The right vertical axis represents the percentage from 0 to 100.

The contribution of each factor in the total problem will be plotted by the bars. Cumulative percentages are plotted in the form of a line graph parallel to the bar graph. All the factors till the cumulative percentage of 80 are vital few factors. These factors are the major problem causing factors. The Pareto chart identifies the major problem causing factors. 

Let us consider the same above example, “Wich and Fun.” Every week there are 100 sandwiches which are thrown into the dustbin with various reasons. Below is the table.

Pareto Analysis for wastage in Wich and Fun

Pareto Analysis for wastage in Wich and Fun

Graphical Presentation of the reasons for wastage and their contribution

Graphical Presentation of the reasons for wastage and their contribution.

In the above graph, there are seven reasons which are causing wastage in the café. Among these seven reasons, the first five are contributing to almost 80% wastage. So according to the Pareto analysis, working on these reasons helps in eradicating 80% wastage in the café. This is how Pareto analysis is used.


It is a Japanese word which means “Improvement.” In a business perspective, kaizen cites all the activities which continuously improves and includes everyone in the organization. Implementation of Kaizen in an organization enables continuous observing, identifying, and implementing things. It helps organizations to grow continually.



“Wich and Fun” wants to implement kaizen in their café. Below is the plan for improving the café continuously. 

  1. Meet the Chef, Manager and all the employees of the cafe and note down all the problems they are facing.

  2. Observing the work and workflow of the employees and study the process flow in the business. 

  3. Keep on updating the plan whenever it is required.

  4. 5S the entire system.

  5. Reduce the number of steps involved in the kitchen with the goal of providing fresh food and fast delivery.

  6. Marketing and promoting the café. 

In this way, the set of rules should be continuously implemented in the organization, so that improvement takes place continuously.


Another Japanese term which means Mistake Proofing. This is more of preventing the mistake before happening and reduce the cost of quality. This is more frequently seen in Machines and Systems. This do not permit the user to proceed to step further if there is any mistake spotted in the previous step. 



Consider the five major reasons which are causing wastage in ”Wich and fun,”

  • Repeat in Order: This can be prevented by taking the order attached to the customer mobile number using a digital medium. This prevents the repeat in order happening.

  • Follow Just-In-Time with some safety stock. This helps in improving the taste too because of the food being fresh.

  • Assign some codes to the recipe and map the recipe code with the ingredients. Also, First In First Out should be followed so that the wrong production of sandwiches can be prevented.

  • The above steps by now will reduce the making time. Hence this defect will be overcome.

  • The grilling machines should be automatic to stop grilling after reaching a certain temperature. Doing that will completely skip the option of over grilling.

These are the five important lean Six-sigma tools. In the above discussion, the complete topic is explained relating the Lean and Six Sigma tools to a café “Wich and Fun.” In the same way, Lean and Six Sigma tools can be implemented in all industries. These industries can be Manufacturing or Service. Let be any industry, the results after implementing Lean and Six Sigma tools will benefit the organizations in many ways with very fewer efforts.

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About The Author

Vinay Vidata is currently pursuing his MBA in Lean Operations and Systems from Christ University. He has completed his B.Tech, major in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Industrial Engineering. He is an ex-employee of Infosys and has done Lean Six Sigma Consultant projects with Innoverro Business Solutions Pvt Ltd. He is a founder of Modello Enterprises, an open-apparel designing start-up. He has been associated with developing business plans for start-ups and helping firms in optimizing their operations. He is keen on imparting his knowledge of quality and lean operations.

Vinay Vudata


Sameeha 2019-08-21 10:47:37 +0530

Very extensively explained!

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