The rapidly changing structure of the global economy motivates companies to develop strategies that will allow them to survive and thrive. Product quality (goods and services) is an essential component of such strategies. Efficiency in operations is equally essential in such strategies.
A host of approaches to quality management and operational efficiency come and go in the efforts by companies to maintain and strengthen their competitive positions in an increasingly global economy. Two of the more effective and more enduring of these approaches are lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. An evolving approach combines the two into Lean Six Sigma.
Lean manufacturing is described as a philosophy that concentrates on the shortening the time between the customer’s order and the shipment of the product through the elimination of waste. Waste, considered in the context of lean manufacturing refers to any activity that detracts from the creation of value. Examples of waste consider within this context are (a) holding materials in inventory, as opposed to having them delivered to the production floor “just-in-time” for use in the manufacturing process, and (b) organizational procedures, protocols, and policies that have the effect of lengthening the product manufacturing cycle (DeGarmo, Black, & Kohser, 2002).
In global industries, competitive advantages derive in large part from the integration and coordination on an international scale of the various activities of the value chain, while in the domestic markets the competitive advantages are specific to each country and different local strategies. In a global strategy, it is important to reduce total costs as well as design, production, and distribution times. Lean manufacturing is an outgrowth of the Toyota Production System that combines the pursuit of quality and efficiency (Damodaran, 2001).
The Six-Sigma approach was developed as a means of more effectively measuri