Design for Six Sigma and lean
Department of Technology Management & Economics,
Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, and
IT & Organization Consulting, Altran CIS, Paris, France
Purpose – Six Sigma and lean production are established concepts in industry and academia.
Both have given rise to associated concepts that have been applied in product development: Design for
Six Sigma (DFSS) and Lean Product Development (LPD), respectively. Proposals are being published
for the merger of DFSS and LPD, and the purpose of this paper is to discuss potential beneﬁts and
risks of such proposals.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on an interview study encompassing
11 interviews at seven companies.
Findings – The results show that a possible merger of DFSS and LPD could prove beneﬁcial in
providing guidance both on the structure and the content of improvement efforts. Further, a merger
has a potential of supporting radical, as well as incremental, improvements. However, differences in
industrial practices that should be considered in applications of a merged initiative are the overall goal
of the improvement work (cost reduction versus waste reduction), the emphasis on what to do or on
how to do it, and the documentation demanded (extensive versus short and visual).
Research limitations/implications – This study has taken DFSS and LPD applications as its
starting point, as the merged initiative of DFSS and LPD has started to develop further studies based
on the implementation of the merged initiative would be of value. These studies could especially focus
on the organisation of improvement work, identiﬁed in this paper as a potential area of conﬂict.
Originality/value – This paper discusses potential beneﬁts as well as risks of merging DFSS and
LPD based on industrial experiences. Consideration of the differences addressed, by practitioners as
well as academics, will contribute to a well thought-out design of a merger of the two concepts.
Keywords Six Sigma, Lean production, Design for Six Sigma, Lean product development,
Six Sigma and lean production
Paper type Research paper
Lean Six Sigma is a concept that is becoming more and more widely known and used
(Smith, 2003; Antony et al., 2003; Fornari and Maszle, 2004; Arnheiter and Maleyeff,
2005; de Koning and Does, 2008) as a merger between Six Sigma and lean production
that aims at process improvements. The beneﬁts of combining lean and Six Sigma, as
compared to implementing either one in isolation, have not yet been fully explored.
There is, however, strong interest in lean Six Sigma and, therefore, a need for scholarly
investigation (Shah et al., 2008).
Six Sigma and lean production both have their origins in improving production
processes, but have since been developed and reshaped into associated concepts suited
for product development, speciﬁcally design for Six Sigma (DFSS) and lean product
development (LPD), respectively. In light of the interest surrounding lean Six Sigma,
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Six Sigma and
International Journal of Lean Six
Vol. 3 No. 1, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited