Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Website Incorrectly Claims Toyota as a Member of the "Lean Sigma" Club

From the website of a company selling "Lean Sigma" training (click for a larger view):

"a combination of the two (LEAN Six Sigma) seems to be a preferred methodology implemented by many companies around the world including Toyota."

Let's be clear -- Toyota is NOT a Six Sigma company. I've heard others claim this and it's factually incorrect.

I was a guest at the Toyota San Antonio plant when somebody asked a manager if they used Six Sigma. The manager plainly said, "NO, we use the seven basic QC methods but we don't train belts and we don't do Six Sigma."

Toyota uses statistical methods - simple ones like Pareto charts, run charts, SPC, etc.

Toyota does NOT use Six Sigma.

Therefore, you cannot call what Toyota does "Lean Six Sigma." You can't call what Toyota does "Lean Sigma."

From a Fast Company article: "SIX SIGMA STIGMA":
Not long ago, in its global pursuit of the Truth, the Consultant Debunking Unit (CDU) journeyed to Japan for a tour of the car-making facility in Toyota City. Guided by engineers, we heard a lot about the legendary quality of Toyota's vehicles. Eager to show we knew a thing or two about quality ourselves, we soft-balled our hosts with the obvious question: "When did Toyota start using Six Sigma, anyway?" 
Long silence. After some awkward consultation in Japanese, the engineers asked us, "What is Six Sigma?"
Looking back at the quote from the top of this post, I could also take issue with the "Lean is Art and Six Sigma is Science" comment, but maybe that's best left for another post.


  1. I'd go as far as to say that Toyota doesn't do "Lean" either in the context of how it is generally perceived. TPS is far more rooted in culture than a box full of business improvement tools.

    Both Lean and Six Sigma miss the elephant in the room that is a system where everyone strives to improve from a standard base every day.

    1. True, but Toyota acknowledges their TPS approach is sometimes called "lean manufacturing":

      You're absolutely right though that it's not about "doing Lean" and more about Lean as a management system and consistent philosophy.

      I don't think Lean always misses that elephant in the room. Some organizations only treat Lean as just a set of tools, but not all...

  2. I've been told that some areas of Toyota, like sales or finance, have used six sigma. But not in manufacturing.


Comments have been turned off because of excessive spam.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.