The mounting trend and concern of competition in the business industry led to the approach of seeking better ways of doing things in the management purview. Quality management used to be a peripheral expanse to the core management structure within organizations.
This however changed the course of how quality used to be seen which now, is more of an overriding management phenomenon that organizations use to manoeuvre business objectives effectively. Among the many quality management and process improvement systems available in the industrial layouts, Lean and Six Sigma are commoners and vastly known. Lean is a direct extrapolation of the Toyota Production System (TPS) which became known to the world as the “machine that changed the world” (Womack et al., 1990). Lean is an embedment within the culture and DNA of Toyota which focuses on the elimination of waste. As it is, wastes refer to all that are non-value adding activities categorized in seven forms which customers are unwilling to pay for. This leads to a cordial structuring of the process that focuses only on the things that customers would look for from the provider.
Formed in Motorola, Six Sigma on the other line of the quadrant emphasizes variation (Antony, 2011). Variation in process’ performance is something inherent no matter how perfect the process underlies; thus, focus is placed on minimization of such variation, common and special causes alike. Six Sigma’s orientation of handling process improvement is more structured and data oriented, objectively specifying the underlying root causes before a decision is made through every phase of the projects.
Purpose – Literature reviews are a pervasive aspect in research. An ever mounting field such as Lean Six Sigma requires a perpetual touch on the subject to accentuate insights that can be researched about. The purpose of this paper is to address the published literatures in the field of Lean Six Sigma through multiple criterion for an enhanced understanding of the subject matter through summarizing its current trends, uncovering existing literature gaps and revealing opportunities for future research in the field.
Design/methodology/approach – The literature review on Lean Six Sigma field spans around 17 years that includes peer-reviewed journals from management, business, engineering, healthcare, manufacturing, military among the many disciplines. The study uses a content analysis approach in which several dimensions of the literature were analysed: purpose or focus of study, years of publication, journal name or publications,
methodologies, theories used, country of study, industry sub-sectors, active authors in the field, critical success factors, barriers and challenges and the most contribution of Lean Six Sigma papers by universities.
Findings – Eleven important findings from the analysis were summarized among them; the field of Lean Six Sigma had begun to grow significantly since the new millennium particularly after the 2004-2007 or 2008 period; standalone concepts of Lean and Six Sigma are highly researched compared to the integrated concepts; large proportion of perspective, conceptual and descriptive based studies; lack of empirical validity on the fusion between Lean and Six Sigma; lack of theoretical based studies, etc.
Research limitations/implications – The study is limited to 102 journals in commonly searched databases in the subject matter which produced 261 journal papers. This study seeks to broaden the summary of studies done under the keyword “Lean Six Sigma”.
Originality/value – The review analysis uses a content analysis approach in search of valuable gaps in existing research. The study found 261 papers from 102 journals that were published over the past seventeen years (2000-2016). This paper provides scholars, practitioners and managers with insights on the present trends and focus of Lean Six Sigma in addition to what else are lacking in the subject matter, which could pave the way for future research and practical endeavours.
Keywords Six sigma, Lean six sigma, Content analysis, Lean
Paper type Literature review
By: Muraliraj Jagantheran (M.Ec, ICBB) (PhD Candidate – PhD (Economics), Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)