Integrating Lean Tools and Principles with Six Sigma: Interview with Devrim Zumrutkaya, Borusan

Lean and Six Sigma are often combined in Process Excellence programs in order to improve quality and increase efficiency. But if you’ve started out with Six Sigma, how easy is it to add Lean into the mix? What are the pitfalls you should look out for?

Borusan Group, a Turkish headquartered group operating within multiple industries - steel, distributorship, logistics, and energy – has been using Six Sigma since 2002 as a way of reducing variation and defects in its processes. In 2006, the company introduced Lean, in order to eliminate waste and stabilize the system for sustainable improvement.

Devrim Zumrutkaya is the Management Systems Manager at Borusan Machine and Power Systems/ Caterpillar (operating within the distributorship arm of Borusan). There, he is responsible for Lean Six Sigma Deployment, CAT Dealership strategy formulation & monitoring, and corporate risk management, among other responsibilities.

Zumrutkaya will be speaking at PEX Network’s 2nd Annual Lean Six Sigma Turkey Summit and in this PEX Network interview, he shares some of the challenges and lessons learnt as the company introduced Lean into its Six Sigma Program.

What kind of challenges did you experience integrating Lean into your Six Sigma programme?

Since Six Sigma is already a change program, when we introduced Lean, we had to manage the risk that people would think that Lean was going to "take over" from Six Sigma. People often think that a new management initiative is going to override and replace the existing one. We really wanted to ensure that this wasn’t the case with our introduction of Lean. As a Group, we acted proactively to counter this misconception and worked to demonstrate that these two disciplines – Lean and Six Sigma – complement each other.

The other area we had to manage carefully was making sure that employees really understood the differences between the two disciplines. Lean is more of a philosophy and an approach for eliminating waste while Six Sigma is more of a toolset. We wanted to make sure that everyone understood the fundamentals of waste and variation and how the disciplines support us to reduce both waste and variation.

What was key to overcoming those challenges?

I'd say that having a strong communication and a stakeholder management plan was key to overcoming these challenges. We communicated through top management with extensive training and used storyboards and projects.

What would you say are the critical factors for using Lean and Six Sigma to effectively drive business results?

The critical factor is that people start to "own" the methodologies by realising what tools to use and how to apply them under different circumstances. This is important because it means that people really understand how to solve a business problem. Rather than each individual solving problems in their own way they use a defined – and proven - methodology to deal with problems.

What advice would you give other companies who are already doing Six Sigma but want to add Lean to the mix?

They must prepare their game plan with strong communication and stakeholder management plan. Everything you do in business is execution. Without having a proper plan - whether is wrong or right - you won’t have anything in hand.