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Put simply, they're two completely different things.

However, both can be


used in continuous improvement programs, in organizations.

5S is a concept that originated in industrial housekeeping in Japan, which has


become a whole philosophy of continuous improvement. The 5S are Japanese
words which have close analogues in English and the latter have been used to
propagate the idea of 5S all over.
The 5S are:
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Sort: If you have objects of different types, sort them in an order. The order
can be determined by their size, or other characteristics. "Object" here could mean
different things, depending on the industry you're in. If you're an assembler on the
shop, you could apply this to different spanners or nut runners. If you're a coder,
you could sort different categories of classes into similar types, a la inheritance. If
you're a data analyst, you could sort different sets of data or different data files.
Set in order: This is the process of organizing and setting in order the
workplace. The philosophy is "a place for everything, and everything in its place".
Again, you could apply the idea to different domains, depending on the type of
industry you're in.
Shine: This is the step where you make sure that your tools or objects are
looking neat, clean and are ready to be used with minimal change. If you're
organizing a workshop, you may be cleaning up your workbench if you're doing
"Shine". If you're working on a computer at a desk, you may be deleting
unnecessary files, folders, and cleaning up your desktop or file system.
Standardize: If you've got a lot of functionality duplicated across different
places, you can combine them into one thing. Instead of having five different
compressors for nut runners in your workshop, you can have one large compressor
and save costs. Instead of five different pieces of code that do counting/looping in
your program, you can have one counter or a list that you parse. Instead of having
three or four different salary grades for people doing the same work, you can have
one salary grade. Instead of 3 different types of presentations for a weekly report or
a profit and loss statement, you can have one organization wide standard.
Sustain: This is the stage where you ensure that things stay in the right
place, sorted as they should be, in the right condition, standardized as much as
possible.
5S is extremely effective not only in shop floors, but in offices. You can use it to
eliminate waste in different systems and improve processes by rapid improvement
workshops, also called Kaizens. (Kaizen simply means "make better" in Japanese).

Picture: 5S implemented on a tool shelf.

Six Sigma or 6 Sigma is a philosophy of continuous improvement which makes


rigorous use of data analysis, along with many tools from the Total Quality
Management toolset, and many modern tools and approaches such as simulation.
Six Sigma is called so, because Sigma, the Greek letter used to represent
population variance in statistics, is used to express ideas about what amount of
variability is allowed in processes in an organization.
Six Sigma has two best known flavours:
DMAIC: Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control
DMADV: Define-Measure-Analyze-Design-Validate
DMAIC Six Sigma relies on the definition of business problems, converting these
problems to measures of performance, identifying the root causes for sub-par
performance in terms of these metrics, and finally, identifying solutions based on
the root causes identified. It is fundamentally a methodology to carefully improve an
existing, well set process. In DMAIC Six Sigma, the focus is two fold: to reduce the
variance inherent to processes, or to move the process mean.

DMADV Six Sigma is, by contrast, an approach to designing new products and
services. A lot of the cost of a product or service is built right in, and hard to change
once the product or service is created. Additionally, a lot of the product or process
performance levels cannot be adjusted a great deal once the fundamental design of
the product or process has fixed. DMADV Six Sigma is an approach adopted by
organizations in order to make sure that products and processes more closely meet
the requirements of their customers, by the very design. Typically, large
organizations use DMADV and they apply the method in New Product Development
(NPD) and New Product Introduction (NPI) programmes.
Many of the major automotive manufacturers and aerospace manufacturers use
DMAIC and DMADV Six Sigma approaches to run their process improvement and
product development lifecycles.
Six Sigma projects use data analysis methods common in statistical analysis, and
analytical tools (heuristics, decision making matrices, etc), to make sense of data
from processes. Some of the statistical tools that get used often are Pareto charts,
ANOVA, hypothesis tests (t-tests and f-tests), normality tests, control charts, trend
analysis methods, non-parametric tests (in case data is non-normal), and more.
Six Sigma is characterised by "belts", which indicate not only knowledge and
competency levels of said employees, but also the organizational levels at which
they do projects. Typically, Green Belt Six Sigma (SSGB) candidates lead projects
within their teams, or projects of a smaller scope. Black Belt Six Sigma (SSBB)
candidates, however, lead projects of wider scope, generally encompassing entire
organizations. The highest Six Sigma belt is the Master Black Belt (MBB)
qualification, which necessitates not only knowledge and capability in the Black Belt
tool set, but extensive experience in running projects, a knowledge of risk and
change management, program management, deployment aspects, and coaching.
A word on Lean:
Lean is a philosophy of process improvement pioneered in the automotive industry
and has led to the refinement of mass production systems in organizations like
Toyota, which have developed their specific flavour of Lean. Lean is an approach to
process improvement focused on the elimination of waste. There are 8 "wastes"
identified in lean : inventory, unused creativity, over production, excess motion, over

processing, defects, transportation and waiting.


Lean workshops are generally called Kaizens and are used to rapidly identify and
eliminate these eight wastes.
Lean and Six Sigma are often combined in most organizations that use these
complementary methods.
Some references: