Mechanic and Engineer talk in a hangar near airplanes.

Lean Six Sigma Creates Efficiencies for Aviation Industry

When you fly to your vacation destination, you seldom think about the various processes and elements that occur to make that single flight happen. From the design of the aircraft to the ticketing process at the airline, the aviation industry utilizes complex practices to complete even seemingly minor tasks. Industry leaders constantly work to improve these processes within their organizations to ensure quality, cost-effective products for consumers.

Combining Processes to Improve Quality, Decrease Waste

This continuous methodology for improvement is called Lean Six Sigma (LSS) and incorporates two distinct areas for systematically reducing waste and improving performance.

“Six Sigma focuses on control,” said Dr. John Longshore, associate professor of management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master black belt Lean Six Sigma certified instructor. “It analyzes a process and works to keep it under control. By limiting variation in production, we eliminate waste and ensure a good, quality product.”

“Lean removes waste within a process by differentiating between value-added activities and non-value added activities,” explained Dr. Longshore. “Value-added activities create better quality and ensure a more satisfied customer.”

LSS methodology combines principles from both of these approaches to create a full arsenal of techniques that streamline processes.

“Lean Six Sigma provides a toolbox that is applicable to all facets of manufacturing and service delivery,” said Dr. Longshore. “These tools can be used in any industry you desire to go into.”

Lean Six Sigma analyzes processes in a methodical and data-driven manner. With techniques like DMAIC methodology and Quality Function Deployment (QFD), these tools allow individuals to evaluate specific processes, determine root causes for variation and execute strategies to eliminate waste and ensure quality. Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is another critical tool, which assists in separating value-added and non-value added activities.

This toolbox of process improvement strategies allows individuals to refine their practices by utilizing any combination of methods to find a solution.

Streamlining the Aviation Industry

While Lean Six Sigma is effective in virtually any industry, it is a prevalent process within aviation.

“Defense industry titans – Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky – have a major focus on these process improvement initiatives,” explained Dr. Longshore. “They have entire areas focused on Lean Six Sigma, although they usually refer to them by different names such as Excellence Improvement programs.”

The principles streamline everything from the process of painting an airplane to ramp efficiencies when turning an aircraft around. Airlines looking to improve their maintenance programs, ticketing processes or aircraft design also use Lean Six Sigma.

“These tools take the process and break it down step-by-step,” said Dr. Longshore. “We measure the amount of time and number of people included in each step and then explore where we can collapse and integrate those steps to cut down on waste of time and resources.”

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Professional Education will offer a three-day Lean Six Sigma course starting on October 17, 2018. During the LSS training, which is instructed Dr. Longshore, attendees receive their yellow belt certification and hands-on experience utilizing Value Stream Mapping, DMAIC, and QFD processes. The LSS certification workshop features presentations from aviation industry executives, case studies, and much more. For details about the workshop or to register, visit An early bird discount is available.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive institution specializing in aviation, aerospace, engineering and related degree programs. A fully accredited university, Embry-Riddle is also a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. A nonprofit, independent institution, Embry-Riddle offers more than 100 associate, baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. The university educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through its Worldwide Campus with more than 135 locations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and through online programs. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and, and find expert videos at