Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods in the Aerospace Industry

Course Description

This course introduces the fundamental Lean Six Sigma principles that underlay modern continuous improvement approaches for industry, government and other organizations. Lean emerged from the Japanese automotive industry, particularly Toyota, and is focused on the creation of value through the relentless elimination of waste. Six Sigma is a quality system developed at Motorola which focuses on elimination of variation from all processes. The basic principles have been applied to a wide range of organizations and sectors to improve quality, productivity, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, time-to-market and financial performance.

This course is offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT that runs from the first week of January until the end of the month.

Technical Requirements

Special software is required to use some of the files in this course: .xls.


Prof. Earll Murman

Hugh McManus

Al Haggerty

Prof. Annalisa Weigel


Course Features

Course Description

Technical Requirements


The teaching of Lean Enterprise Thinking in the aerospace context requires that students understand a complex subject—aerospace enterprises and their transformation—in a deep and intuitive way. Without this context, the lessons of the LAI Lean Academy Course® will make little sense. A rich simulation of an enterprise with a structure and problems typical of the US aerospace industry is used as a teaching tool. The simulation allows students to understand Lean Thinking at an intuitive level, and practice lean tools in a realistic setting. The simulation enables a CDIO approach (in this case, Comprehend, Design, Implement and Operate), by having the students take two iterations through a CDIO process to transform the simulated enterprise from an inefficient legacy state to a high performance future state (x3 to x6 production using the same resources). The simulation and its teaching goals are described, with reference to the limited literature on simulations in education. The process used in the simulation is then described in a CDIO context. Finally, the success of the simulation is evaluated using limited quantitative and more extensive qualitative data. It is found that the simulation is a powerful learning tool and a key component of the LAI Lean Academy.


Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods in the Aerospace Industry
Students working together on an implementation exercise. (Photograph by Hugh McManus.)


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