The Edges of Lean — Ep 114 Design for Six Sigma with Kris Stokes

When I say there are many different flavors and styles of continuous improvement, Design for Six Sigma is the type of style and flavor variation I am thinking of. Product development is hard to achieve. It is also expensive, as almost every company has a graveyard of product development failures. Kris Stokes teaches organizations and people the principles of Design for Six Sigma, and he says that product development success takes rethinking many of our assumptions about what we know, how we know it, and most importantly, identifying our hidden assumptions. He joined me at the Edges of  Lean to share his knowledge with us.

Kris Stokes  


Kris Stokes is a Principal Consultant at Geisys Ventures, specializing in product development and process optimization. With a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from MIT, he brings extensive experience in the plastics industry. In addition to his professional role, Kris is passionate about education and teaches classes in Plastics Recycling and 3D printing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His commitment to sustainability and innovation has made him a respected figure in the field.




00:03:00 Kris Stokes’ background and entry into Design for Six Sigma

00:04:52 Key insights from learning Design for Six Sigma

00:06:11 The power of designed experiments vs first principles

00:07:47 Interaction effects in designed experiments

00:09:49 Implementing DFSS and dealing with assumptions 

00:12:17 Documenting and sharing DFSS knowledge

00:13:56 DFSS scorecards for knowledge transfer

00:17:46 Learning from manufacturing operators

00:18:08 Understanding historical process performance

00:25:48 Design step and qualitative specifications

00:28:15 Designing tests for qualitative specifications 










  • DFSS focuses on identifying and designing out variability before products reach customers to reduce costs
  • Designed experiments allow testing multiple variables at once to understand interactions and eliminate variables
  • Understanding manufacturing processes, operators, and variability sources is critical for ease of production
  • Documentation and sharing knowledge gained from experiments is challenging but important
  • Scorecards are an effective way to document processes for knowledge transfer to manufacturing
  • Doing the most critical experiments as early as possible is significant in Lean product development
  • Ranking questions to answer the most important ones first can reduce late losses
  • Forcing failures on the tiniest scale possible through testing helps speed development
  • Staying curious and avoiding assumptions are the key, as unspoken things often cause problems