In this down economy, companies are jumping onto the Lean Six Sigma bandwagon to improve their performance. Is it throwing good money into a bad idea? Will it help?
Lean Six Sigma is an all embracing concept on paper, however in reality there are several issues that must be addressed before embarking on the journey.
Here are three of the most common questions:
- What is the point of breakthrough for the business?
- How much money has been allocated for training and implementation?
- How much time does the business have to improve its processes?
A company must identify the necessary areas of improvements and define the expected results before making a decision to train and implement any program. This will determine the level of internal capability required to support and sustain any systemic improvements. The organizational processes and their level of complexity will dictate the amount of resource involved to achieve the desired outcome i.e. is it a banking ATM procedure or financial services process . A sheet fabrication shop has a lower level of complexity and fewer risk factors when it comes to quality, the main issue for a customer is an inconvenience because the end product did not working properly. However a medical device manufacturer has a higher level of complexity and additional risk factors around quality, the main one being the death of a patient as a result of a product failure.
The type of infrastructure that is developed and implemented to support continuous improvement will be dictated by the amount of money in the training budget. Lots of money builds big infrastructures, a little money does not develop much at all. Organizations with lots of money can shorten their learning curve and implementation time because outside consultants can be brought in to train their employees. However, spending lots of money is not a guarantee that a company will generate results that will hit the bottom line. Being focused the doing the right things at the right time is the only way to achieve this goal.
To improve the business operations, how much time do they have to implement any changes? If a business is in serious financial trouble, it will need to initiate process improvements quickly. There will be an urgent need to train people in basic lean concepts and get them focused on eliminating waste. An outside lean expert or consultant would be beneficial in this scenario because they would shorten the learning curve. This will have a direct impact on the bottom line by reducing inventories, improving quality and increasing process velocity. To implement a deeper and stronger organizational infrastructure that integrates and systematizes Lean Six Sigma a business must see its continuous improvement process as an integral part of its organizational goals and objectives.
When an organization decides to implement a continuous process improvement program, it has any of these four methodologies to choose from:
- Lean Six Sigma
- Six Sigma
- Theory of Constraints
The executive leadership will make the final decision based on how they see the best way forward for the business. However, it is important for them to remember these words:
“As much as 95% of quality related problems in the factory can be solved with seven fundamental quantitative tools.” – Kaoru Ishikawa.Â
These seven quality tools were first emphasized by Kaoru Ishikawa who is known for the popularization of the Cause and Effect diagram and as the father of â€œquality circlesâ€. The seven quality tools are :
- Cause and Effect Diagram (also called an Ishikawa or Fishbone Diagram)
- Check Sheet
- Control Chart
- Pareto Chart
- Scatter Diagram
- Stratification (or alternately a Flow Chart or a Run Chart)