Learning how to leverage Lean Six Sigma’s power

There are two internationally revered business approaches that, when combined, can offer any company exemplary, tangible improvements and benefits. They are two intensely disciplined approaches that identify and aggressively eliminate wasteful actions, steps and activities that are neither productive nor profitable.

07/15/2007


There are two internationally revered business approaches that, when combined, can offer any company exemplary, tangible improvements and benefits. They are two intensely disciplined approaches that identify and aggressively eliminate wasteful actions, steps and activities that are neither productive nor profitable. The two approaches are the Lean Principles of Manufacturing and Six Sigma. Combined into Lean Six Sigma, they offer Herculean results.

Lean and Six Sigma are proven, quantifiable methods for improving a company’s productivity process. Lean equals speed and efficiency; Six Sigma equates to precision and accuracy. Merged together, they offer the exceptional speed and impact of Lean plus Six Sigma’s notable quality control and variation reduction.

By integrating Lean’s notable speed for removing unnecessary activities from production lines with Six Sigma’s renowned success for reducing the average time to complete a project from months or more to mere weeks, companies reach their goals faster. The overriding result of this high-powered, seamless, single-process combination known as Lean Six Sigma is that rapid improvements are achieved at low costs.

“The objective of training a company’s personnel in Lean Six Sigma,” said Thomas G. Phillips, Sr., executive director of the business resource center, Hudson Valley Technology Development Center in Fishkill, NY, “is to look at the total process of creating something %%MDASSML%% anything from manufacturing a product to billing %%MDASSML%% and applying the Lean and Six Sigma techniques to obtain the greatest results.

The goal is to have a process or methodology in place, plus a staff trained in using the right Lean Six Sigma tools, plus a group mindset focused on continually reducing cycle time and fixing problems that cost the company money.” The acclaimed ambition of merging these two powerful business improvement tools is to drive rapid, dramatic new efficiencies toward superior bottom-line performance.

The process is recognized worldwide as the seamless integration of the speed, efficiencies and savings of the Lean Principles of Manufacturing with Six Sigma’s high impact improvements in performance quality. They are the two most widely recognized, highest impact business management tools available to every manufacturer in every industry in every nation.

Training at all levels

Personnel in all divisions of a company %%MDASSML%% from maintenance and operations to building facilities, tools, equipment and administration %%MDASSML%% can be trained in Lean Six Sigma. That training could significantly have more impact on a company’s bottom line than downsizing personnel. With Lean Six Sigma training, a company can keep the same number of people while shifting from losing money to making money. This can be achieved by looking at the entire production process. Through value-stream mapping, personnel can map out the production process step-by-step and determine each step’s value in reaching the defined goal. Lean Six Sigma-trained staff members can then ask such questions as, “Do we need that step? Is it necessary to our business?” Once problem areas are identified, employees can then implement the Six Sigma tools they were trained in through to completion.

Training frequently begins at a high management level so that a company can become the best in its field while actively and rapidly reducing costs. Business resource centers and mentors such as HVTDC can help a company’s management continually realize that Lean equals speed and low costs, and that Six Sigma equals continuously-improved performance in producing the highest quality for complete customer satisfaction. Mentors can help companies see that by implementing Lean Six Sigma at all levels, the company will continuously profit, doing so at the lowest costs.

Putting Lean Six Sigma to work

As an independent engineer consultant with HVTDC, I frequently see that after personnel have gone through Lean Six Sigma training, a shift in their company’s direction is needed. That shift may be to redefine which Lean Six Sigma methodologies would work best in which divisions to reach the company’s defined goals. Or management may not be seeing results that match what they defined in their objectives for having their personnel trained in Lean Six Sigma.

Frequently, my role evolves into helping employees effectively and profitably meet their management’s needs by using the right Lean Six Sigma tools that will help them keep up with their company’s changes. To get the right results, consultants often help employees keep their focus by integrating any supplementary training they had previously received with their Lean Six Sigma training. Additionally, consultants often help management measure the ongoing progress of their personnel’s efforts and help them change directives as needed.

Recently my consultancy work for HVTDC took me to the R&D division of a major pharmaceutical manufacturer. Pharmaceuticals around the world constantly need to transform their company, products and services. There is therefore a notably heavy push on research and development, because no drug company has been the dominant player in market share for more than a 10-year market period. There is a never-ending urgency in this highly competitive field to continually change products because patents, vaccines, etc., are continually changing.

To assist the company, I conducted group-training classes for the company’s highly skilled Green and Black Belt Six Sigma-trained personnel. The group was asked to create two assembly lines to manufacture two different vehicles. Using Legos, they created lines to produce a police car and a police van. Their goal was to substantially improve the speed and quality of the productivity techniques to make the assembly lines optimally more efficient and effective.

Using the tools of Lean Six Sigma, they worked to rapidly identify waste and reduce it, plus aggressively eliminate activities to reduce process cycle times. They worked to optimize process flow while simultaneously improving response time to meet the needs of both their company as well as their customers. That is the driving force behind merging Lean Principles with Six Sigma.

Continuously and rapidly improving a company’s operations while eliminating wasteful actions or steps, and instilling productivity in the shortest amount of time possible at the lowest costs, is what defines Lean Six Sigma. It can be the profitable foundation of successful business management.

Steve Bogart is an independent consultant who also serves as a member of the board of directors for the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center (HVTDC), www.hvtdc.org . The center offers Lean Six Sigma mentoring support to companies and organizations to help them reach their highest desired goals. It is one of ten regional technology development centers funded cooperatively through the NYS Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) and the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). To learn more, contact Phyllis Levine at 845-896-6934 x 3001, or email to plevine@hvtdc.org .





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