Adopting Lean and Six Sigma improvement methodologies

Globally, organisations from many industries, including the Services sector are adopting a ‘Lean Six Sigma’ strategy. This is particularly true of organisations that previously focused on Six Sigma. General Electric, one of the pioneers of Six Sigma, is now incorporating a Lean Six Sigma approach to achieving rapid transformational change at lower cost.

Why Lean and Six Sigma became so prevalent in process driven industries.

Higher customer expectations, cost-cutting pressures, slimmer margins and reduced lead times are challenges manufacturers faced long before the Services sector. The Lean Six Sigma business operating philosophy in which customer value drives manufacturing processes, has provided impetus for many organisations to eliminate non-value-added activities, helping to reduce lead times, decrease variability, increase productivity and improve quality and throughput.

  • Lean is an approach that seeks to improve flow in the value stream and eliminate waste. It’s about doing things efficiently.
  • Six Sigma uses a powerful framework (DMAIC) and statistical tools to uncover root causes to understand and reduce variation. It’s about doing things right (defect free).

Industrial engineers invented both Lean techniques and the Six Sigma approach to process quality. A combination of both provides an over-arching improvement philosophy that incorporates powerful data-driven tools to solve problems and create rapid transformational improvement at lower cost.

Why Lean and Six Sigma is relevant beyond the manufacturing sector.

Lean and Six Sigma are process-based improvement methodologies: both were developed in manufacturing environments, both have proven their effectiveness. Current emerging trends are indicating that integrating the best elements of both methodologies offers a better option. The key is to find the optimal combination of both approaches. For example, adopting the Lean idea of focusing on what adds value and then using Six Sigma tools to help understand and reduce variation, when the value stream is agreed.

What are the advantages of integrating Lean and Six Sigma?

Integrating Lean and Six Sigma creates a win-win. The philosophy of Lean provides the strategy and creates the environment for improving flow and eliminating waste. Empowered staff are encouraged to continuously improve to create value adding opportunities that otherwise would not be identified. Six Sigma helps to quantify problems, makes evidence based decisions (this prevents wasting time on anecdotal evidence), helps to understand and reduce variation and identifies root causes of variation to find sustainable solutions. Furthermore, it quantifies the financial benefits and savings. This helps to focus efforts in the areas that offer the most potential for improvement. A combination of both can provide the philosophy and the effective tools to solve problems and create rapid transformational improvement at lower cost. Potentially, this could increase productivity, improve quality, reduce costs, improve speed, create a safer environment, and exceed customer expectations. compare_lean_six_sigma_v2

The Lean Six Sigma approach Coxswain Alliance use is:

Phase

Tools

Comments

engage_arrow
  • Interview
  • Pareto charts
  • Project Charter
  • Voice of Customer
  • Fishbone
  • SPC
  • 5 Why’s
  • Measures
Here we go to where the work happens and interview staff and management about the present state of operations. Here we look at the “as-is” processes observing and inquiring) and associated data to understand the nature and extent of the issue.
measure_arrow
  • Brainstorming
  • Affinity diagram
  • Six Thinking Hats
  • Matrix modelling
Unlike traditional Six Sigma projects we look for any and all suggestions. This is done in an effort to engage and empower staff while identifying quick win opportunities.
analyse_arrow
  • Process redesign
  • 5S
  • Visual controls
  • Failure Mode Effect Analysis
  • Kaizan
  • Kanban
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Implementation plan
Lean Six Sigma offers us a comprehensive toolbox from which appropriate improvement plans can be developed.
installation_arrow
  • Execution
The culmination of the analysis into action plans, change management. Process and system management changes occur.
coach_arrow
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Balanced Scorecards
  • Standardisation
  • Marketing
  • Communication Plans
  • Training Plans
Establishing scorecards and review point to ensure that key metrics are scrutinised on a regular basis and by having metrics in place, it lays the foundation for sustaining the gains.
Why Lean and Six Sigma?

Doing things efficiently

Lean is an approach that seeks to improve flow in the value stream and eliminate waste. It’s about doing things efficiently.

Doing things right

Six Sigma uses a powerful framework (DMAIC) and statistical tools to uncover root causes to understand and reduce variation. It’s about doing things right (defect free).