Optimizing that step led to sub-optimization in several other steps which created the problem. This time when a solution was implemented, I made sure the corporate measurement system was modified to measure the entire purchasing operation and not just one step. These are the types of issues often addressed in the Lean Six Sigma Control phase. Lean Six Sigma is a continuous improvement methodology. However, a legitimate question is, what does it improve? Does it increase sales or profits? Does it improve customer satisfaction and lower complaints?
Does it lower costs, improve incoming quality, outgoing quality or the cost of quality? Does it improve employee morale?
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Does it increase your pay and benefits, or improve your promotability? Does it create world peace and solve world hunger? Lean Six Sigma is a continuous improvement methodology for an organization. So, we would expect organizational benefits. Lean Six Sigma will simplify the business processes.
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The cross-functional value stream maps will identify areas of waste and inefficiency. Many of the processes have embedded rework and work-arounds for persistent problems.
When the wasted effort is removed and the rework and workarounds are no longer needed, the remaining processes are simple and often much easier to manage and control. This results in a faster process, which leads to better customer service and higher customer satisfaction.
Both of those will normally lead to greater sales. In addition, the simpler, faster process will lower overhead costs which will increase profits. Finally, simpler processes have fewer opportunities for errors. Therefore, they normally are characterized by higher quality and fewer defects. Lean Six Sigma starts with a definition of acceptable quality based upon what the customers value. This external focus on quality prioritizes the continuous improvement efforts to address the problems that have the most impact on business success. In addition, the reliance on data to define problems rather than gut feel or anecdotes further prioritizes the improvement effort on the real problems in the organization.
The result is that the improvements fix real problems and bring them to a level that is acceptable to the real customers. So, it is not just that Lean Six Sigma addresses errors and mistakes in the business, but rather that Lean Six Sigma addresses the errors and mistakes that matter the most.
7 Lean Manufacturing Principles
Simple processes are easier to control and manage than complex processes, especially those processes with fewer errors and mistakes. But added to these benefits, Lean Six Sigma has a focus on reducing variation within a process. With less variation, processes become more predictable. That means predictable cycle time, predictable quality output, and predictable costs. And these can lead to better customer service, fewer complaints, and higher profits.
This predictability becomes a tremendous advantage for an organization when operating in an environment of fast moving changes. Changing technology and customer expectations are already creating an unstable business environment. Without predictable processes it is almost impossible to create and implement an appropriate reaction to this instability. Which brings me to the final organizational benefit I want to discuss and that is an improved ability to actively control processes.
The Lean Six Sigma methodology shortens cycle times and puts in place real-time data based control plans and systems. With short cycle times and data-based control systems, the operators and process managers can make decisions that immediately impact process performance. This improves performance, improves employee morale, and improves agility.
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The operators understand how their work impacts the process performance and they get rapid feedback. The operators are less likely to feel that they are victims of the process since they are now involved in directly managing the process and improving it.
With short cycles and active control, the organization can quickly respond to opportunities in the changing marketplace. And short efficient processes that are documented with value stream maps and control charts are easier to update than complex undocumented processes. Lean Six Sigma provides benefits for individuals within the organization who become Lean Six Sigma leaders.
We will discuss the various leadership roles in more detail in a later section. Lean Six Sigma provides a structured problem-solving methodology that can be used to address any type of problem. Being able to find and fix problems will improve your ability to perform in any position and industry.
The Lean Six Sigma methodology steers you through an organized process of inquiry, analysis, problem identification and solution creation. Many of the tools and techniques can be applied to everyday problems and issues. But even if you don't use all the tools, the organized problem-solving approach will put you in control of finding and fixing your problems. I have used this approach when fixing problems at my house, with local charities I support, and of course in many different business settings.
Easier, Simpler, Faster: Systems Strategy for Lean IT
Lean Six Sigma is implemented through projects and projects have leaders. Leading a Lean Six Sigma project will often provide an opportunity for exposure to other functions and senior management. This exposure is in the context of someone who can find and fix a problem. Interacting with team members and managers will likely improve your communication and decision-making skills. The structure of Lean Six Sigma can help you to develop your project management skills. And of course being able to put on your resume that you led a project team that achieved cost savings, quality improvement, and cycle time reduction will only help you as you seek that next promotion or new opportunity.
12 Essential Lean Six Sigma concepts and tools
Which brings us to the pay and promotability of Lean Six Sigma practitioners. Attaining belt certification is a valuable credential on your resume. Many job postings require that an applicant have a Lean Six Sigma credential. So, this will open the door for some promotions.
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In addition, within an organization, promotions are often based upon how you have demonstrated your leadership skills. Effectively leading a Lean Six Sigma project shows senior management and HR that you are ready for greater responsibility. The average for your industry and country will vary.
However, it is safe to say that Lean Six Sigma certification will enhance your earning potential. Lean started in the process engineering department of an automotive manufacturer and Six Sigma started in the quality department of a high-tech system manufacturer. However, the methodologies have moved well beyond their roots in quality and process engineering. I have either participated on or coached Lean Six Sigma projects in virtually every business department including:. Lean has also moved well beyond the realm of manufacturing.
Many industries have embraced Lean Six Sigma, and the list of companies using the methodology is much too long to be included here. In some cases the emphasis will be primarily on Lean, in some on Six Sigma, and in many it is the combination of Lean and Six Sigma. So far we have discussed the background of Lean Six Sigma, the principles embedded in Lean Six Sigma and some of the benefits.
You are probably asking, when are we going to explain how it works? Well, now is the time. Lean Six Sigma has adopted the roles from the Motorola Six Sigma methodology, which borrow the naming convention of the progression of mastery used within martial arts.
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Some organizations have their own levels and definitions of mastery. However, I will be describing the most commonly found levels in use today. Each of these roles are expected to have training, and in many cases certification appropriate to their role. In the early years of Lean and Six Sigma, every organization established its own standards with regards to methodology and tools and techniques.
However, most organizations now rely on an independent certifying body for training and certification. An organization can have many Yellow Belts. They should be familiar with the structured methodology and the use of cross-functional tools and techniques. An organization will have multiple Green Belts. The Green Belt role is normally that of a project leader. The Green Belt is typically working on Lean Six Sigma projects that would fall within their area of expertise and responsibilities.
These individuals know the Lean Six Sigma methodology and structure. They are also able to apply the Lean analysis tools and the statistical techniques commonly used with Six Sigma. An organization will often have multiple Black Belts. The Black Belt role is that of subject matter expert on Lean Six Sigma for a function or location within the organization. These individuals lead large cross-functional projects and serve as coaches for the Green Belts in that department or location.
This is normally a full-time position. Black Belts know not only know how to apply the methodology and tools, they are the trainers and coaches for the Green Belts and Yellow Belts within the organization.
A typical day will include:. As you can see, the individual is usually expected to lead several projects simultaneously while acting as coach for a handful of Green Belts who are leading their own projects.
The projects being led by Black Belts are usually large cross-functional projects. As project leaders they must plan and organize the work. What is often the most challenging aspect of those projects is to work with the stakeholders from the various functions. In many organizations, the Black Belt role is reassigned every year or two so that multiple individuals can become adept at all aspects of the Lean Six Sigma methodology.