Lean, Six Sigma, Kaizen! What Is The Best Direction For Your Organization?

Posted by on Jan 19, 2019 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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Methodologies are almost as numerous as the tools they use. Organizations sometime struggle with where to start their improvement effort especially when resources are few and funds are in short supply. It really gets down to thinking about the problems you face as an organization and then selecting the right CI method to address those needs.

If your organization is struggling with quality issues and lots of variation and inconsistency, then Six Sigma is the best approach I know of to address those kinds of problems. Projects will focus on evaluating the 6M’s (Man, Machine, Material, Method, Measurement, and Mother Nature) and determining which one or ones is contributing to the variation or inconsistency. It uses a simple 5-step process called DMAIC, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. It incorporates an extensive toolbox of simple and statistical techniques to analyze data and provide you the information you need to make needed improvements and reduce variation. Six Sigma projects typically last anywhere from three to six months. The key to reducing project completion times is to scope the project small and not let it get out of hand. Typically companies invest in special software such as Minitab or QI Macros to help employees with the statistical calculations.

If your organization is plagued with inefficiencies and non-value-added (NVA) activities, then lean is the best approach for you. It’s all about identifying and eliminating the sources of those inefficiencies and NVA activities. The techniques and tools are more intuitive and are easily learned. The acronym used to remind us of the NVA activities is TIM WOODS which stands for Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Over-processing, Defects, and Safety/Skills. Lean projects can vary in length, but most can be accomplished in one month or less depending on scope.

Kaizen, on the other hand, is a technique, that allows you to take small steps to make improvements using either Six Sigma or Lean tools. It’s more about selecting an area where an issue is present and making a change to the process. It can be as simple as moving a file cabinet or as advanced as implementing a kanban system or conducting a design of experiments. Most kaizen activities can be completed in one week and many can be completed in less than one day.

Larger organizations with greater resources and bigger budgets typically incorporate a mixture of all three methods depending on the type of project and the issues they have. When combined, you have a comprehensive toolbox that can solve just about any problem or issue you may have.

Irregardless of the method each require discipline! There is no silver bullet! There’s no question you only get out of a process what you put into it and each of these methods require you to manage the process in order to get results. This means you need to have at least weekly meetings to review the status of the projects. Make sure you assign a leader for each project and hold them accountable for making improvements. As in any initiative, upper management support and commitment is a must.

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