Tips & tricks for implementing Lean/Six Sigma tools

Lean manufacturing

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Chris Adams MBA, Lean BB and Six Sigma BB)

Lean and Six Sigma have been methodologies I have used throughout my career, whether I knew them at that time by those names or not. Educated in Industrial and Operations Engineering “at that school up north,” The University of Michigan, and subsequently obtaining an MBA at The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, I was fortunate enough to get the strict schooling behind me and then later obtained my Lean Black Belt through the corporate Lean office of Emerson Electric in St. Louis and my Six Sigma Black Belt through Lorain County Community College via Dan Sommers who is a Six Sigma Black Belt alumni from GE Lighting.

The vast majority of my experience with Lean and Six Sigma methodologies has come through the manufacturing world. So, the first tip I would propose is to start with the Lean Journey 5S (or sometimes companies choose to use 6S to call out safety separately) if you and your organization have the wherewithal and commitment. Instituting the rigors of 5S and then maintaining are definitely a place where good standard work and an audit process pay off.

But, many an organization is too impatient to allow for the “cost” of 5S and the, sometimes, soft-cost savings to be returned. So, my second tip, Value Stream Mapping is still the way to make the current state be documented and understood as well as provide for the solid basis on which future-state Value Stream Maps can drive the profitability of an organization in the right direction.

My third tip is to use, sooner rather than later, the Value Stream Mapping process to understand back to the suppliers’ supplier and forward to the customers’ customer. I have been with organizations that have been successful in implementing and working with their suppliers and customers as a win-win in the value chain.

The fourth tip is to have a solid foundation for the process used to implement project- or process-based change. In my last two roles, I have been fortunate enough to work with organizations that were committed enough to the process of leading change that Policy Deployment (or Strategy Deployment or X-matrix) were truly practiced. An organization that waterfalls its top three to five main corporate objectives to the associate on the floor really understands what teamwork is all about.

My fifth and final tip is that, although my experience (and to this point) a significant amount of the use of Lean and Six Sigma tools have come through the manufacturing world, service industries are a hotbed where these tools can be more universally applied. In my personal experience as a volunteer at one of the most respected hospital systems in the world, we’ve learned that a process is a process and can be improved.

 

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