A Future-Oriented Recap of how Six Sigma and Lean is to be Used
Uses and Future of Lean
A production practice that showcases the key tenet of work loss with higher preservation of value, Lean is directed at the operations that are deemed as “wasteful” and fail to generate value for their end customers. Well, the act of eliminating superfluous processes and waste does lead to a reduction in production costs and time, and how.
Toyota’s Japanese founders have outlined the following seven wastes: inventory, motion, transport, waiting, overproduction, defects and over-processing; with the diverse tools for implementation including kanban pull systems, value stream mapping, and poka-yoke (i.e. mistake proofing). Lean uses the fundamental principle of “doing things better” and permeates business silos to attain universal backing amongst employees and the senior management alike.
Why use Lean?
Lean’s strength lies in its advantages related to productivity, faster implementation, better customer lead times and immediate error reduction. The long term benefits include enhanced customer satisfaction, financial performance, and more motivated staff morale.
The three well respected principles that guide Lean leadership and strategy building processes are:
- The acts of challenging oneself to capture goals
- Kaizen (continuous improvement)
- Genchi genbutsu (going the “factory floor” for making informed decisions)
The most receptive industries to look towards Lean methodologies and tools are the ones that are process related and incorporate well- defined value chains—especially those that are related to supply-chain or manufacturing elements. These include but are not restricted to industrial, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries.
Concept of Lean and Six Sigma Acting in Unison
The concepts of Lean have merged over time. Toyota engineers have developed effective solutions for overcoming the problems coming in their way through the application of this organic, flexible system.
A well-defined combination of techniques related to Six Sigma and Lean leads to better measurement and execution of lead times. In value chain improvement, Six Sigma and Lean are often used along with each other. As product material flow and information flow are found under the same process umbrella, Lean cannot be distinguished from Six Sigma process mapping in too many ways. The value stream mapping related to Lean guides many exponents to an understanding of how departmental information processing departments can cause hindrances to a firm’s delivery cycle.
What is the Future of Lean?
The ability and relatively simple methodology of Lean helps it attack waste. This feature makes this production practice an integral part of service and manufacturing industries. There is a high probability that Lean’s future will rest upon its translation of methodology and tools, from the base manufacturing floor to enhanced unconventional settings. 5S standardized work stations are liable to have a great future in development and research laboratories, but not in everyday office.
As per Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” related to new technologies, Six Sigma and Lean that have now crossed the trough of disillusionment and heights of inflated expectations, in line with company demands, are either scaling the slope of enlightenment or trudging along the plateau of productivity. Whether as a fixed state (of being Lean), a philosophy, cultural transformation, or methodology (performing Lean); it certainly has a veritable future.
Role of Six Sigma
Typically an advanced set of strategies and tools for managing variability and defects in business processes, Six Sigma nurtures the overarching goal of enhanced process improvement. Here, DMADV (define, measure, analyze, design, verify) and DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control), essential project methodologies of Six Sigma, are based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act model suggested by Deming.
The successful implementation of Six Sigma rests on the working of a dedicated improvement team that’s segregated into different hierarchies on the basis of a “belt” accreditation system. This team leverages the benefits of advanced statistical techniques like root cause analysis and Pareto charts to attain quantified value targets.
Why Use Six Sigma?
Six Sigma-- a multifaceted methodology, may appear as a simple production quality metric to a statistical engineer linked with manufacturing, but to a CEO or customer service employee, it embodies the corporate culture. In the broader sense, it is a quality improvement methodology which offers a reliable platform for companies to train their employees how to shape strategy, excel in key performance areas, align their services with customer needs, as well as improve upon and measure the effectiveness of all business processes. Overall, Six Sigma helps in the identification of KPIs, and lays focus on the metrics of process quality variation.
In this production improvement process, a specific “sigma rating” identifies the percentage of overall defect-free products.
The Way Forward for Six Sigma
Manufacturing—the traditional stomping ground for Six Sigma, is probably looking towards the highest levels of quality control for fostering an innovation culture. But then, for industries like financial services, which require struggle with large volumes of data and unique customer focus alike, the many modules of Six Sigma serve as the perfect partner for success. With the proliferation of support organizations and training courses, average Six Sigma certified professionals are now commanding an impressive $90,000 as a salary figure; thus creating the required platform for longevity. The skills for identifying and quantifying variation will always be strongly valued. So, till companies continue to expect a positive ROI from their projects linked with Six Sigma, it will survive.