Eliminating Waste through Six Sigma

When Heico Cos. LLC adopted the Lean Six Sigma way of identifying and removing waste in its overall production process, it roped in Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP--its law firm, in the process leading to some exceptional results.
As an integral part of its lean process, Heico had set up an innovative system for the evaluation of the value propositions of different law firms that offered outside counsel. This included Shook Hardy that helped Heico with its product liability work. In this case, the ratings measured diverse aspects of the work and categorized the same as "non-value-added” or "value added". Paul Williams, partner with Shook says, "They could evaluate who was giving them the best value, not in terms of the best hourly rate, but in terms of the work that was being provided."
In the year 2013, the result for Shook Hardy, based in Kansas City, was an enhanced efficiency rating of 79 percent. This proved to be the strongest result for all law firms associated with Heico, which is a holding company for construction, manufacturing, and industrial services.
Waste and Role of Six Sigma
Waste of any kind acts like a dead-weight that brings a project down. When a particular process, resource or input fails to add any value, it should be eliminated and replaced with something that maximizes a project’s potential. Under the circumstances, necessary tools need to be brought into place and Six Sigma serves to be one of the most popular ones. Today, more and more companies are turning to Six Sigma to identify and eliminate waste. Read on for three major ‘waste’ factors and how Six Sigma helps in eliminating them.
Major ‘Waste’ Elements
Waste is a factor that companies constantly try to eliminate. Waste can occur through different mediums – activities, people or plans. If money is wasted through an activity, it has to be re-thought; if a person is wasting time or losing productivity, his role has to be re-evaluated; and if improper planning is responsible for the wastage of talent and resources, better strategies need to go back to the drawing table.
  • Motion
This is one of the major factors leading to immense wastage that companies are seldom accountable for. Equating busy motion with high productivity, or thinking that running around contributes to the notion of busyness, is why motion is never identified as waste. When employees are physically going a little further than required and unorganized inventory force them to spend more time running around rather than utilizing the same on something productive, then a massive wastage of time takes place.
Six Sigma helps organizations identify if motion is being added to the waste list. Once identified, it helps in eliminating waste by mapping out the locations where unnecessary motion is taking place. Most pointless motion occurs due to incorrect filing system or disorganized inventory. It is important to redesign the layout of a workplace to remove wasted motion so that employees can perform a majority of their tasks from their desks itself. Having easy access to files, tools and other resources could be the first step towards achieving this goal.
  • Idle Employee Talent
Hiring the best talent would be a waste in the employee pool if their talent is left unutilized. For instance, letting a team perform mechanical tasks and not encouraging its members to ideate and contribute to projects would result in their talent being idle and wasted. In most cases, it is common for the management to draw the guidelines of a project and expect the team members to follow. This results in low productivity, low job satisfaction and eventually high attrition rate.
With the help of Six Sigma, organizations can figure out smarter ways of tapping into unused talent and maximizing the same. It enables employees to solve various process problems with the help of diverse laid-down principles. The management should include their talent at every stage of the project instead of just notifying them of the decisions made. It is important to provide training if required but talent should not be allowed to go down the drain. Overall, the application of Six Sigma benefits employees and companies alike.
  • Downtime through Waiting
Waiting for a meeting to start, waiting for resources to arrive, or waiting for information; all these are regular events across various companies, and sadly, nothing is being done to address them. Waiting for anything results in a massive loss with respect to company costs and time. It might be possible to bounce back from the lost money, but there is no way of recovering from lost time. In other words, no company would like to pay employees for the idle time wasted through waiting.
Six Sigma helps in identifying all those instances where employees have to wait. Following that, it helps in redesigning processes which encourage smoother movement and pace. The automatic elimination of bottlenecks reduces the downtime caused by waiting for resources or information. Six Sigma also helps companies recognize how much time is being wasted on long, unproductive meetings. By reducing the number of meetings per week, or the duration of the same, gives more workable hours to every employee for doing productive work.
Key Takeaways
As soon as waste of any kind is identified on a primary level, Six Sigma helps in isolating the core factors plaguing the issue on hand, and eliminates them for good. It is a constantly evolving process and the percentage of wastage can be reduced to reach desired goals. Once waste is eliminated, companies can clock in more billable hours, increase productivity levels and create a happier work culture.

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Stella Morey