Lean Six Sigma is a combination of skills and techniques that are used to optimise the performance of an organisation, subsequently resulting in improved margins. This can increase profit margins, or in failing organisations, stabilise the business.
They can be applied to any type of business, not just manufacturing.
Lean focuses on reducing the time it takes to carry out a process within the business system. This is done by firstly identifying wastes within the process that don’t add value; things that the customer would not want to buy.
There are eight critical wastes that are examined:
A lean system is situated around making a process flow smoothly. The ideal flow is based on one-piece at a time for maximum optimisation.
Lean environments also make use of good visual management tools to ensure efficiency is achieved.
The foundation of lean is to create stability and standardisation across the business. This is done by implementing and sustaining good 5S practices in all areas of the business.
5S stands for:
Standardised practices allow for continuous improvement or Kaizen activities to take place. This can only be done after the processes have been correctly identified and recorded.
When the Lean foundation has been built your company will also be able to build upon the other lean working practices to further increase speed through the system. This will free up capacity to take on more work.
The statistical tools can be used for measuring and analysing data from the system to identify variation. The cause of the variation is also identified using tools and techniques then eliminated until the process is stabilised and consistent. This allows for products or process outputs to be predicted with a high degree of accuracy and ensures zero defects in the product or service.
For an organisation to get to this level of operation, all of the lean standardisation practices must firstly be established. One of the benefits of gathering Six Sigma data is that it allows for fact-based decision making. Management decisions can be more accurate thus increasing the effectiveness of the organisation.
Similarly, Six Sigma is driven by the voice of the customer. It is important to understand what the customer requires and any Six Sigma activity will identify its impact on them. Why spend months on a project if it is not going to benefit the customer?
Six Sigma projects usually follow a process known as a DMAIC.
This is an acronym for the five stages of the improvement project:
Define is the start point of the project where the problem or opportunity is specifically identified.
Measure is the phase records the activities performed as part of the process and determines whether the data is accurate and fit for purpose.
Analyse is where the data for the process is examined to determine root causes of variation.
Six Sigma is an equally important way of making high level improvements but can only effectively work in conjunction with good Lean practices.
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