Friday, October 14, 2016

The Case of Lean Six Sigma and the Small/Medium Sized Company

We all agree on the benefits of embracing a Six Sigma Culture. It is after all a management
methodology which allows companies to use data to eliminate defects and reduce variability in any process, manufacturing and business alike.

Yet, it is also important to know that in Six Sigma there are two main methodologies both inspired by Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycles, and each is composed of five phases:

  1. DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) brings improvement to existing processes, services, and systems, and it is more universally used and accepted, whereas
  2. DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) is used by organizations that are involved in continuous development, mostly done from scratch, and design/re-design as well as innovate new products and services 

Basically, the Design phase is the only difference between DMAIC and DMADV.

Design for Six Sigma
We also hear a lot about the DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) methodology that some companies embrace. So you may ask, what is the difference between DMAIC and DFSS?

DFSS aims at designing new defect-free products or services to meet CTQ (Critical to Quality) factors that will lead to customer satisfaction; this approach is all about preventing problems. DMAIC, on the other hand, focuses on detecting and solving problems with existing products and services. Furthermore, DMADV and DFFSS are so similar, that we can view DMADV as the vehicle to implement DFSS.

After all, it was Motorola that started it all in 1986! But it was Jack Welch at GE who in 1995 glamorized Six Sigma and advanced it to a household name status by making it central to the company’s business strategy. Honeywell and Ford soon followed. By the late 1990s, almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies had begun Six Sigma initiatives in their efforts to reduce costs and improve quality. Companies attributed billions of dollars in savings and process improvements to their Six Sigma Initiatives. It seemed that Greatness was achieved!

But… Wait! Where Does Lean fit In? 
Practicing Lean adds value to an organization, process, or system by reducing non-value added activities and standardizing work. Lean implementation focuses on getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow, while minimizing waste and being flexible and able to change. It makes work simple to understand, easy and manageable.

Today, Lean management has permeated any and all areas of an organization. It has gone beyond just manufacturing and is viewed as an approach of running an organization that supports the concept of continuous improvement as a long-term approach to systematically achieve small, incremental changes in processes for improving efficiency and quality.

Integrating and Implementing Lean and Six Sigma
Although Lean and Six Sigma are two different paradigms, they share similar methodologies and tools. Six Sigma, for one, reduces process variation and eliminates defects by using statistical data analysis, hypothesis testing, and in some cases - when appropriate DOEs (Design of Experiment). Lean, on the other hand, drives out waste and promotes work standardization, but utilizes less technical tools such as Kaizen, workplace organization, and visual controls.

The most successful implementations starts with the Lean approach of making the workplace as efficient and effective as possible. Once Lean implementation has been completed and process problems still remain, the more technical Six Sigma statistical tools may be applied. It makes perfect sense to do that because one thing they both have in common is that strong support from leadership is required in order to make them the standard way of doing business. You can’t have one without the other!

Eventually, when Six Sigma methodology married the Lean philosophy, their offspring was Operational Excellence! GE, Verizon, IBM, just to name a few, have successfully and profitably used Lean Six Sigma to transform their enterprises, promote innovation throughout their organizations, and achieve lucrative growth.

But what about me? I am a small or at best a medium sized company! What can it do for me?
Although the approach of implementation may be slightly different given the size of a company, the needs and drivers that make organizations want to adapt the Lean Six Sigma dogma are the same regardless of size.

Let’s analyze some of the most common reasons organizations give for not adopting Lean Six Sigma into organization:

  1. We can’t afford the cost. Lean Six Sigma is indeed an investment. If the methodology is followed as it’s designed, the return of the investment of training even a couple of people in the organization will more than pay for itself right away. Start small, and build as needed. With the right projects, a couple of green belts should yield savings that by far exceed the cost of training them!
  2. We don’t have the time and are too busy putting out fires. It is a fact that time is any organization's most valuable commodity. When you waste it you are throwing away an irreplaceable resource. Putting out fires is an on-going vicious circle of being perpetually reactive to perennial problems instead of being reactive and fixing them once and for all. You owe it to yourself and your business to invest some time in understanding how Lean Six Sigma can help you. 
  3. We are too small. Lean Six Sigma is for large companies. This is one of the most common reasons small and medium-sized companies provide for not implementing it in their organizations. Just think that there have been two person start-ups using it with excellent results. Did they do a full Lean Six Sigma transformational deployment? Of course not! But, by consistently using key principles such as the Voice-of-the-Customer, they were able to help translate customer needs into their specific service offerings. 
  4. We are not a manufacturer. Well, neither is Coca-Cola Company, Bank of America, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart just to name a few.  Although Lean Six Sigma originated in manufacturing, the principles apply equally to transactional and service environments. In fact, the service industry actually has more waste than manufacturing does because so much of the work and deliverables are "invisible" and not in the form of tangible widgets as in manufacturing. 
  5. Lean Six Sigma involves a lot of statistics and advanced mathematics. Most of our employees are front-line operators and not engineers The great majority of small and medium organizations do not require statistics and advanced mathematics to enjoy the benefits of Lean Six Sigma. Most of the principles and tools can be quickly and easily used by anyone if the training is done properly.  
  6. Lean is a better fit for our business. We're going to start with Lean and then move into Six Sigma. Believing this cheats your customers, your employees, your business and yourself. Lean and Six Sigma are not mutually exclusive nor do they have to be applied in a linear fashion. They complement each other. By combining efficiency and effectiveness you get dramatic results. By only doing Lean you sacrifice the benefits of quality. Likewise, when you only implement Six Sigma you miss out on driving efficiencies.
  7. We tried Lean Six Sigma years ago and did not achieve good results. The first thing to ask yourself is ‘Why didn’t you achieve good results’. How was "success" defined? Was the result of lackluster outcome related to people, processes, or technology?

Regardless of the reasons, you owe it to your customers, your employees, your business, and yourself to try again. Maybe this time you need to take more time on the front end to clearly articulate the vision of your organization moving forward. Define the problems you are trying to solve with a program like Lean Six Sigma. Engage the front line and your customers to be part of the process. Remember, a methodology like Lean Six Sigma is only as good as the people managing it and the processes they use to manage it.

The Center
If you’re a manufacturer who is looking to become more efficient, productive and globally competitive, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center can assist you. Click here for a list of our services or contact us at 888.414.6682 or via email at

About Us
Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at on the web at

Friday, October 7, 2016

Enhancing Business Development Through ISO 9001 Certification

Enhancing Business Development Through ISO 9001 Certification
Manufacturers across the United States are always searching for new ways to enhance the growth and development of their organizations, commonly focusing on the optimization of key areas, such as profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction. The challenge most manufacturers face however, is optimizing these key areas simultaneously. For many, an approach to conquering this challenge has been recognized through the adoption of ISO 9001 certification. But for some, the importance of becoming ISO certified is still in question.  

As most are aware, the ISO series is the most globally recognized set of Quality Management System (QMS) standards. ISO 9001 is based on numerous quality management principles which involve the contribution and motivation of upper management, the practice of continuous improvement, and a strong customer focus. Becoming ISO certified not only aids manufacturers in bolstering compliance efforts, but also helps them to recognize the other countless benefits that enhance the development of their business:

Enhancement of Organizational Communication
Raising quality awareness among employees and involving them with quality management systems will improve the communication within a company. In turn, this will help middle and top management define key solutions in addressing and solving internal issues that are a hindrance to the organization’s productivity and success. In addition to improving processes, obtaining certification boosts effective teamwork practices across all functional levels of an organization and encourages interdepartmental cohesiveness.


Increased Sales
Manufacturers who are ISO certified offer superior products and services to customers. As a result, many prefer to purchase products from manufacturers with this certification. ISO 9001 increases sales by showcasing the company’s process, which will increase repetitive business and maintain/obtain orders from customers who require ISO 9001. By increasing value, companies are also able to increase profit margins.

Fewer Quality Audits
The tools necessary to develop superior quality management systems are included in ISO certifications. As a result, fewer customer complaints and quality audits will occur. Manufacturers will be able to focus on the central aspects of their business which are more important and will be able to use resources more efficiently, rather than having to make adjustments and change directions.

By obtaining ISO 9001 certification, manufacturers both large and small have reported other numerous benefits, such as it:
    • Creates marketing opportunities
    • Demonstrates ability to meet expectations
    • Ensures safety/quality of goods and services
    • Expands clientele
    • Highlights deficiencies
    • Improves company perception
    • Increases demand for products/services and market share
    • Provides an efficient/effective management process
    • Provides continuous assessment and improvement 
                By obtaining ISO 9001 certification, manufacturers are forced to examine every process and every service and/or product they produce. They are able to achieve primary objectives while sustaining operational excellence within their organization and customer satisfaction. ISO 9001 certification provides the foundation to achieving organizational goals of profitability, optimal productivity and quality of goods and services. Most importantly, as more and more larger corporations are requiring ISO 9001, manufacturers who do not adopt the certification will limit the business they can do and eventually fall behind in the marketplace.

                Note: ISO is administered and granted externally. The International Organization for Standardization develops international standards, but does not grant certifications. Third-party certification bodies provide independent confirmation for organizations who meet the requirements of ISO 9001.

                If your manufacturing company is ISO 9001 certified or considering achieving this credential, let the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center help. Our experienced facilitators can guide you through the process of earning and maintaining your ISO 9001 certification.

                To learn more, click here.

                Friday, September 30, 2016

                Standard Work: The Key to Optimizing Operational Activity

                Standardized work is perhaps one of the most powerful lean tools that will have the most impact on your organization’s daily operational activities ─ yet, it is the least used lean tool of the Lean Manufacturing concept. Why? Well, most people get confused about the difference between standardized work and work standards.

                • Work Standard: A work standard is a written description of how a process should be done from start to finish. It guides consistent execution.
                • Standard (Standardized) Work: Standardized work is a process whose goal is kaizen. When you create standardized work, you are creating a method that is consistent for carrying out a series of tasks based on takt time. What is takt time? Takt time is the rate at which a team or an organization works to meet their customer’s volume of requirements. 

                Standard Work and Lean Manufacturing
                Standard Work is used in manufacturing to ensure the consistency, quality, and delivery of products to the customer. By documenting the current best practice, standardized work creates the baseline for kaizen and continuous improvement. As the standard is improved over time, the new enhanced standard becomes the new baseline for future improvements, and so on and so forth.

                The Benefits of Standardized Work
                Standardized Work enhances productivity and optimizes operational activities, as it:

                • Allows for easier and faster implementation of improvements/changes, as improvements become more routine
                • Enables rapid scalability    
                • Engages employees and increases ownership of responsibilities          
                • Enhances the ability to cost and price products accurately      
                • Ensures that work is done the current best way    
                • Improves training practices and saves money, as poor training is minimized
                • Increases customer satisfaction, as the goal is to ensure that consumers are getting 100% what they expected.   
                • Increases employee productivity, efficiency and value, resulting in increased employee satisfaction  
                • Increases predictability of results and makes work more measurable  
                • Reduces organizational stress within the workplace      

                Standard Work demonstrates to all functional levels within an organization how structure promotes change, creativity and flexibility. Not only do workers within the manufacturing sector feel they benefit from standardized work, but so do their customers! Standardized work provides a win-win situation.

                The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center will lead the way to your standardization skills and prowess. Count on us to help you count your time and materials savings. To learn more, click here. Sign up for The Center’s Standard Work course scheduled for November 1, 2016.

                About Us
                Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at on the web at