Friday, March 22, 2013

Improve Efficiencies through Lean Six Sigma


Life is full of good things. Sometimes, those good things get better when they are paired with other good things. Take for example, Strawberry and cream. Both good, but when put together, yum. Cookies are good, and milk is good, but cookies AND milk? Now you’re talking. Peanut butter good . . . peanut butter and chocolate . . . BETTER or jelly if you prefer. Macaroni and cheeses come in lots of varieties, but when combined they pack a punch that make your taste buds sit up and take notice. Wow, are you hungry yet?

When it comes to process improvements, Lean Six Sigma is like that. Both Lean and Six Sigma are powerful tools, but when combined, they have the ability to transform a process and company culture, and catapult your company into a better way of doing business.  

As Michigan’s manufacturers see a “comeback” in American manufacturing, it’s crucial to implement initiatives that increase efficiencies. By eliminating excess waste, reducing unnecessary actions and production variations and decreasing costs, manufacturers can increase profitability. Lean Six Sigma is an effective way to accomplish this.

Lean Six Sigma is a powerful, flexible system that fosters a culture of continuous improvement within an organization. The approach focuses on speed and efficiency and strives to identify waste. This isn’t exclusive to the production floor – this applies to all areas of a business. It’s about total cycle time reduction or reducing the time it takes to get ‘things’ done; whether filling an order, making a part or buying materials.

Waste comes through non-value added processes and redundant or unnecessary steps such as an abundance of reporting requirements or personnel practices that limit or delay more essential tasks. The objective is to get rid of this waste so that ultimately goods are produced faster and with fewer costs. By delivering goods within a shorter cycle time (the length of time needed for a manufacturer to deliver goods to a consumer), customer satisfaction improves. The rule: longer cycle times equal higher non-value-add costs.

A critical part of identifying waste in all areas of a business requires employee buy-in. A “Lean Six Sigma culture” can only occur if it is driven by employees at all levels… a staff that is consistently looking for ways to find non-value added activities. The Lean Six Sigma system is designed to foster employee buy-in and demonstrate its benefits to the entire organization.

There are numerous tools that manufacturers can use to keep cycle times down such as:
  • Value Stream Mapping – This graphical tool illustrates the flow of material and associated information as a product or service moves to completion.
  • Value-Add versus Non-Value-Add Analysis – This tool helps determine what the customer actually values. This helps a manufacturer increase capacity by preventing the production of things that customers don’t actually want.
  • 5S Program "Sort, Set-in-order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain" - The 5S program develops a productive (and safer) work environment.
Furthermore, a unique benefit of Lean Six Sigma is that it works to fundamentally change the infrastructure and culture of an organization. It is an ongoing pursuit to drive a Lean Six Sigma culture. In fact, according to our friends at goleansixsigma.com, some of the most successful organizations in Michigan reduce costs, maximize income, and strengthen productivity by embracing Lean Six Sigma. They list several such as Delphi and Whirlpool on their website.

These large companies have almost infinite resources available to them. At MMTC, we specialize in distilling Lean Six Sigma concepts into its essence, thereby making it digestible to the small and medium sized businesses that make up the bulk of Michigan’s economy. As we conclude the first business quarter of the year, it’s vital for Michigan’s manufacturers to reduce excess waste, shorten cycle times and improve efficiencies. Creating a Lean Six Sigma culture can accomplish this and MMTC can help you cultivate this culture. For more information, please click here

Anyone ready for lunch? I could go for some hot chocolate and marshmallows.


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