More and more with less – Lean Six Sigma

Insights | 21 March 2016

Do you need to produce cost effective products or services, without failures, that meet customer expectations? Do you need to continuously provide the highest quality products and services at the lowest cost, at the right time, in a competitive environment? Do you want to improve customer value?

No matter what industry, from automotive to production, or financial to healthcare, business/operational excellence and providing value to the customer is paramount.

Philosophies of continuous improvement, world class performance and focusing on quality are not new to the 21st century. Think back to the year 1900 and Ford – it is here where lean manufacturing principles really emerged.

Henry Ford recognised that competitive advantage lay in continuously improving the vehicle manufacture process, not necessarily improving the car itself.

Then in the 1930s Toyota drew on Ford’s experiences, developing ‘just in time’ (right part, right amount, right time), ‘pull’ as opposed to ‘push’ production and Jidoka (empowering people to stop a process when quality problems occur).

In 1979 and onwards Motorola used the Six Sigma philosophy to halt its declining market share by focusing on reducing variation – fewer defects meant lower costs.

General Electric, in 1996, with Jack Welch at the helm embraced Six Sigma as ‘the GE Way’ saving more than $12billion in 5 years. The rest as they say is history!

The Foundation of Lean and Six Sigma

Even though Lean Six Sigma originated in manufacturing (based on physical processes) it can also be applied in service organisations that mainly involve transactional processes such as customer service or finance.

The focus is on:

  1. Improving customer value
  2. Improving quality
  3. Reducing lead time and improving delivery performance
  4. Reducing operational costs and ‘costs of poor quality’ (think re-work, warranty claims, recalls…)

So what does Lean Six Sigma offer?

Lean Six Sigma is about efficiency and effectiveness. Lean typically focuses on improving efficiency through the goal of elimination of waste; Six Sigma improves effectiveness through its key goal of reducing process variation.

Lean Six Sigma offers:

  • A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities for process improvement
  • A practical roadmap to manage improvement projects
  • An extensive toolkit with practical methods (some have been applied successfully internationally for more than 100 years).

“Lean Six Sigma comprises a set of powerful tools and techniques that will help any organisation to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.”

Climbing the Mountain, Mindset, Skill set and Tool set for Lean Six Sigma Yellow & Orange Belts, LSSA, 2015

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