In this era of fierce competition, businesses are shifting away from a focus on products and marketing to focus on the customer and creating lasting value in what is known as customer-centrism. Customers value quality. Beyond this, they expect a high value and memorable experience from their interaction with a company’s goods and services.
For this reason, businesses have had to change their operations methodologies such that in the process of creating and delivering value, they are reducing operating costs and maximizing business profits.
How can this balance be achieved?
Using the Six Sigma approach.
Implementation of the Lean Six Sigma methodology has benefited business processes across various industries immensely. Professionals with Lean Six Sigma Certification Training, and the world over are among the most sought after.
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma methodology, tools, and techniques allow organizations to continuously improve the capabilities of their processes. The result is enhanced performance, reduced variation, reduction in defects/waste, increased profits, and ultimately the production of high-quality products and/or services. All these together lead to a boost in employee morale. Remember, even with effective techniques and processes in place, employees play a significant role in creating quality. The term ‘Six Sigma quality’ denotes well-controlled business processes that have achieved +3 or -3 process variation as well as not exceeding a requirements limit of +6 or -6.
Using the Six Sigma methodology, a company can determine the performance of its processes using statistical analysis of data and undertake to improve the same processes to deliver high-quality products and services. The primary goal of the Six Sigma approach is to achieve optimal efficiency in its processes and maintain high-quality standards.
Defining the Lean approach
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to business management approaches, tools, and leadership methodologies. Businesses are constantly exploring tools and techniques to create a mix that can work for the best.
The Lean approach is one popular methodology that business professionals are exploring across the world that they can combine with Six Sigma and/or other methodologies to achieve their business objectives. This concept focuses on reducing or altogether eliminating activities that do not add value to the process. Such activities are considered wasteful because they consume business resources without yielding any form of value.
The Lean methodology seeks to improve product/service quality through only the activities that add value, hence the name lean.
Lean methodology has been applied to achieve the following:
- Reduce business process time
- Enhance product/service time-to-market
- Eliminate or reduce instances of defects generation
- Optimize resource utilization
Integrating Lean into Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma draws from the approaches of both Lean and Six Sigma methodologies to create a better approach to process improvement and delivery of high value to the customer. While Lean focuses on waste elimination in processes and the creation of a standard and flow in work, Six Sigma focuses on reducing or eliminating variation from processes to achieve maximum quality control in processes.
Thus, Lean Six Sigma is an approach that aims at enhancing process quality and efficiency. Ultimately, the results of the Lean Six Sigma methodology are high-quality products and services, faster delivery, and reduced process cost.
What is Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma can be defined as a data-driven process improvement methodology that optimizes all the resources available for production processes including the capital, people, and materials, to create value for the customer. Lean Six Sigma emphasizes defect prevention over defect detection in process improvement. This methodology operates on three core tenets including:
- The customer. Customers have higher expectations and more demands on value than ever before. Thus, this approach should be aimed at delivering the best value to the customer at a reasonable price within a reduced lead time. The value should be seen from the perspective of the customer and products created to match this value.
- The people. Process efficiency, optimal resource use, and high quality from the customer’s perspective cannot be achieved unless employees are engaged positively. The workforce is an important aspect of delivering value that cannot be overlooked. Lean Six Sigma if embraced by all stakeholders, increases employee productivity significantly.
- The process. Lean Six Sigma helps to organize business processes in such a way that inefficiencies and waste in processes are addressed while at the same time maximum value is delivered to the customer in time.
In summary, Lean Six Sigma is aimed at producing what is needed, just when it is needed, with the minimum possible resources required to create value. It is a continuous process that seeks to eliminate waste and wasteful activities in processes.
Principles of Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma’s highlight during its implementation is in its outside-in approach. The focus is on delivering customer value. Lean Six Sigma operates on the following core principles.
- The focus is on the customer. Quality and value are defined from the customer’s perspective. Hence, the goal of implementing Lean Six Sigma should be to deliver high value and maximum benefit to the customer.
- Map out the value stream. Identify and understand the workflow i.e how work gets done. Drawing a map of the value stream allows you to identify non-value-added steps.
- Manage, improve, and smooth the process flow. This involves identifying the specific type of waste or non-value-added step in the value stream, acknowledging that it is waste, being accountable for waste, measuring the waste, and working on eliminating or reducing the waste.
- Manage by fact and reduce variation. This is a data-driven process that involves using data to understand and address the challenge of variation.
- Involve people and align them to the new process. Communication involves training and education of employees on standards and practices, as well as on the improved processes and procedures to drive success for change.
- Being flexible and adaptable to improvement activities. Change is a constant in Lean Six Sigma. It takes a change of culture for all the stakeholders in an organization to be flexible to accommodate the changes that come with process improvement. Thus process improvement activities need to be done in an agile manner.
Lean Six Sigma tools
- Root cause analysis and corrective action (RCCA)
- Total productive maintenance
- Single minute exchange of Dies (SMED)
- Spaghetti charts
- Pareto analysis
- Visual displays
- Visual controls
Lean Six Sigma is a powerful tool in which principles of Six Sigma and the Lean approach are combined to yield the best results in process improvement and delivering high value to the customer.