Key Principles of Lean Six Sigma
The application of Lean and Six Sigma methodology can provide significant improvements within businesses when applied independently. Combining both methodologies provides a wider and broader 'toolbox' which can create even greater improvement opportunities.
How Six Sigma and Lean combine together,
What the benefits of Lean Six Sigma are, and
How to implement Lean Six Sigma to realise these benefits
Combining Lean and Six Sigma
Six Sigma focuses on the reduction of process variation as well as understanding and addressing the voice of the customer; whereas Lean focuses on reducing waste and adding value to the customer. Both methodologies aim to provide the best product or service to a customer with the greatest competitive advantage to the business.
Lean Six Sigma takes the Six Sigma roadmap and combines it with Lean methodology. This provides an effective means of delivering value to the customer whilst reducing variability, as well as cutting waste to improve speed and responsiveness.
There are many complementary principles of process improvement between the methodologies that can be effectively applied in various settings. Many manufacturers and service industries are keen to take advantage of the improvement opportunities provided by Lean Six Sigma.
Lean Six Sigma Benefits
Lean Six Sigma provides a broader set of tools than using either method independently, which allows for a broader range of issues and challenges to be resolved. Its comprehensive methodology can improve processes within a business: increasing efficiency and productivity, improving customer satisfaction, all while decreasing costs and developing people.
By streamlining processes, the same high quality products or services can be created with less resources. A business that is more efficient is able to sell products or provide services by using less resources and can benefit from an increase in profit.
Processes can be improved to enable effort to be maximised when producing a product or service for a customer. This allows more products or services to be produced from the same amount of resources, which can then be sold to satisfy more customers. Additional resources from the improved processes can also be focused on growing and developing the business.
Improved customer satisfaction
Creating more efficient and productive products or services at the same high quality can result in some savings being passed on to customers. If a customer is receiving the same, or better-quality product or service for a lower price, satisfaction levels will be increased.
Eliminating waste from a process removes any activities that are not required or do not add value from the customers perspective. Variation is also reduced to eliminate defects in products or services. This typically decreases the costs of processes that use valuable resources to a business.
A company-wide Lean Six Sigma ethos develops employees and usually embeds an improvement focused structure within the existing workforce. Involving people in improvement drives creates a more engaged, dynamic and focused workforce. This can positively impact the effectiveness of improvement drives.
Implementing Lean Six Sigma
Different companies and organisations may have differing strategies to implement Lean Six Sigma, depending on strategic goals for their organisation and the condition of that company. A very important aspect to focus on within any company is to create a Continuous Improvement (CI) culture.
A CI culture can be created by having:
A shared vision
Effective change agents
A shared vision
Many improvement projects can evoke fear and resistance to change from the targeted improvement area. Sharing the overall vision of the project with all those involved and allowing everyone to have an input can dramatically reduce this resistance. Once initial concerns and apprehension of the projects have been overcome, with real, tangible results proven there is often higher motivation to surpass goals in subsequent improvement projects.
Implementing improvement initiatives without engaged stakeholders can lead to resistance to change throughout the project. Support from both management and executive levels is required to oversee difficult transitional periods and keep all teams involved and focused on the end results. With commitment from team leaders and management roles, Lean Six Sigma methodologies can be applied over internal organisational barriers to maximise the improvement potential.
Effective change agents
To carry out Lean Six Sigma initiatives, certain employees will be required to train as Change Agents in relevant methodologies. Utilising key techniques from the process improvement toolbox when necessary is an integral aspect of any improvement drive. Change agents can be certified in the same manner as the Six Sigma belt hierarchy.
Lean Six Sigma requires a long-term commitment to change and improvement. Managing large projects in complex organisational structures can lead to difficulties. However, improvement initiatives should be structured and grow dynamically to build upon their combined successes. This creates an environment that encourages more focused use of the Lean Six Sigma tools and methodology in a way that can be studied and improved. This continuous loop of process improvement can be incorporated into a strategic business infrastructure designed to maximise profit and efficiency.
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