Lean Six Sigma
A complete method for improvement projects
Lean Six Sigma is built on principles and methods that have proven themselves over the twentieth century. It has incorporated the most effective approaches and integrated them into a full programme.
Lean Six Sigma offers a management structure for organizing continuous improvement of routine tasks, such as manufacturing, service delivery, accounting, nursing, sales, and other work that is done routinely. Further, it offers a method and tools for carrying out improvement projects effectively. In an economy which is determined more and more by dynamics rather than by static advantages, continuous improvement of routine tasks is a crucial driver of competitiveness.
Historic background of Lean Six Sigma
The twentieth century saw an incredible development of professional organisations. The impact of technological advances is obvious, but besides these, innovations in management structures and methods have resulted in the highly productive organisations of today. When the race for outperforming competitors on quality and efficiency gained momentum, companies started to copy each other's best practices.
Consultants and management gurus quickly jumped in and started giving names to these best practices: total quality management, just-in-time, business process reengineering, statistical process control, quality circles, Lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, et cetera. Out of these methods, principles and approaches time has singled out the ones that really have added value. While most approaches have been presented as panaceas at one time or another, time has shown that they are in fact complementary. As a result Lean Six Sigma has now been recognized as the modern method to organize improvement projects.
Organisation of Lean Six Sigma
Acknowledging that process improvement requires intimate context knowledge and acceptance by the shopfloor, Lean Six Sigma prefers project leaders from the line organisation to staff personnel and external consultants. Acknowledging as well the importance of strategic focus and integration, Lean Six Sigma prescibes that projects be monitored and reviewed by Champions and programme management.
Typical Lean Six Sigma projects
- Optimization of process and machine settings (resulting in superior yield or quality).
- Line balancing and process flow enhancement (resulting in reductions in operational cost and better controlled lead times).
- Thorough analysis of persistent problems and trade-off situations (resulting in a complete overview of the various options and once-and-for-all solutions).
- Decreasing length of stay.
- Ensuring patient safety.
- Optimization of equipment utilization.
Finance and service:
- Backoffice efficiency: less rework, reduction of overcapacity, processing time reduction, lead time reduction (resulting in superior service quality and lower operational cost).
- More effective customer acquisition and retention (resulting in market share growth).
Product and process development:
- More robust, less error prone, and simpler products and processes.
- Better translation of functional requirements to product and process design.
- Shorter time to market, owing to early warnings and early feedback from the field.