The House of High Quality Articles for Everyone in the World

Dec 27, 2010

Six Sigma Process Mapping

Process mapping is a valuable and widespread lean manufacturing tool, but few realise it is also a vital strategic weapon in the fight for Six Sigma quality. Executive rhetoric frequently focuses on instilling a "quality mind-set", where kaizen or continuous improvement is an embedded feature of the organisation. Typically, words are easy but genuine cultural change is problematic. Deming's "Fourteen Points" analysis, regarded by many as the seminal text of the quality movement, was unsparing in its commitment to lasting and permanent cultural change.

Deming's statistical insights fused seamlessly with existing Japanese philosophy, the reality of team decision making and an organic commitment to excellence. Some concluded that lean processes were therefore culturally contingent and could not be easily transplanted to Western business models. Deming believed that excellence had universal applicability but that true quality could, paradoxically, only be achieved by the abandonment of exhortation and numerical targets. Quality had to become a reflex and an internalised value rather than a mere box-ticking exercise.

Executives peer through a limited window onto the organisation. To use the language of the Johari window, a popular trope in cognitive psychology, the "known factors" that leaders can influence and control are limited. They hold some insights that are not known to others on the strengths and opportunities of their organisations. Equally, others such as Wall Street analysts may perceive insights into their business that the managers are unaware of. Yet the great unknown, whether defined on a macro-economic, competitive or organisational level, forms a vast and troubling canvas. Hence the widespread focus on incremental, progressive improvement - as exemplified in the process improvement discipline of Six Sigma which is specifically designed to optimise stable and repeatable processes.

This is where process mapping can be used at all levels of the organisation to bridge the divide between the tactical and the strategic. It has at least four main uses:

1) Identification of bottlenecks.

Process analysis, in its most basic and fundamental form, is a simple visual depiction of business activity. This may be in the form of a classic "swim-lane" diagram with arrows to represent data or activity flow and with boxes to define discrete activities. Bright red "D" emblems may be used to signify a delay. This form of classic process map is perfectly placed for identifying roadblocks or bottlenecks. The root cause of these problems can then be assessed and specific Six Sigma tools used to "elevate" these bottlenecks according to the steps described in Eli Goldratt's Theory of Constraints.

2) Imagining the future.

A "future state" process map starts from a blank canvas and attempts to create a streamlined business process from first principles. This adopts the philosophy of zero-based budgeting - namely, that every activity or step has to be justified on a "line item" basis and its utility to the end product and consumer requirement must be analysed. The critical path from the current to the future state process map can then be determined and actions assigned. The ideal state process map should however be a "living document" as the ideal is a permanently evolving concept.

3) Multi-dimensional mapping.

Process maps are ideal tools for illustrating multiple dimensions on a single page. A complex business process - for example, the distribution and sale of agricultural machinery - will reveal extraordinary complexity on several axes. Legal changes (flow of title), accounting actions (invoicing and floor plan financing) can be mapped alongside logistics processes (delivery of tractors) and IT processes (data flows). The entire process can then be "stretched" geographically to visualise on a map. The resulting structure can offer a transformational insight into how the business operates.

4) Analysis of trade-offs.

Trade-offs in any system inevitably exist between quality, cost and time. The opportunity cost of any action or process is rarely considered but is perhaps the most fundamental question of all. While outside the scope of this article, the mapping of the alternatives, options and compromises inherent in any process can be linked to decision analysis to guide business action.

In summary, we can see how process maps bridge the divide between the operational and the strategic, from a microscopic focus on enhancing the quality of a widget to the grander applications of business design. People are largely visual animals and Six Sigma process mapping can energize a lasting cultural commitment to quality, just as Deming once imagined.

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Dec 26, 2010

Six Sigma Project Timelines

Many factors will influence the length of time that it takes to complete Six Sigma Projects. However, you should have a general idea in mind through the development of your project charter to determine how long you will spend on a particular process improvement.

You should never rush Projects, but you should also never drag them out for longer than they need to be going on. ultimately, the length of time that it will take to complete an entire Six Sigma Process is the length of time it takes you to complete all the steps and improve the process. In actuality, the goal of process improvement is to keep it going. Therefore, even when you have completed the process improvement, it is important to ensure that it stays as efficient as it started out to be.

This results in two answers to the question at hand. The first answer is that Projects will be done when the desired results have been achieved. Essentially, the team will no longer have to work on that specific process improvement because they have developed a solution and a continuous improvement plan to take care of it. However, you could look at it from the perspective that since process improvements are continuous projects, that they will never be completely done.

It doesn't matter which way you look at it, because both of these are essentially the right answer to the question. If you have a process that you set out in your project charter to complete in less than a month, you should beat your deadlines unless unknown road blocks come up at some point that prohibit you from finishing. If you are new to Six Sigma Projects, they may take you a little longer to complete than someone who has been doing them for a period of time. However, you should still be realistic in your deadlines and work as quickly and effectively as you can to get the process improvements than it should. The more efficient your process improvement projects are, the more quickly your company will be operating better and adding more to the bottom line.

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Dec 11, 2010

Analytic Tools for Successful Lean Manufacturing Implementation

A lean manufacturing implementation has as one of its major goals reducing and eliminating waste. The waste that Lean solutions seek to eliminate takes several forms. And for each form of waste there is a specific tool that lean manufacturing consultants use for identification and analysis and, ultimately, elimination. Let's look at just a couple.

Because the goal of Lean implementation is, among other things, to eliminate waste, the first object is to identify the areas or forms of waste in a particular company. Generally, though, here's what lean manufacturing examines first with respect to waste: unnecessary human motion, non-value-added conveyance of product, over-production, excess inventory, under-utilized space, over-processing, unneeded waiting, and poor utilization of talent. Two of the most easily addressed and corrected involve human motion and conveyance of product.

Unnecessary Human Motion

Whenever employees are engaged in non-value-added motion, within the context of production, waste occurs. Very often, both managers and employees are unaware when this kind of wasteful activity occurs. And that's why a spaghetti diagram can be so useful.

This is a tool/technique used to identify and so eliminate the waste of unnecessary human motion. It involves, in the initial stage, a consultant's following an employee for between 30 minutes to two hours. In order for this to work properly, consultants have to explain to the employees, in order to obtain accurate data, exactly what is being done and why, making sure to emphasize that processes and layouts-not individual employees-are being evaluated. What happens is that that the work path taken by the employee(s) during this period is mapped out to determine efficiency and contribution to value-added activity.

Here, then, are the well defined steps in producing a spaghetti diagram to eliminate unnecessary human motion:

The date, the time(s), and the specific process being mapped must be noted.
The group should be informed about what is going on and a volunteer called for.
The actual work paths of this volunteer taken throughout his shift are traced out on the map.
Any stops are noted and sequentially numbered, as well as the time duration for each stop.
Anything involving over-reaching or "non-comfort" motion is noted.
Any inherent disruptions in the work path and flow should be especially noted.
The reason for trips must be recorded.

By means of this spaghetti diagram consultants can determine where motion is wasted and formulate a plan to eliminate that waste.

Non-value-added Conveyance of Product

The analytic tool used in a lean manufacturing implementation to find and eliminate the waste that results from the non-value-added conveyance of product is most often a "process walk." In this, the movement of a product is followed across all processes-from initial quality inspection through compounding through filling through all successive segments of the process to the final product ready for shipment. And here's what the process walk entails:

Literally walking at a brisk pace to follow the product through its production processes.
Asking questions of the people involved to find out origin of the part/ingredient, its next destination, and the means of conveyance.
Having employees assist in the observation of processes.
Recording delays for preparation and meeting requirements in moving the product from one location to the next.
Making a point to mark on the record material-handling delays.

With this tool consultants can locate waste and bottlenecks and propose Lean solutions to promote process efficiency. The right lean manufacturing consultants with the right analytic tools can make your lean manufacturing implementation a profitable success.

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Jobs of Six Sigma

The demand for people with Six Sigma expertise is constantly increasing. Alot of organizations are discovering the many ways that the Six Sigma methodology can help them grow and improve. As Six Sigma spreads to many different industries beyond its genesis in manufacturing, you can now find many service and government organizations advertising for Six Sigma help. Plus, it is no longer the largest corporations looking for Six Sigma help. Smaller companies also are taking on Six Sigma projects and hiring people as consultants or permanent staff. The need for full-time Six Sigma professionals will only increase.

Types of Six Sigma Jobs

There are many Six Sigma jobs in many industries at junior and senior levels. The positions have descriptions and requirements unique to that organization and its requirements. It is true that many Six Sigma positions are filled internally as organizations train their own people already familiar with the organization's culture in Six Sigma skills. However, organizations frequently reach outside to add personnel with Six Sigma expertise to lead Six Sigma projects or even the full-scale implementation of Six Sigma throughout the organization. These positions are usually dedicated full-time to Six Sigma projects.

Six Sigma jobs are advertised under many titles, not always as obvious as "Six Sigma Black Belt," "Six Sigma Consultant," or "Six Sigma Analyst." Other possible titles include things like "Functional Project Lead" "Six Sigma Program Manager," "Lead Analyst/Project Manager," "Director of Operational Excellence," "Business Process Manager," or "Senior Projects Manager." Whatever the exact title, the organization is looking for someone with the skills of a Six Sigma Black Belt. A Black Belt is an individual trained in the Six Sigma methodology and experienced leading cross-functional process improvement teams. They will lead individual Six Sigma projects.

Very senior Six Sigma positions are sometimes advertised. These are Master Black Belts, individuals trained in the Six Sigma methodology who acts as the organization-wide Six Sigma program manager. They will lead Six Sigma implementation at the organization and will oversee Black Belts and process improvement projects and provides guidance to Black Belts as required. Master Black Belt positions understandably demand the highest level of Six Sigma experience and qualifications.

Qualifying for Six Sigma Jobs

To be considered for a Six Sigma job, you need a combination of relevant academic and work experience. The first and foremost qualification is to be trained in Six Sigma, ideally as a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. This means formal training from qualified Six Sigma consultants who have extensive experience in training and implementation of Six Sigma. Specific training in Six Sigma DMAIC and/or DFSS methodology is often requested. The best teacher is, of course, experience and organizations will strongly prefer, if not insist, on people who have completed at least one Six Sigma project.

In addition to possessing Six Sigma training and project experience, organizations will ask that you have experience working in the industry of the organization's business. So if the company is a manufacturer, they will usually want you to have direct experience in a manufacturing environment. Organizations will ask that you have a certain minimum period of experience (often five years) in that particular industry.

Management experience is a huge plus and will almost certainly be a requirement for a Six Sigma project team leader. Having on your resume proven project management success within a structured environment and being able to demonstrate good managerial skills will take you a long way. That's because leading and facilitating Black Belts, Green Belts, and business teams through a Six Sigma project is often the role organizations are seeking to fill.

There are also essential personal skills. You need to be able to demonstrate a good understanding of processes and quality methodologies and a willingness to take an initiative and lead change. Another crucial skill is the ability to link strategy to execution. The aptitude to look beyond the surface and be creative to think conceptually about strategic business issues and develop creative but practical solutions is key.

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Nov 25, 2010

Important of Six Sigma and CAPA

Productivity is everything in a business or organization, . The more productive you are in all areas of your company the more successful you'll be in the future. Fortunately, Six Sigma methods and CAPA - Corrective and Preventative Action - can help!

Using CAPA the right way requires correct methods and measurements that are clear and concise. While this process can sound simple, successfully implementing it can prove to be quite a challenge. Putting such a program in place requires you to adhere to some very basic principles. If you are using Six Sigma, you will need to gain a good understanding of the methods you will use.

A CAPA program should make sense. It should be easy to implement and manage. Many CAPA programs that have been put into place occur after problems have already occurred. In these cases, the issues were addressed and documented on a CAPA action form. A successful CAPA program, however, will go far beyond this and will be proactive so that problems may be corrected at all organizational levels before they occur. It should be easy to use so that progress may be tracked. The results should be clear and concise.

Six Sigma enables you to put together a CAPA program that is both systematic and measurable. You want predictability when you are talking about making significant organizational changes that will influence the future of your company and increase levels of productivity. You also need to be able to measure your progress in a way that will show you where changes need to be made and what those changes will entail.

When implementing any CAPA program, it should account for more than the reaction to problems that either do or could occur. It should have the potential to improve overall business efficiency so that productivity can be increased. This increase will need to continue over time so this will need to be factored into the mix when ever Six Sigma and CAPA methods are applied. If you can detect problems before they arise, you will be able to secure the future of your organization.

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Nov 11, 2010

An Outline on Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing is an integrated and inclusive set of guidelines and procedures for improving and optimizing production processes. In simple terms it can be defined as a systematic approach to identify and eliminate waste in any operations that can further help in improving the basic operation more effectively. Derived in Japan, particularly from the War Manpower Commission which resulted in Toyota Production System, This term "Lean Manufacturing" also represents human effort in the firm and hours spend in creating any new product in less time.

It is important to note that the aim of this concept is successfully attained through human resources and by using the various machines as tools to meet the goal. Though it requires some extra effort on every person participating on the process, one major advantage for workers is that provides them the opportunity to play a major role in the company's decision making process. In order to perform better operations and avoid waste, employees or workers are dynamically involved in offering suggestions and taking action, and this degree of employee involvement further helps in improving employee performance.

At present most of the world's leading manufacturing companies are taking interest to turn their conventional manufacturing systems into lean manufacturing as many of them are stunned by the simplicity and the effectiveness of the lean techniques. It is totally opposite to traditional manufacturing approaches that are mostly characterized by excessive use of economic order quantities and high inventory. It imparts a better and effective control over everyday activities and also reduces the cycle time. Apart from this it also help in synergizing various departments. Rather than considering each subdivision as an individual firm, this technique is more likely to bind all the concerned subdivision in one binding unit thereby working positively on the overall organization's performance. No doubt, today "Lean", is the latest buzzing word in manufacturing world, and every big or small firm from varied segments of the industry are implementing lean manufacturing systems and installing lean manufacturing software that can further facilitate the process in an effective manner.

Now as lean manufacturing system aids you in achieving maximum return on investments within the minimum frame of time, it is important to understand that to attain total success one has to be very careful regarding different range of factors related to lean manufacturing software. This is where lean manufacturing consultants play a vital role and can help you in executing this new system in an effective manner. An effective consultancy from a lean manufacturing consultant can restructure your business by assisting you in minimizing the wastes at different stages of the manufacturing process. Moreover, a valuable lean manufacturing consultancy can transform the mode you do the manufacturing business. Here are some of the other advantages of availing the services of lean manufacturing consultants:

o Professional assistance on best practice for your specific business need.

o Training material for your employees.

o Professional assistance on the proper and effective usage of lean manufacturing software that can better suit to your business needs.

o Information on latest happenings and updates required to be done in the field.

Lean manufacturing is an operational approach and if it is executed appropriately, it will provide a new aspect to competing, like developing high quality products and delivering them with unmatched lead times. For the enterprise dedicated to maintain effectiveness in all business, lean manufacturing can prove to be a good management practice. A lean manufacturing is a new technique that can provide companies with the tools to survive in the market and meet the global demand for higher quality products with quicker production time at minimum cost.

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Nov 7, 2010

Quality Management Systems Evaluation

Any successful companies have quality management systems (QMS) in place. It seems these have become very popular components of organizations. They are however, definitely more than just fads that come and go. Modern businesses seriously interested in overcoming competition need these.

There are great benefits that business owners can get from a QMS. At the most basic level this is what a company needs to make sure that processes are performed efficiently and with less waste. At a deeper level, it is because of this primary advantage that customer satisfaction and retention are ultimately achieved. With solid standards, you will attract more customers and interested parties. In a sense, although a quality management system is not mainly about making money, it does affect the bottom line.

Companies can base their processes on successful counterparts. For the most part though, companies are individually responsible for establishing QMS. The real question here is how an organization can make sure that what they've set up works. Knowing that it does is crucial; otherwise the entire exercise will be a great waste of time and will not help you achieve anything.

One way to make sure that everything is properly set up is to conduct an internal audit. The term itself is a giveaway to its definition. Internal auditors are employees of a company seeking to put up a total quality management system. An internal check makes sense considering that the people working inside a structure know it best. The real challenge here is to remain unbiased and to make sure that the focus remains on improvement and not finding fault.

Aside from its own people, a business can also ask its customers to perform an audit of its QMS. This is another sensible step because the purpose of any entrepreneurial venture is to provide people what they want. Hence, clients and customers know best what should be part of a process. Moreover, showcasing an already established procedure can make clients confident in a company's capacity.

Another good way to check that quality management systems do what they should is to ask a consultant to have a look. You may want to get expert help if you are attempting to implement change for the first time. Most reputable consulting firms operate under international standards so you can be certain that whatever inputs they share with you will help put you in the same level as internationally recognized competitors.

A final way to evaluate a QMS is to apply for ISO certification. A business will only be able to obtain this if its system passes international standards. Certification is not mandatory but getting it is like getting a trophy of achievement that you can display in front of customers and clients to get their attention. Of course, obtaining this is the ultimate proof of having good systems. It would be a good idea though to first set up internal and external audits as well as consultation sessions to ensure success at getting certified.

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Nov 4, 2010

What is Triz ?

TRIZ is a Russian technology for innovation and developing creative ideas for problem solving. This theory was introduced by Genrich S. Altshuller, who born in the former USSR in 1926. It is also recognized as theory of innovative problem solving. TRIZ methodology is first to formulate the problem, then analyzing the system, next is to carry out failure analysis and ultimately goes for solution. So, advantage of applying TRIZ is that it provides a systematic way of solution finding, instead of hit & trial method. So, ultimately it takes less time to solve the problems and results are in the form of more innovative product.

TRIZ methodology is to solve those problems, which have no solution. Commonly brainstorming technique and hit and trial methods are considered suitable for such kind of problems. But nobody knows that how many efforts will be needed to solve such problems. Sometimes, a number of trials are carried out and no solution is obtained, so people have to look for other alternatives. So, no need to concentrate on psychological thinking but need arises to focus on technology based decision making.

TRIZ invention was basically to focus on manufacturing related problems, but different experts are using it in formulating service related problems, production problems, to carry out failure analysis and for finding optimal results.

So, to solve problem using TRIZ methodology, a number of steps are needed. In first step, calculate and identify the problem in true sense. For example, if the cover of any bottle is too tight, then what is the actual problem? To formulate it according to TRIZ, the problem is that it should open on some specific applied force.

In second step, is to see, whether the primary problem is solved, will it not create another problem. If the problem of the bottle’s cap opening is solved, will it not affect the leakage of liquid or make cap too loose? So, target must be to solve the problem without any secondary effects.

Next step is to search for the already solved problems of the same nature. These can be obtained from trade journals, research papers and list of patents.

And the final step is to adopt Altshuller’s 40 inventive principles. Some of the titles of different principles are as follows:

1.Universality of functions
2.Segmentation of product pieces
3.Conversion of harm into benefits
4.Replacement as inexpensive product instead of use of expensive
5.Replacement of mechanical component and systems
TRIZ is very useful tool for use of innovative tools and techniques in problem solving. Different experts have made necessary amendments and improved it according to their needs. Its implementation is simple and also difficult, depending upon the situation and problem, and it also depends upon the competency level of TRIZ expert. This tool is not much difficult to learn; everybody can learn and use it accordingly. But most important thing is that every person should be committed to solve the problems, using this technique. This tool can provide organizations, more innovative and user friendly equipments to the organization, for which they were working from long time.

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Nov 3, 2010

8 Lean tools

The lean enterprise is a concept of organizations that consider any activities other than those that create value to the end customer as wasteful and superfluous. Typically the lean organization will focus on the seven wastes as defined within the Toyota manufacturing system and attempt to reduce or eliminate these through the use of standard tools and techniques.

There are a variety of tools and techniques associated with lean production / lean manufacturing however the following 8 are perhaps the most commonly used and easy to implement.

1/ Pull Systems

Pull systems create an environment where material or work enters a process at the same rate that it exits – A typical pull systems used in lean manufacturing is Kanban.

2/ Continuous flow manufacturing

Continuous flow manufacturing involves movement of material during the manufacturing process moving from value add process to value add process without leadtime / transport time or storage in buffer.

3/ Setup reduction

Manufacturing processes typically includes some time for the setup of machines or tools it’s typically measures by the total time taken from the completion of the last good part to the first good part from the new setup. Reducing setup time increases capital availability and capacity and reduces lead-time and labor required.

4/ Error Proofing
Error proofing is an approach for identifying and rectifying errors before they reach the next stage in the process or the customer.

5/ Total Productive Maintenance

Maximizing operational effectiveness of manufacturing equipment can enhance capacity and ensure that parts are made to the correct quality at the rate required. This might typically include maintenance prevention programs i.e. designing or operating tools and equipment to reduce maintenance but increase performance/life.

6/ Standarized Processes

Generic standard processes across a manufacturing site ensure that a process is optimized with material, operators etc and is completed the same way each time – minimizing failures and the requirements for rework.

7/ Value stream mapping

The mapping for information and material flows within a manufacturing process – a tool for understanding bottlenecks and constraints.

8/ 5s

A process for cleaning and standardizing the workspace ensuring only what’s required is placed on the workspace and that tools equipment have a standard place and can be found when required.

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Nov 1, 2010

Six Sigma Green Belt Curriculum and Body of Knowledge

Education is a key component of your Six Sigma initiative. Below is a recommendation of what should be included in your training, whether conducted in-house or by a third-party consultant. If you feel that some relevant topic is missing from the curriculum or body of knowledge of any of the areas listed below, please send an email to iSixSigma. We appreciate your input.

Six Sigma Green Belt Curriculum and Body of Knowledge
•Overview of Six Sigma
•DMAIC Methodology Overview
•Financial Benefits of Six Sigma
•The Impact of Six Sigma to The Organization
•The Six Sigma Language

•Project Definition
•Project Charter
•Developing a Business Case
•Chartering a Team
•Defining Roles and Responsibilities
•Gathering Voice of the Customer, Support for Project
•Translating Customer Needs into Specific Requirements (CTQs)
•SIPOC Diagram
•Define Phase Review

•Process Mapping (As-Is Process)
•Data Attributes (Continuous Versus Discrete)
•Measurement System Analysis
•Data Collection Techniques
•Data Collection Plan
•Understanding Variation
•Measuring Process Capability
•Calculating Process Sigma Level
•Visually Displaying Baseline Performance
•Measurement Phase Review

•Visually Displaying Data (Histogram, Run Chart, Pareto Chart, Scatter Diagram)
•Detailed (Lower Level) Process Mapping of Critical Areas
•Value-Added Analysis
•Cause and Effect Analysis (a.k.a. Fishbone, Ishikawa)
•Affinity Diagram
•Data Segmentation and Stratification
•Verification of Root Causes
•Determining Opportunity (Defects and Financial) for Improvement
•Analyze Phase Review

•Quality Function Deployment (House of Quality)
•Selecting a Solution
•Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
•Poka Yoke (Mistake Proofing Your New Process)
•Piloting Your Solution
•Implementation Planning
•Improve Phase Review

•Assessing The Results of Process Improvement
•Statistical Process Control (SPC) Overview
•Developing a Process Control Plan
•Documenting the Process
•Control Phase Review

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Oct 31, 2010

Lean Tools and Six Sigma

The Lean approach is one of elimination of waste and improving the flow using Lean tools to bring about quick improvements in problem areas.

Need for Integrating Lean and Six Sigma

Both have been successfully used in different companies. Six Sigma helps in elimination of defects, but does not optimize the processes, and Lean does not use any statistical tools, which can be even more effective and are required for making the system perfectly lean.

The experts on the matter are of the opinion that the combination of Lean tools and principles with Six Sigma can make a major difference in bringing about sustained improvements in the business processes and profits. A structured approach to integrating Lean with the help of Lean tools and principles with Six Sigma can reap rich benefits for the organization.

The Lean Tools that can help integrating with Six Sigma are listed below.

Value Stream Mapping

The focus of the value stream mapping tool is to categorize activities and materials into value adding, non-value adding and value enabling.

If you utilize this tool in the DMAIC phase of Six Sigma, then the non-value adding activities can be segregated from the value adding ones, thus helping to reduce the wait time between two processes.

This means overall leaner processes. Value stream mapping can be combined with the analyze phase, as well as the improve phase.

Takt Time

Takt time is the time needed for a particular project to be completed to meet customer demand. Generally, the efforts would be to record the existing cycle time for the manufacturing processes in the Measure phase.

A comparison is done with the existing service level agreements to find out the mismatch of the actual with the SLAs exceeding tolerance levels can be measured. This helps in understanding the amount of improvement required to match the cycle time with the Takt time.

Ishikawa Diagram

In the Analyze phase, it becomes imperative to find the root causes of a problem area. In the absence of detailed statistical data, the 5 Whys can be used along with the Ishikawa (cause and effect) diagram to make the task easier and manageable. The 5 Whys tool can be useful in pointing out areas that need immediate improvement and that can be addressed easily.


Heijunka, which means load balancing, is a tool that helps the Lean team to provide a consistent flow of work by ensuring that the bottlenecks are removed in the Design phase of Six Sigma.

Load balancing can be useful in reducing inventory turnover by introducing a pull system rather than a push system, which is responsible for bottlenecks. The Takt time also supports the designing of the system, such that a level load balance is achieved.

Poka Yoke

Poka Yoke, which stands for mistake proofing is a great tool of Lean, which can be used to fine-tune the processes as such that the probability of error is reduced in the given areas.

Combined with Ishikawa diagram and the Pareto Analysis, it can be used in the Design and Improve phases to eliminate the major causes of errors.

The combination of Lean tools with the Six Sigma methodology can be very useful for any type of organization, may it be manufacturing or even the service industry. It can boost the benefits of the organization to a large extent.

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Oct 23, 2010

Methods of Improvement (FADE)

One of the most common models for quality improvement is the FADE QI model. There are four steps to this model that cover a broad area and are easy to use.

The first step is focus. This is an essential part of this model because it establishes the basis for what will set the other three steps in motion. Here you will define and verify the process that is to be improved. Before you can make any type of change, you must first acquire a clear understanding of exactly what needs to happen and why. Once you have a clearly defined focus, you can then set further goals that will dictate the appropriate actions to be taken.

The second step is data analysis. Here, you will collect and analyze data in an effort to establish baselines, identify root causes of the problem for which a solution is being sought, and then point toward possible solutions. This process will be important to all aspects of company operation, and is a crucial step in the quality improvement process.

The next step in the process is development. This is where action plans are developed based on the data being examined. These plans are put together for the overall improvement process and encompass implementation, communication, and the measuring and monitoring of the progress and overall situation. This step is what will clearly define the actions that will need to take place in order for the changes to take effect.

The final step in the quality improvement process is execution. Here, the action plans will be implemented. This may be on a pilot basis as indicated, so these plans may be tested and further changes made if necessary. These plans are then evaluated, and ongoing measuring and monitoring systems are installed to ensure success.

These four steps are critical to the success of a company's quality improvement which is an important part of overall quality management. They are systematic and easy to follow. The process can also be repeated on an ongoing basis so various issues will continually be recognized and resolutions put in place. This also helps to facilitate the continuity of the business, and ensures everything will continue to run smoothly for a long time to come.

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Oct 22, 2010

The Lean Office - With 5S

Do you get frustrated looking for files? Is your desk too small for all your stuff? If you can answer yes to these questions, you may need a personal 5S.

5S, which stands for Sort-Set in order-Shine-Standardize-Sustain, is typically an organizations gateway to a lean transformation. 5S will help any organization improve productivity by reducing the amount of time wasted throughout the day. A key strategy for this simple yet powerful tactic is known as the "visual workplace." Visual controls help make conditions, instructions and actions instantly recognizable through simple signals such as color codes, signs or demarcations. In this article we'll focus on how to apply 5S to an area that is very important to you, your desk.

In a professional environment, a cluttered workspace usually indicates a cluttered mind. This is not a message you want to send to your superiors or customers. So how does one tackle this dilemma? One very simple yet effective method is to apply the 5S process to your immediate work area. This includes converting paper to electronic files, cleaning out your hard drives, establishing visual management to your filing systems and organizing the physical space.

By applying the following 5 simple steps, you will be able to quickly de-clutter those desktops and become a highly productive worker.

1) Sort - Going through your "stuff" can be quite a daunting task and all too often a stumbling block. If you feel your workspace has gotten so out of control that you just don't know where to start, sorting is your first task. You will need to dedicate some time to sorting so a good idea is to come in on a Saturday morning and go through all those papers, files, magazines, etc. Your goal is to get rid of as much as possible. Get three large boxes and label them as follows:

Things I need and use every day
Things I occasionally need
Things I haven't touched in over three months and have no need for

Common sense dictates that if you haven't used an item recently and have no reason to keep it, get rid of it. The remaining items will have to be stored appropriately.

2) Set in order - These days there is no excuse not to go paperless; how often do you print emails, instead filing them electronically. The intent with setting in order is to develop a system that allows you to quickly find and retrieve items, quickly identify required actions and clearly understand where things belong.

Create an electronic filing system that uses colors and icons. If you need to keep paper documents, try scanning and saving them electronically. Identify actions such as "replenishment" or "complete" with simple signals that don't require verbal instructions. Make sure all physical items have a defined "home" location, this will ensure that organization is kept up.

Items that are used every day should be stored (physically or virtually) within easy reach. This may include active files, equipment or information. The occasionally used items can be put away in less frequented areas such as external hard drives, storage closets or hard to reach shelves. In either case make sure everything is properly labeled and coded.

3) Shine - 5S is a chance for you to not only establish a better filing and storage system but also to purge your hard drives of excessive files. To insure your work area won't get cluttered after all this effort you should make it a habit to immediately go through mail and incoming items as they are received. Don't wait until later; this is especially true with any magazines and periodicals. Look through them, extract whatever information you need and throw the rest out.

4) Standardize - This is where you will develop the "rules" for maintaining the first three S's. Make sure your new efficient process is as intuitive as possible. Consider this a starting point that you will continually improve. Use Outlook to send yourself reminders and schedule tasks. Establish a standard color coding system for your reminders and tasks. This could indicate customers, priority, locations, etc. Once you've developed a personal 5S system try and spread it throughout your office. A good trick is to run contests or post "tips and tricks."

5) Sustain - Don't let your new system fall apart. You'll have to instill personal discipline to keep this process going. A good idea is to schedule a "Sorting" day every month or so. The intent is to make 5S habitual. Some companies like to develop formal methods to sustaining improvement through training and auditing. This can be done with sophisticated software programs or simple paper forms. Regardless of the method you choose, the idea is to hold yourself accountable.

One of the key elements to any process improvement program is efficiency. As you've seen this can start at a personal level and ultimately spread throughout your company. By using 5S you'll be amazed at how your productivity levels will increase. Following these five simple steps will guarantee that clutter and misplaced items area things of the past.

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Oct 20, 2010

Five Reasons to Implement Kaizen in Non-Manufacturing

Kaizen is a proven performance improvement tool. Adopted from Toyota, Kaizen generates breakthrough improvements quickly, without huge capital investments and/or extensive commitments of employ time. Kaizen is an efficient, effective technique for producing change in manufacturing operations.

Kaizen improves performance in non-manufacturing situations as well. Ideal for a wide variety of industries, it's well suited for non-manufacturing situations like those found in professional services, corporate headquarters, and branch offices. Entities like finance departments, corporate headquarters, national banks, and hospital emergency rooms all benefit from it.

Kaizen is appropriate for relatively straightforward, simple problems, problems that don't involve numerous functions or complex processes. It is also appropriate for well-defined problems or when the dissatisfactory performance of the current state is due to only a few factors that don't vary widely over time. The format for Kaizen can be individual, suggestion system, small group, or large group.

Reasons why a non-manufacturer would implement Kaizen include the following:

Lowers costs

Services differ from manufacturing. More variety exists in services than production. With manufacturing, the ideal is to produce the same product at the rate of customer demand. Manufacturers abhor variety because it slows production and creates the potential for incurring costs.

With services the ideal is to accommodate variety. A call center, for example, must handle as many different types of customer events as possible. Many events are the result of something not done or something not done right. Thus, services generate costs by "failure demand."

Kaizen focuses on eliminating failure demand. Employees make suggestions on how to do things right and use Kaizen to make changes. By helping workers get it right, Kaizen minimizes the need for, as well as the cost of, doing something or providing a service. Obviously, the more things a service or non-manufacturer does right, the less cost it generates.

Immediate Results

Kaizen takes place one small step at a time. It's driven to resolve specific problems. Instead of tackling large improvements, Kaizen makes minor enhances that solve large numbers of small problems. Thus, firms see Kaizen results quickly, encouraging them to make more suggestions. Large capital projects and major changes are still needed, but the real power of Kaizen is in making small improvements continually that improve processes or reduce waste. In short, Kaizen concentrates on making fast changes cost-effectively.

Reduces waste

Kaizen methodology involves making alterations, looking at the results, and then making additional alterations to improve the processes. These changes reduce waste, that is, eliminate activities adding cost only. Waste includes activities like overproduction; people, materials, or information waiting; unnecessary motions by workers; and unsynchronized transportation. It also includes excess inventory, correcting defective work, and unnecessary processing steps.

Energizes Employees

Kaizen depends on employees suggesting changes. For example, in 1999 alone, 7000 employees at a Toyota plant in the U.S submitted over 75,000 improvement suggestions, of which 99 percent were implemented. Kaizen encourages employees to come up with more and more of these small improvements, motivates them to improve their work lives, excites them about their work, and challenges them to be responsible for change. In other words, it empowers employees, enriches the work experience, and motivates workers.

Increase Productivity

A major national bank used Kaizen whenever it wanted to attack process speed and efficiency problems. The projects were all well defined, involved participants pulled off their jobs for only a few days, and included a cross-functional team. The projects also supported a cross-functional view of the process or work area.

Using Kaizen, the bank achieved cycle time improvements ranging from 30 percent faster to nearly 95 percent faster, measured sometimes in minutes and other times in days. One administration process went from 20 minutes to 12, and a complaint resolution process dropped from 30 days to 8. An added bonus for the bank was an increase in revenues. One high level project enabled the bank to charge for a service it had never charged for before. New revenues ran between $ 6 million and $9 million.

Kaizen produced similar results in an emergency room application. Standardizing layouts and stocking exam rooms increased nurse availability by 35 hours per week. Establishing a transportation procedure increased availability of patient care associates and nurses by 84 hours per week. Leveraging the existing ED information system reduced cycle time 71 per cent, to an average of 42 minutes.

Kaizen is a powerful improvement tool. It isolates employees from day-to-day tasks for a few days so they can concentrate on specific activities, like problem solving and improvement exclusively. Companies using kaizen find that they not only reduce waste and see immediate results, they also increase productivity, lower costs, and energize employees.

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Oct 18, 2010

What Is A Stable Process?

Process stability is one of the most important concepts of the Six Sigma methodology, or any quality improvement methodology for that matter. Stability involves achieving consistent and, ultimately, higher process yields through the application of an improvement methodology. Does a process need to be stable in order for a black belt to improve it? Try educating your child when he/she is having fits of joy and emotional distress at the same time (as many youngsters do!).

To help your understand why process stability (also known as variation reduction) is important, here are a few illustrative concepts:

Building widgets to be within customer specifications or tolerances: Some variation is inherent in the process, but the variation may not be wider than the specifications allow, otherwise the widget may not fit or function properly.

Mailing welcome packages after signing up for an online trading account: Customers expect time delay in receiving welcome materials due to processing, printing, the postal service, etc. But customers have specified that they expect receipt within 10 business days -- anything over indicates the process is unstable and the variation is too large. As an aside, anything over may also cause additional customer telephone calls to the processing center, which can add to customer service costs.

Changing the oil in your car is important every 3000 miles (or now even longer): Adding too much or too little oil may cause malfunctioning of your engine under certain circumstances. Again, variation is inherent, but the specifications of high or low oil must be met.

A loyal reader started a fabulous discussion on process stability (thanks Kim!), and I thought it would be useful to present some of the finer points. Below are a few posts from fellow quality professionals discussing how best to link quality to finances. If you have a question or would like to make an additional comment, just press the 'Post A Reply' button.

"Montgomery states in his book: Montgomery, Douglas. C. 'Introduction to Statistical Quality Control'. Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York. 2001. 4th ed. Pg 372, that in 1991 the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) was formed with one of their objectives being to standardize industry reporting requirements. He says that they recommend Cpk when the process is in control and Ppk when it isn't. Montgomery goes on to get really personal and emotional about this which is unique to this page of this book and other books I have of his. He thinks Ppk is baloney as he states 'Ppk is actually more than a step backwards. They are a waste of engineering and management effort - they tell you nothing

"While Montgomery gets frustrated over the use of Ppk, he does a poor job of explaining what a stable process is. I respect his works just the same as he alone has even attempted to try to explain the difference between a stable process and a non-stable one.

"This argument as well as numerous others that you can find on this site regarding use of Cpk / Ppk metrics, the validity of Six Sigma shifts, process capability, SPC, etc. all reflect our lack of definition for what is process control.

"So, how can we define process stability and or process control? Perhaps we can agree on some given amount of process shifting (1.5 sigma)? Perhaps we can agree that a stable process is that where it's Cpk values are above 1.67? Perhaps some combination of these or other events needs to take place such as three consecutive Cpk samples over 1.67, etc.

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Oct 17, 2010

Why Lean Manufacturing Fails

Lean works. Lean is right. Lean is good. Lean consistently proves its worth through continuous, stepwise gains for companies brave enough to take on the challenge of looking within themselves to correct deep founded issues with their status quo and historical patterns of behaviors. So, why doesn't Lean help every company that implements it?

The truth is, Lean doesn't work for some companies because THEY (i.e. the companies it doesn't work for) don't allow it to work for them. And that is why Lean fails.

Recently, something caught my eye that I've known for quite a few years now. It was refreshing to see, but only because misery loves company and in terms of Lean, is still rather unfortunate news. Last summer, an annual survey of companies trying to implement Lean showed that Middle Management Resistance was the biggest obstacle that they faced.

I guess there is an obvious sense of naivety on my side for thinking that Middle Management Resistance would eventually go away, but that would be assuming that there isn't a general ignorance and lack of a kazien mentality (i.e. betterment, continuous improvement mentality) exhibited by most managers. Managers do things because they believe that they know what is best. "It's always worked that way, so why try to change it."

There is comfort in familiarization and docile activities that typically bog down managers. Lean requires a huge, cultural change that breaks down the barriers of the common ways of looking at things. It also requires a great deal of involvement from everyone within an organization. This is especially true for the CEO (or senior staff entirely) AND the lowest ranking members of the company. Middle managers are the glue that holds these groups of people together.

I could go on forever on this topic and describe to you how this all ties into the Theory of Constraints and The Goal, departmentalization vs. cellularization, etc., but I'll just give you a few sentences.

Middle managers have their hands tied. Too often, they are bound to their traditional metrics and methods of thinking. This leads to production managers and supervisors pushing for their employees and work centers to be producing at 100% capacity just for the sake of running production and keep uptime on par with traditional company goals. This just creates over production, mismanaged inventories, misinformed operators, and in the end, a complete resistance to Lean Thinking. In the end, for too many middle managers, production trumps Lean and Six Sigma because it's all "ship, ship, ship....this product is a rush....ship, ship, ship". It's rather ironic that all of these managers' practices are the very nature and source of their need to have a always rushing mentality.

An open message to all managers: Study Lean, sign up for seminars or conferences, make an effort to earn that paycheck you receive for your work. Ignorance is bliss, right? WRONG. In manufacturing, ignorance is a sin. It represents the cognitive acceptance of absolute failure and is ultimately detrimental to your organizations' success and continued growth. It's time for you to quit calling Lean a fad or referring to Lean tools as buzzwords because you are too lazy to better your thinking, better yourselves, better the people that work above and below you, and most importantly, to better your company.

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Oct 14, 2010

APQP ( Advanced Product Quality Planning )

Advanced Product Quality Planning is a quality framework used to develop products in industry, particularly the automotive industry, and is quite similar to the concept of Design For Six Sigma (DFSS). According to the AIAG (Automotive Industry Action Group), the purpose of APQP is "to produce a product quality plan which will support development of a product or service that will satisfy the customer." The PQP process is described in the AIAG manual 810-358-3003.

APQP ( Advanced Product Quality Planning ) focuses on:
• Up-front quality planning
• Determining if customers are satisfied by evaluating the output and supporting continual improvement
APQP ( Advanced Product Quality Planning ) consists of four phases:
• Plan and Define Program
• Product Design and Development Verification
• Process Design and Development Verification
• Product and Process Validation
APQP ( Advanced Product Quality Planning ) also consists of five major activities:
• Planning
• Product Design and Development
• Process Design and Development
• Product and Process Validation
• Production
Ongoing feedback assessment and corrective action is an integral part of these phases and activities.

The APQP ( Advanced Product Quality Planning ) process has seven major elements:
• Understanding the needs of the customer
• Proactive feedback and corrective action
• Designing within the process capabilities
• Analyzing and mitigating failure modes
• Verification and validation
• Design reviews
• Control special / critical characteristics

PPAP ( Production Part Approval Process )

The PPAP ( Production Part Approval Process ) provides an approach to approval of products and services. This includes bulk materials and part submission warrant in the Advanced Quality Planning process. The objective of the PPAP is to ensure that suppliers of components comply with the design specification and can show documentary evidence that the level can be maintained during the life of the product.
PPAP approval is required:
• Preceding the first production shipment
• Whenever there is a change in the process
• Unless the customer waives the requirement

Advanced Quality Planning

Advanced Quality Planning is a process step to collect information on existing issues of quality and production. This information is collected to develop counter-measures so that similar problems can be avoided with future products. Advanced Quality Planning is a team process that depends on communication and planning. The process requires the involvement of the manufacturing, quality and supplier engineering departments.

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Oct 13, 2010

Types of Leadership

Leadership can be characterized in different ways. Sometimes the focus is on leadership styles while at other times the focus is on the characteristics of a leader. Yet, another way to look at types of leadership is by organizational levels. Leading at different levels of an organization requires a leader to use a different approach at each level. Thus, it is important for leaders to understand the different types of leadership and what they need to do to be an effective leader at each level. Although complex organizations may have many levels, listed here are the basic types of leadership based on organizational levels:

Self-leadership: Regardless of whether you are leading a small team or a large organization, all leadership endeavors begin with self-leadership. Self-leadership begins with introspection and development of one's emotional intelligence. Leaders must know themselves first before they can effectively lead others.

Individual leadership: Individual leadership is about performance at a high level as an individual contributor. Leadership is not only a function of a position on an organizational chart, but also individual performance. Anyone at any level of an organization can be a leader, even when they are not in a formal leadership position.. Individual leaders are recognized for their leadership in setting the pace and high standards in their work.

Team leadership: Team leadership is the leadership of a small team. It involves direct interaction between the leader and their followers. Generally, the leader is in frequent contact with their team members, and the leader is responsible for everything the team does or fails to do.

Organizational leadership: Organizational leadership is leadership at the intermediate and highest levels of an organization. This type of leadership is indirect leadership because the leaders generally do not have direct contact with everyone in the organization. They lead indirectly by influencing the larger organization through subordinate leaders. They also exert indirect leadership on the whole organization by managing cultural norms, rewards and recognition programs, and communications.

Macro leadership: Macro leadership is the leadership of complex organizations or even political units of government where there are many stakeholders. As difficult as it is to lead a large corporation, it is immeasurably more difficult to lead a city, state, or country as the elected political leader. The leader must lead by building political coalitions and use position power and influence to rally followers to their vision. Perhaps this is the most difficult type of leadership because it is so dependent on the leader's power of persuasion and charisma, even when they hold a lofty office like mayor, governor, prime minister, or president.

Although there are common elements of leadership at all of these levels, there are also important differences. Leaders must use different leadership skills to lead a team, an organization, or a city. For example, team leaders who are promoted into an organizational leadership role will find that the direct leadership skills which they used as a team leader will not work as well at the organizational level. If they can't quickly make the transition and learn how to lead indirectly, they will likely not succeed. It is important for the leader to recognize these differences and understand how they must exercise their leadership. Understanding the different types of leadership will be the difference between success and failure as a leader.

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Oct 12, 2010

Six Sigma Roadblocks

Resistance to change is one of the common Six Sigma roadblocks companies experience. Many employees resist to new processes for many reasons. Employees might be resistant because they feel like their job is being threatened. They might be resistant because they are used to doing the exact same thing every day and they don't want to learn something new. Employees often resist when they feel like they have lost ownership of a process as well. The best way to overcome resistance is to involve every employee in the change, even if they have a very small job to do. When employees are involved in making positive changes, they will be more likely to jump on board than if they have no part of the improvement. Make employees feel like they can help make improvements and resistance won't be one of the Six Sigma roadblocks you need to worry about.

Team selection is another common Six Sigma roadblock that occurs. Team selection can be a problem when the wrong team members are put on a project. You must carefully place people in a team and consider the different skill sets of each individual, as well as their personality and experience. If everyone in the group has the exact same skill and similar personalities, the team won't get far. Try to vary skill sets and choose people in a team who will be the most successful with a certain project. Don't base teams on seniority but on capabilities, willingness, creativity, and ability to work in a team.

Six Sigma roadblocks also occur when a business does not spend money on training people for different projects. Training is a cost a company must pay for when employees really need it. You should never expect staff to just figure a new system out. This isn't fair to the employees and it can create a difficult atmosphere to work in. Providing proper training enables employees to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and gives them the tools and resources to do so.

Change management is one of the Six Sigma roadblocks that can be an issue if it is not planned before a project even begins. A change management team should be in place at the beginning of any change or implementation within a company - especially a Six Sigma implementation. The change management team will determine the people involved and affected from a change, the steps needed to make the change, the positive results of the change, requirements, and more. This provides structure and allows a project to be more successful.

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Oct 11, 2010

Applying the Kaizen to Your Life

The kaizen philosophy is mostly known in the business world where it is a very popular concept used to improve the supply chain and infrastructure of businesses. It originally came from Japan from Toyota.

In today's society most people are constantly looking for the next big thing and the next magic pill that will change their lives and transform them immediately. If this is your focus, this philosophy is not something that will fit your needs very well. This philosophy is not about gaining immediate and fast results, it is however a philosophy based on constant development and thinking long term.

When you start applying the kaizen strategy to your life you need to realize that you don't suddenly have to do a lot of drastic changes and try to change your life completely in one single day. This strategy is a lot more about determining what kind of results you want to achieve in the long term, so the first step for you is to figure out what your desired end result really is.

After you have determined what you want to achieve you need to create an action plan for how you are going to achieve it. Once you have your start to finish action plan ready, you need to break it down into smaller steps. You then take these small steps and delegate them to different weeks and days. The kai zen philosophy is all about improving 1 % every single day and in this way reaching your goal. In this philosophy there really is no end goal as the general idea is that you can always improve something new and become even better and more efficient.

What you need to realize is that improving 1 % every single day won't give you just 100% improvement after 100 days. All those 1 percents will add up on top of each other and after 100 days you will have improved 300-400 %.

This philosophy is a really great way of chunking things down into smaller and more approachable steps in order to constantly improve you and constantly take action. Make sure you measure your improvements so you can get even further motivation and momentum in your never ending pursuit of perfection. Commit yourself to this pursuit and get started as fast as possible

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Oct 10, 2010

The Most Important Business Tools

Delivering exceptional customer service is undoubtedly a very difficult thing. But what is even harder is encouraging someone else to do so and that too consistently. Nowadays, customers in every business are becoming tough to please. To add more woe to this state of affairs, dedicated professionals are pretty difficult to find and hire. Retention of such employees is another big issue. This results in a tough situation for the customer service and Quality assurance departments of every business organization.

Still some organizations succeed in wowing the customers despite all these odds. The Utopian state is achieved by the organizations that follow four basic motivation strategies. These strategies are listed below:

Get Excited Yourself

Excitement is the key to motivation. The management must be extremely excited about a project. The feeling would naturally filter down. If a manager lacks excitement, his motivation levels would naturally be low. This is because motivation is a feeling that gets filtered from top to bottom. If the management is motivated from within, it would definitely get reflected in their behavior and the whole team would feel equally excited and motivated about their product and services. This would help them achieve the toughest of targets easily. So, to offer enhanced levels of customer service, excitement about the products is the first prerequisite.

Hire Motivated Professionals

This would reduce your time to motivate teams. This can be easily understood by the assertion - "Hire smart or manage tough."

To quote the Chief Operating Officer of a reputed healthcare organization, "We only hire people with "It". Where "It" is a pathological disease to want to serve people."

Yes, such professionals do exist. And they are the people who excel at every task you entrust them with. In fact hiring motivated professionals also casts a positive impact on the contemporary teams as well and the outcome is enhanced customer service.

Measure Employee Achievements and Failures

This is a general notion that humans get overwhelmed when all the attention is focused on them. A certain amount of highlighting of their achievements by the senior management assures total attention to priorities. This naturally increases both productivity and customer satisfaction.

Share the Profits

"What gets rewarded gets repeated." Measurements must be tied with a suitable reward. Every business man must remember that nothing can motivate an employee better than cash incentives. A nineteenth century industrialist Robert Bosch said,

"I don't pay good wages because I make a lot of money. I make a lot of money because I pay good wages."

Quality assurance, abridged as QA is another tool for bringing home better levels of customer service. QA stands for a planned and systematic production process. The major thrust of this process is over proffering supplementary confidence to enhance the aptness of the finished product.
Merriam-Webster's definition of QA states -

"It is a set of activities intended to ensure that products (goods and/or services) satisfy customer requirements in a systematic, reliable fashion."

The major aim of every business remains ascertaining maximum levels of profits which can only be achieved by enhanced measures of customer service and quality assurance.

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Oct 9, 2010

Ways to Improve Quality Control

Quality control requires employee involvement in certain ways. For example, Unmotivated employees with low morale are likely to produce a much poorer product than motivated employees with high morale are. The lack of adequate employee training can also significantly reduce the quality of any product or service.

Having adequate quality control on products and services allows a business to offer product warranties with confidence. Adequate warranties can be important in tough economic times. Customers don't want to have to buy another product anytime soon. They prefer to have the products they purchase endure.

Outstanding customer relations is the name of the game in a competitive market, and one of the best ways to gain and keep an advantage over the competition is to provide the best products available. Just having the lowest prices isn't good enough. If your products or services are faulty, you may lose your customers in droves. Poor quality equates to poor products, which translates to decreased customer opinion and satisfaction.

An effective quality control procedure requires the development of certain standards or criteria for products and services that will satisfy customers. Without written, predefined requirements and measures of acceptability for any product or service, it is impossible to hold employees to any standard of excellence. The most successful quality control procedures locate product defects long before such products appear in the final stages of production.

It is during the quality control procedure that flaws in the system are located. When similar defects are found in many of the same products, management can determine new steps to improve the production process and reduce the number of such deficiencies. This advances the overall caliber of the finished products. Business services can be similarly evaluated.

It would be asking too much to expect no defective products or incidents of poor service to appear. However, management should determine a certain point which defective goods or services are no longer acceptable. For instance, a 3% rate of defective products or services may be tolerable, but 5% may not be. Still, management should be always on guard for ways to improve procedures and reduce the number of defective products. The closer to the beginning of the manufacturing process the defects are found, the more money the company will save overall. You can see that quality control fills an important function in improving customer relations and promoting return business, thereby improving overall business relations and profitability.

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Oct 8, 2010

ISO Certification

To gain a true competitive advantage in today's market, any business needs the ability to meet legislation, truly add value to their customers and stakeholders and reduce the risk of losses due to product or service failures, accidents and other incidents.

The management systems supported by ISO (International Standards Organisation) provide a frame work for you and your organisation to achieve these goals and confidence to all customer and stakeholders that you are maintaining standards.

What Are ISO Standards?

The ISO standards are an internationally recognised set of benchmarks for any organisation. They enable you to create and maintain a structured management system with a clearly defined set of processes and controls to ensure that the ability to meet all legislation, stakeholder requirements and reduce business risk is achieved, on an ever improving basis.

ISO standards cover many areas of a business and include:

ISO 9001 for quality management
ISO 14001 for environmental management
OHSAS 18001 for health and safety management

Each standard is based on a system of 'Plan-Do-Check-Act which means that these essential areas for any business can be managed individually or integrated to suit the needs of a business.

Why go for Certification

All these standards can be externally certified by a Certification Body which means that your stakeholders and customers have the confidence that the systems will be consistently maintained as long as you hold the certificate.

As a business, you can then use your certification not only to improve your business but also to:

Promote your organisation as best in class
Provide a simple way to demonstrate to your stakeholders your commitment to improvement
Give confidence to your supply chain by promoting your certification in your website, in tenders and quotations.

Quality Management

The most widely implemented system in the world is ISO 9001, which drives an organisation to ensure customer satisfaction and improving internal efficiency. The standard requires you to organise your business as a set of processes and support these processes with key principles of customer focus, leadership, involvement of people, analysis of data and developing beneficial supplier relationships.

Environmental Management

ISO 14001 is an environmental management system that allows you to identify the key impacts that you have on the environment, important legislation and then set about controlling and improving these impacts. By implementing the standard, you can lower the cost of waste management, save money in energy consumption, lower distribution costs, and improve their reputation and image across the business community and society.

Occupational Health & Safety Management

With a focus on your employees, OHSAS 18001 systematically assesses hazards and legislation in your business to make sure that you are legal and present the lowest practical risk to your work force. The standard helps you not only to avoid losses involved with accidents, and time off work but again improves your competitive advantage and sets you apart as a supplier and employer of choice.

Gaining an 'Accredited' Certificate

Independent certification is important to show that your system is credible and gives increased confidence to your supply chain and stakeholders. It also ensures that the standard is maintained internally and that business losses are reduced and performance is continuously improved. It is important however, that your certificate is awarded by an accredited certification body. Simply put, if a certification body is not recognised by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) then many stakeholders are now refusing to accept the certificate because there is no proof of independence and competence of the assessor.

So in Conclusion

Management systems are now well established, and in the case of ISO 9001, with over 1 million certifications in 170 countries, it is almost an expectation. Environmental and Health & Safety systems are rapidly becoming the way to stand out from your competition.

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Oct 7, 2010

The key to World Class Performance

5S is the key to world class performance it simple but effective. 5S is all about creating a more effective workplace that is well organized, free of clutter, and organized so that you can easily find things. It is also incredibly clean.

This program is known as the 5S program, it is called this because the basic elements begin with the letter "S". These elements are:

Set In Order

The 5S methodology is simple but effective. It also provides the foundation of many other continuous improvement programs.

People practice the five pillars in their everyday lives. When we keep things like our toiletries, wash cloths and towels in convenient and familiar place, we are practicing the first two pillars - Sort and Set In Order. If our home environment become cluttered and disorganized we tend to function a lot less efficiently.

It is unfortunate that few companies are as standardized with 5S routines as is the daily life of a well organized person. In the workplace it is just as important as in the daily life of a person that effective routines for orderliness be maintained to ensure the smooth and effective flow of operational activities. Sort and Set In Order are the foundation for improving throughput, decreasing inventory and reducing operating costs.

Keep in mind that:

A neat and clean workplace has higher Quality
A neat and clean workplace has higher productivity and less Cost
A neat and clean workplace meets Delivery requirements better
A neat and clean workplace is a Safer place to work
A neat and clean workplace has higher Moral


The purpose of Sort is to remove all items from the workplace that are not needed for current production or clerical operations. When you are first getting started, this can be a difficult task as it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is needed and what is not.

People have a tendency to hang on to parts, materials, tools, etc thinking that they may need them later on. Often times extra inventory and inappropriate tools and equipment are left in the work place, this has a tendency to accumulate over time and gets in the way of production activities. This leads to a gradual build up of waste over time. The key to this is a process for evaluating the necessity of an item using a process called "Red Tagging". This process will greatly reduce the risk of disposing of items that may be needed later.

Set In Order

Set In Order is defined as "arranging needed items so that they are easy to use and labeling them so that they are easy to locate and put away. You should always implement Set In Order with Sort.

Once you have thoroughly Sorted everything, all that you will have left will be the items necessary to support production. Your next step will be to make it obvious where these items belong and in what quantity so that people can quickly find them and or return them.


The third element is Shine. This wiping down machinery and equipment, sweeping floors and making sure that everything is clean. It is also about inspecting machines and equipment for proper operation and possible damage or needed repair.

Shine has a definite impact on producing defect-free product, by preventing dust, dirt, and debris form accumulating in the workplace.


Standardize differs from the first three pillars which can be thought of as activities. It is the method that you use to carry out Sort, Set In Order, and Shine. Standardize is related to these three activities, however it is most closely related to Shine. It occurs when you keep machines and their surrounding areas free of dirt, debris, and oil. In other words it is the condition that exists when shine is appropriately practiced for some time.


Sustain means making the first four pillars a habit by maintaining correct procedures and processes. You will find that the first for pillars are relatively easy to implement if you and your fellow employees will commit to sustaining the desired 5S conditions. If you do, you will find that your workplace will enjoy high productivity and quality while reducing unnecessary waste and high cost of operation.


Your organization will experience many benefits from implementing 5S. These benefits include:

Improved quality zero defects
Decreased cost through reduced waste
Improved delivery through less production delays and downtime
Increased morale because of a cleaner, healthier workplace
Increase safety because of reduced hazards.

Program Implementation

The key to an effective 5S program is proper planning and implementation. This can only occur if you employ the use of a 5S implementation team. This team must be properly trained and given sufficient resources and management support. The most effective planning and implementation comes about when the team is coached or guided through the process in a workshop environment. Another key is selecting a small target area to start with and get the program running properly before rolling it out to the entire company.

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Oct 5, 2010

Principles of Quality Management

Customer focus is a big factor with quality management. A business needs to focus on the customer's needs and ensure the requirements of these customers are met entirely. Customers need to be happy or they will not return for more service or continue to purchase your product. It is important for a business to have a clear understanding of exactly what the customer wants and a detailed plan on how these wants and needs will be met. Customer focus includes meeting their needs, constant communication and contact, and good delivery.

Leadership comes from within the business, and in order to have a solid quality management team, you need to have someone who is a good leader heading the departments. Leadership cannot be trained but it is a quality some people have and others do not. Always find a good leader to instill an environment of teamwork within your business. Leadership includes involving everyone properly and efficiently. Utilizing people resources in the right areas where they are strongest is a skill a good leader has.

Process management is another principle in quality management that must be considered. Processes need to be properly structured and laid out to ensure a project delivery is timely and successful. Everyone included in a project need to follow specific processes set forth at the beginning of a project. Projects cannot be started without processes set forth. When processes are not properly planned, goals and deadlines are not met.

Continual improvement is a principle in quality management that will ensure departments improve productivity, products get better, and the business is overall more successful. A quality management department needs to see every possible way to improve everything throughout a business, including relationships inside and out of the business, quality, and planning, every step of the way.

A factual approach needs to be taken to decision making. Some managers have a bad habit of assuming things are going to go one way, and when then they don't, problems are caused. When decisions are made, they need to be based on total facts. These facts might be on current prices, trends, and analysis.

Beneficial supplier relationships are the final important principle toward total quality management. Having a beneficial relationship with a supplier means, they might be more inclined to cut you deals, work with you on payments, and help your business achieve the goals you are working toward. Every business relies on good suppliers and your business needs to have an outstanding relationship with them.

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Oct 2, 2010

How to Implement a Kanban in Lean Manufacturing

In fact most companies all over the world have implemented some form of lean manufacturing. A big part of lean manufacturing is the Kaizen and Kanban methods. But in a Toyota production system, these methods cannot exist alone without total facility analysis and the implementation of the lean process in general. The Kanban means one thing that is visible, in Japanese and according to the best lean manufacturing system every product should be made as one until it reaches the customer but this is not very efficient in production methods. Still there are ways of implementing the system of "one" within the lean manufacturing system.

In a lean processes there are several teams formed for each department that involves the manufacturing of the part. These teams are formed to produce communication between the different departments. First you meet and get to know every person in your group and then you train those members in world class manufacturing and in other methods like Kanban and Kaizen. Kanban and Kaizen methods cannot be implemented without first implementing the basic system.

The process can be implemented into any department within a company, but first a complete analysis needs to be done to identify what areas need more efficiency including areas such as maintenance, sales, service, engineering production and even shipping. The key is to know the areas that need to be worked on and implement the plan, and this plan may be ever changing and ongoing.

A method within this system is the KanBan, which is Japanese, meaning something that is visible that helps in the transporting, moving or production of a product. This visible thing can be an electronic signal which signals the moving of a product from one station to another, a pallet on which product is put and then moved to another area, a bin with the same intentions, or anything similar.

The kanban method helps you manage inventory or processes; they allow you to know what is in stock and what has been shipped very easily, because each kanban has a certain number of products within. Even when you use an electronic signal you know how many of a product is shipping and how many are produced.

As mentioned before the kanban method cannot be started and worked with efficiently until you really understand how it works. If you don't have the right organization and equipment the kanban system will not make much of a difference.

Lean manufacturing works as a whole, and certain methods like kanbans and kaizens work within the whole lean system. By the same token you cant have a lean system if you don't have kaizens or kanbans.

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Sep 29, 2010

SMED Kaizen - Rapid Improvement in few Days!

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) is a lean kaizen event designed to reduce the changeover times between production runs. It's measured as the time from the last good product of the current production run to the first good product of the next run. Two different companies have used this SMED Kaizen to improve their business performance within the last month.

One is a molding company, where the changeover times on a molding machine averaged 8.8 hours before the kaizen. A team of 18 people attacked this problem. The team was subdivided into three groups:
a) A mold preparation team,
b) A quality assurance team, and
c) A scheduling team.

The results achieved on this kaizen were:
1. Reduction of mold preparation time from 8.8 hours to 4.2 hours,
2. Reduction of quality assurance time from 2.8 hours to 45 minutes, and
3. Scheduling changes to run products in a more logical sequence in smaller batch sizes.

The other is a medical devices company, where the changeover time on a packaging line averaged 18 minutes and there were approximately 30 changeovers per 24 hour day. A team of 18 people (coincidently the same number) was divided into three groups to attack this problem:
a) A TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) team,
b) A SMED team, and
c) A scheduling team.

One surprising discovery of the TPM team was that OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) on this particular packaging line was only 28.8%. This means the line was only producing good product 28.8% of the time it was scheduled. The largest loss of effectiveness was in minor stops and jams, averaging 38%.

The results achieved on this kaizen were:
1. Improve throughput in packaging by 30%,
2. Reduce the changeover time from 18 minutes to 9 minutes, and
3. Increase OEE from 28.8% to 37%.

Although #3 was a modest gain at best, it was determined to conduct a special TPM Kaizen as soon as possible on this packaging equipment to eventually achieve 85% OEE, which is world-class.

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