The House of High Quality Articles for Everyone in the World

Oct 27, 2011

The Principles of Lean Six Sigma

When a company needs a Lean Six Sigma Professional, they may be having a problem with low job satisfaction among employees, creating a low morale and poor work production as a result. They may need to streamline their company processes, reducing and eliminating much of what they were doing wrong.

The Six Sigma professionals would then use these methods to help them eliminate waste and streamline their processes while improving their output quality.

The training involved in learning the lean methods will provide a good overview of the tools that are used and how to apply them to Six Sigma projects. Some of these tools include process maps, affinity diagrams and value stream mapping. This process can be applied to any business or organization, no matter the size or the type of industry. Whether the business in question is in the manufacturing industry or it is a service provider, the processes can be used to streamline the procedures used within the company.

In lean Six Sigma, there are five principles that are used:

• The first of these is the law of the market. This signifies that the customer is always to be put first. The company must implement this immediately and make sure that all employees adhere to it. The company wants the employees to understand that without the customers, there would be no business.
• The second of these principles is the law of flexibility. If a process is easily maneuverable, it is easier to work with. A method of business that cannot be changed for any reason can cause problems.
• The third principle is the law of focus. This is meant to keep the focus on the problems within the company and not the entire company itself. Executives and employees should concentrate on just the portions of the company that are causing problems and fixing those problems, dismissing distractions by other areas of the business that are not having problems.
• The fourth principle is the law of velocity. This means that if a process has many, many details that have to be performed, it may be slowing down the process. The work put into the process should be proportional to the results the company sees.
• The fifth principle in Lean Six Sigma is the law of complexity. Simply put, keep it simple. When a process is complex and difficult, it may have elements that are not necessary. More complexity does not necessarily mean more valuable or more important. In fact, it could mean just the opposite.

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Oct 24, 2011

Six Sigma Roadblocks

There are many issues to deal with when it comes to Six Sigma Roadblocks including issue of speaking to the employees about change; otherwise known as change management. Implementing this type of management methodology can result in resentment from those who have been on the job for a long period of time.

This resentment will lead to resistance from employees. Many times, change is hard for people to accept especially when they have grown used to one way of doing things.

If the Six Sigma process and it's goals and benefits are not properly explained to the employees, they will do everything in their power to work against the change. The process is much more difficult without cooperation from everyone, so this is a major roadblock that must be addressed and overcome when considering Six Sigma Implementation for your business.

This entire methodology is centered on finding flaws in a business system and correcting them in order to produce a high quality product using as little space and time as can possibly be managed. The processes used by this methodology to define a roadblock can be changed to fit any type of business or industry. That is why the program is so unique and popular among businesses.

When learning to identify problems within a production system, it is important that every detail be accounted for. This means even the slightest problem that could occur right down to the very last sticker that is used must be defined. It is important to discover every issue that could result in a quality concern. Then, you will develop a system of rating the various issues to be worked on in priority order along with the help of some very special Six Sigma Tools.

Once the various issues are determined and prioritized, the Six Sigma Team can begin to decide on the best ways to resolve the problems and arrange for the production lines to provide the maximum efficiency and best possible quality output. As the system is streamlined, the progress can be charted and monitored for improvement in the various areas.

Many different industries today are using Six Sigma Training and Certification to produce better products, while saving money and time as well as simultaneously improving customer satisfaction. Using a system that tracks the progress of improvement and quality throughout the industry tends to cause any business to thrive overall.

With any type of business change of this nature, there will be many problems or roadblocks that will need to be dealt with along the way. In addition to lack of cooperation from various areas, there will be issues with products that will need to be worked through. Eventually, however, all of the issues with the program itself will be worked out and the savings can begin.

Initially, upon Six Sigma Implementation, there might be an increase in costs as the necessary tools and changes are made to the production line. These initial costs should be looked at as an investment, because they cause the process to run much more smoothly, thus, creating a better quality product and an even bigger eventual cost savings. Although there are issues, using the process of identifying issues with Six Sigma will prove to be a wise investment once all roadblocks have been dealt with.

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Oct 17, 2011

How to Preparation for Lean Manufacturing

It seems that every manufacturing company is now trying to adapt the Lean Philosophy, invented and mastered by Toyota Corporation. Many companies don't completely understand the true meaning of Lean Manufacturing. Lean Manufacturing, simply put, is "continuously improving your processes to eliminate waste". This sounds simple, but many companies will fail to become truly Lean because they don't have an environment to implement and maintain Lean.

Most people believe Lean is just a set of tools (One Piece Flow, JIT, Kan-Ban, 5S, Six-Sigma, Kaizen Teams, Push / Pull Systems, etc.) that can be used to cut waste. However, Lean is not only a set of tools, it is a culture. If a company has severe issues with employee turnover, employee morale, product quality, product delivery, equipment uptime, plant housekeeping, etc., it will be extremely difficult to shift the employees to a new way of thinking and conducting business. In other words, if your employees are in constant fire fighting mode, they will not be able to properly implement Lean.

Fix the obvious problems first

To prepare for Lean, you must "fix the obvious problems first". Many times employers will know exactly what the problems and solutions are. They just don't have the time, resources, or incentive to fix them. If you have an automobile that is constantly breaking down because of a bad transmission, then fix it! Repair or replace the transmission. Do not implement a Lean Strategy to fix the car. Just fix it. Lean is not used to fix broken processes. Lean is used to continuously improve working processes to eliminate waste. When all the obvious problems are fixed on that vehicle, it's then time to fine tune it to become more efficient. It's time to look at ways to cut waste (cost) to ultimately save money!

A Word about Six-Sigma

Some companies now mandate that Six-Sigma be used to fix problems. Unfortunately, Six-Sigma isn't always used correctly. Six-Sigma is intended to solve complex problems that have numerous variables that cause variation in a process, which ultimately cause defects. Six-Sigma uses statistics to systematically identify what the different variables are doing in the process and points to potential solutions. It eliminates guessing as to what's causing the variations. Again, fix the obvious problems first. Many problems don't have to be analyzed to detect solutions. In many instances, the solutions are obvious: i.e., If the light bulb is blown, then, change the light bulb.

Value Your People

Society generally refers to companies as entities. We speak of IBM, GM, and Microsoft as entities; however, they are really groups of people. GM doesn't build cars, the employees of GM build cars.

To develop that culture as successfully as Toyota Corporation has, companies must first realize that they have to develop, nurture and value their employees. In order to build a culture of people wanting to continuously improve, people have to be engaged in their jobs. They have to feel valued by the company. They have to feel they are noticed and rewarded for their contributions. Ultimately, the company has to value having low employee turnover to create consistency. A company with high employee turnover cannot maintain a successful Lean environment.

To foster this type of environment in today's business world isn't easy. There is low loyalty between U.S. companies and their employees for a variety of reasons. Some companies look at employees as an expense rather that an asset that can be easily cut. If employees of a company do not feel the company values them, they will find other jobs. With today's business world, it's difficult to implement a long term Lean strategy. Yes, a company can dictate to it's employees to use Lean tools to cut waste, however, to sustain that ideology long term require an engaged, loyal, consistent, work force.

Develop and Retain Strong Leaders

Good managers are coaches, poor managers are dictators. A good manager will believe in the team concept where every member of the team is important and his/her opinions are valued. A good manager will value his/her employees and realize that for him/her to be successful, the team has to be successful. A poor manger will dictate to his/her employees, which creates havoc! A good, efficient, business unit with high employee morale will fall apart within weeks if a poor manager has taken over. Poor managers fail because they don't have strong leadership skills. They lack people skills, communication skills, decision making skills, and delegation skills necessary to develop and maintain effective teams. A strong leader must sell the Lean Strategy and realize that ultimately the employees as a team are the ones to make it happen.

Think and act World Class (even if not there yet!)

To become Lean is to become World Class. When walking into a facility that has an unclean, unorganized work environment, one knows he/she haven't walked into a World Class facility. There is no need to look at the productivity numbers to determine whether or not the facility is World Class. If a plant is World Class, it looks World Class as soon as you walk into the door.

A Lean facility is thoroughly organized. Every process is clearly defined via standards. Production is operated via very clear Visual Management. A true World Class facility has the discipline to sustain organization. Outside auditors, potential customers and employees will be turned off if the work environment isn't clean and organized. Keeping a work area clean and organized is simple; however, many companies overlook this simple task.

Make Decisions Based on Logic and Not Politics

Most of the time decisions made senior management are implemented without questioning regardless if the decisions make sense or not. Too many times, decisions are made by senior management without them fully understanding the process and issues. Lower-level managers ultimately implement ideas and strategies that are not based on logic but politics. They will implement ideas even if they themselves do not believe in them. This can create numerous problems which makes implementing Lean Strategies difficult.

Decisions should be made throughout the organization through effective communication. Senior management should not just mandate, but sell their ideas and be open to questioning and suggestions from lower-level managers. Senior management should fully understand the issues and processes by effectively communicating with the managers at the different levels. Major decisions whenever possible should be made as a team vs. an individual.

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Quality Assurance vs Quality Control

Are there any Difference Between Quality Control and Quality Assurance?
Most people use the two terms Quality Control and Quality Assurance equivalently to refer to the same concept. However both the terms are different in meaning as well as purpose.

It is actually very easy to define and explain both the terms.

Let us start by looking at the definitions of Quality Assurance and Quality control as per various standard bodies.

QA is defined as " The planned and systematic activities implemented in a quality system so that quality requirements for a product or service will be fulfilled. "

QC is defined as " The observation techniques and activities used to fulfill requirements for quality."

Clearly, there are marked differences between Quality Assurance and Quality Control.

The most notable difference between quality assurance and quality control is that while QC is product oriented, QA is process oriented.

Quality control focuses more on failure detection. It comprises various methods, systems and strategies to decide certain areas which are below the expectations and standards of the company to its products and services.

On the other hand, Quality assurance pertains to the processes and rules which aim to foresee any potential failure that may occur to prevent this from happening even before it happens.

Another differentiation between QA and QC is that while Quality assurance makes sure that what you are doing are right things in the right way while QC ensures that the results of what you have done are as per your expectations.

QA is a proactive function, therefore a quality assurance program delivers a higher quality of work.

QC is concerned with checking that the work is done correctly, and is compliant. It focuses on correcting deviations after the work has been done. Or we can say, Quality control activities acts as corrective measures.

The difference between QA and QC is also one of power and control. QC is under control of development while QA controls development.

It is often found that while some companies concentrate more on QC, other focuses mainly on assurance of quality. For efficient running and quality products, both these processes must subject to proper evaluation and management.

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