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Oct 24, 2014

The Continuous Improvement Team's Role in Lean Implementation

How do Continuous Improvement teams fit in with your Lean initiatives? Improvement teams were introduced as quality circles more than twenty-five years ago. Over time they started to fall into disfavor as companies became doubtful about the amount of effort required coach cross-functional teams to success. Hard work or not, improvement teams are still one of the most powerful tools an organization can use to ensure that people stay firmly focused on meeting customer needs and business goals. Teams that bring employees together from various departments to solve problems and make improvements are one of the best ways to fight 'silo' mentality. Improved communication, mutual respect and shared responsibility for goal achievement are proven results from properly building and mentoring Continuous Improvement teams. Lean initiatives can and should piggyback on these Continuous Improvement teams and similarly, Continuous Improvement or Six Sigma teams should use their Lean Future State Implementation Plan to determine the projects they will work on. These Future State plans are developed for bottom line Value Stream improvement and are both a road map and baseline measure of return for Lean implementation. Many companies have found that these plans make an excellent 'to do' map for Continuous Improvement and Six Sigma work as well. When Continuous Improvement teams act in isolation from Lean initiatives, companies often find they are besieged by a series of 'point' improvements rather than thoroughly reasoned, systemic change. While point improvements can make one area better, and appear solid on paper, they frequently fail to have any sustainable impact on the organization's bottom line. Point improvements tend to pass waste and inefficiencies from one area to another without solving the root cause of the problem for the system as a whole. We call the use of point improvements 'Exciting Chaos'. Everyone involved feels like they are contributing but the effect is isolated to one department, cell, or person without being directly connected to the entire 'system'. The results are minimal and much less than expected. When organizations complain about ineffective Continuous Improvement teams, it's usually because of this 'point' improvement focus. Instead, it is systemic work that makes sustainable end-to-end Lean improvements. The Lean test for correct systemic method is whether you get lasting positive and competitive customer impact as well as dramatic improvements to bottom line profitability. In one well-known business, the company invested a great deal of money in getting faster processing equipment. The result: work was passed on to the next processing step 30% faster, however the work sat idle 30% longer in front of that next step. If the company had done a proper Value Stream Map analysis, they would have discovered there were other areas of opportunity to work on and that the correct sequence of improvement steps was critical. They would have had a system-focused Implementation Plan defining what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, and who needed to be involved. Their resources would have been utilized more effectively and the improvements would be measurable from end-to-end (bottom line and customer). Continuous Improvement teams generally work on problems that are highly visible and clearly need to be fixed. The right Lean questions for them to ask are: "Which problem comes first? Which problem will have the most systemic bottom line return for our efforts? Which problem will add the most value for the customer?" When we complete the Lean Future State of a Value Stream, we produce a properly designed Lean Implementation Plan. It has been prioritized to give the company maximum results. If the improvement teams aren't working on problems from that implementation plan then the Continuous Improvement approach must be changed. Tying improvement projects to the Lean Implementation Plan has additional benefits. People on the Improvement Teams will clearly understand the Lean business strategy and direction of the company. Rather than working on incremental problems, often at the cell or department level, they work from the Future State plan and gain broader, more company-wide support. Continuous Improvement teams are seen as playing an important role in transforming the company into a Lean Enterprise. This brings increased pride of accomplishment and sense of purpose to the team, which in turn, helps them produce sustainable changes. Everyone is now involved in Lean implementation and this keeps improvement energies moving forward without the need to push. This is the environment that is so characteristic of the best and most competitive organizations. In companies where the improvement teams are not part of the Value Stream improvement process, another serious problem occurs. There is usually a struggle and competition for resources and attention. Lack of resources is a major stumbling block for companies implementing Lean. By keeping Lean Future State Implementation and Continuous Improvement teams separate, companies lose the advantage of skilled resources pooled to quickly and efficiently achieve their Future State. Continuous Improvement teams have skills needed to solve problems properly and conduct meetings aimed at making improvements. If they operate outside of the Value Stream, they are probably going to make point improvements that will most likely lead to frustrating and weak return. The solution is to make your Continuous Improvement teams and Lean Future State Implementation teams one and the same. Train your Continuous Improvement people on Lean methods and coach them to think system-wide rather than incrementally for their Lean problem solving. Continuous Improvement teams should be an integral part of the Lean Value Stream initiatives. They will have to make some adjustments in the process, but the result will be changes that help the company systemically improve processes, maximize value to the customer, and dramatically improve the bottom line.
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Sep 20, 2014

The Power of SMED

1. What is Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)? Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) is a simple but powerful Lean technique for reducing waste in a manufacturing process. It is a systematic approach that enables organizations to dramatically reduce set-up time or changeover time. It provides a rapid and efficient way of changing the machine set-up in a manufacturing process from one product to another. 2. Why is the SMED important to improving manufacturing flexibility? SMED reduces the set-up time. Long set-up time resulted in a reduced number of set-ups, larger batch sizes and larger buffering work-in-process inventories and poor process flow and performance. Since set-up activities add no marketable form, fit, or function to the product, they are by definition non-value adding. By reducing set-up time, more set-ups can be completed each day, batch size can be correspondingly reduced, flow can be significantly improved. All these improvement will help to improve manufacturing flexibility. 3. What is the history of Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) method? Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) method was pioneered by Mr. Shigeo Shingo since 1950 in Japan, but only became popular to the other part of the world in 1980s. 4. What are the 4 stages of Set-up Reduction? Stage 1. Ensure that external setup actions are performed while the machine is still running, Stage 2. Separate external and internal setup actions, ensure that the parts all function and implement efficient ways of transporting the die and other parts, Stage 3. Convert internal setup actions to external, Stage 4. Improve all setup actions. 5. What is the definition of Internal and External activities? Internal activities are those that can only be performed when the process is stopped, while external activities can be done while the last batch is being produced, or once the next batch has started. Examples of external activities include pre-heating of raw material and preparation of tools before the machine stops. 6. What is the best way to see immediate results when implementing SMED technique? One of the best ways to see immediate result of the technique is to perform a kaizen event using SMED technique on a pilot machine. The kaizen event usually takes about 3 to 5 days and will repeat the 4 stages of SMED over several iterations. A good rule of thumb is to target 50% improvement for each iteration, and repeat the process until the target is achieved. 7. How can SMED helps in Lean implementation? Most people's initial reaction to the quantum improvement brought about by SMED is disbelieved, followed by total acceptance and commitment to Lean transformation. So if you need to gain some ground support and buy-in in your Lean implementation, consider a pilot project on SMED for a good head start!
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Sep 8, 2014

Why You Want to be a Six Sigma Master Black Belt ?

The Sigma level of a process describes the performance of a process or product characteristic when compared to a customer specification. A Six Sigma process exhibits no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Very few business processes achieve this level of performance and consequently most organizations endure very high costs and poor quality. Most company processes produce in excess of 6000 (approximately Four Sigma or less) defects per million opportunities which is often simply not good enough for today's competitive environment where customer demands increase exponentially. Achieving a Six Sigma level of performance requires that a systematic customer focused methodology and disciplined project selection and execution framework be deployed throughout your company. To achieve such a deployment people at all levels of the organization must be trained in Six Sigma. Six Sigma identifies Five Key Roles for its successful implementation. These are Executives, Champions, the Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Six Sigma Black Belts, and Six Sigma Green Belts. While all these roles are important the Six Sigma Master Black Belt plays a pivotal role in your companies Six Sigma deployment. A Six Sigma Master Black Belt will coach managers, partner with Champions and guide Black Belts and Green Belts as they work to complete their projects. Master Black Belts possess a unique combination of soft (people) skills and hard (technical) skills. Successful Six Sigma Master Black Belts are your future business leaders. They have advanced knowledge and experience applying Lean, Six-Sigma and Lean-Sigma methods and tools. They can help your company fully internalize your Lean Sigma Deployment and reduce or remove your dependence on outside consultants and suppliers. They consistently solve your toughest business problems. They are able to share their expertise effectively with others and generate infectious excitement around your Lean Six Sigma program. Six Sigma Master Black Belts also facilitate project selection and project reviews. They mentor, teach, coach and lead Black Belts and Green Belts to successful project completion. They consistently deliver exceptional bottom line savings and top line growth for your company. Sigma Breakthrough Technologies offers a comprehensive and challenging Six Sigma Master Black Belt training program for the development of Six Sigma leaders. It is the benchmark for continuing development of Six Sigma training and deployment resources. SBTI's Six Sigma Master Black Belt core training program provides a powerful and unique combination of advanced hard and soft skills training. Early in a Six Sigma Lean deployment a great deal of a companies success results from "picking the low hanging fruit". The tools required to solve these problems typically include a Project Charter, Process Mapping, Cause and Effect Matrix, FMEA, a few simple statistical tools and a Control Plan. These projects are typically localized and are fairly easy to lead and manage. Once the "low hanging fruit" begins to dry up companies are left facing the big chronic business problems that have been plaguing them for years. These business problems often require a combination of advanced statistical skills and superior leadership and people skills. Fifty percent of SBTI's Six Sigma Master Black Belt program focuses on advanced statistical skills. These advanced skills enable the Six Sigma Master Black Belt and the belts they coach to deal with the complex data structures that often underlie a company's toughest business problems. But hard skills are only half the formula to success. The remaining 50% of the SBTI Six Sigma Master Black Belt program focuses on soft skills like managing the Six Sigma Lean program, leadership, leading change, communicating with passion and connection and teaching Six Sigma. The soft skills arm the Master Black Belts with the skills required to lead large multi-functional and/or global teams that are required to solve the tough problems. The combination of advanced hard and soft skills is the success formula that will enable your Master Black Belts to yield large financial returns. Based on a sample of 25 Master Black Belts trained and certified by Sigma Breakthrough Technologies the average savings per Six Sigma Master Black Belt personal project is $2,000,000. In addition, the average annual savings realized from the Black Belts and Green Belts who have been coached by SBTI's Master Black Belts is $7,000,000. This provides a hefty return on investment in excess of 200X for SBTI's Six Sigma Master Black Belt program!
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Sep 5, 2014

How to Ensure Quality Control on your Products ?

In the manufacturing, most suppliers strive for their own production of a level of quality control in every product category. There are a lot of different ways or measures to ensure the quality of interlining merchandises, ranging from the actual product performance itself to the physical composition components of the product. Though there are many ways to improve quality control. Here is a list of some ways that you can rely on to improve the control on quality of the interlining products. Firstly, of all the measures and ways to ensure the quality of interlining products, quality control tests and inspections are the greatest ones. Traditional interlining suppliers only have live inspector or testers to perform an audit of control on quality. However, pioneer interlining suppliers like Interlining Source also perform an automated inspection. The option of a live test or an automated inspection depends on the manufacturing process and the type of the products. For example, some types of woven interlining need a live test, while others require both. This is also true to non-woven interlining and fusible interlining. The testing procedure itself is also a key factor to determine the option. In addition, It is recommended the interlining supplier to train the individual employees within the company in quality inspection, rather than hiring a live inspector. This is already becoming a popular option for the interlining suppliers. Not only the company can save money on the additional head count, but also quality control training for the production workers will help improve the quality of the products. This is because that control on quality improvement has become an additional assigned task for the employees in the production lines for products like woven interlining, non-woven interlining and fusible interlining. By this training way, the company will not only get merchandises manufactured and quality improvement inspection done with the same employee at the same time, but also lower manufacturing costs. Secondly, another way you can apply to ensure quality control on interlining products is computer software. There are many leading software providers that help the interlining suppliers to manage control on product quality. Some software is very helpful in increasing the product performance. For example, leading software can track the quality of products to the RoHs Directive. Indeed, if the interlining suppliers need to adhere to restriction of the use of specific hazardous substances in their quality control testing, such software might be helpful in improving the control on product quality. A third way to ensure quality control of interlining products is using charts and graphs. By applying the charts and graphs, the interlining suppliers can map out whether their products like woven interlining, non-woven interlining and fusible interlining are meeting quality specifications. Generally these maps and charts are applied after the quality control inspection, test, or quality experiment is completed. By following comprehensive analyses and stringent observation on the charts and graphs, the interlining suppliers can get a betting idea on weakness point of the quality control on the products in interlining industry. All these ways are only a starting point to get an idea to ensure the quality control on interlining products such as woven interlining, non-woven interlining and fusible interlining. The pioneer supplier like Interlining Source is striving for the linkage between six sigma management and the interlining manufacturing. This is, perhaps, the current ultimate way to ensure control on the product quality.
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Apr 22, 2014

Lean Six Sigma vs Six Sigma

There is always a debate in the business world between lean six sigma and six sigma what is the best suitable process to implement when it comes to organizing processes pertaining to business and eliminating wastes. Both these systems have their supporters, claiming theirs to be the best. For clearly understanding the debate, it is essential that the differences between the two systems should be understood. Let us figure out and get deep into this: Six sigma fundamentals: The main objective of Six Sigma is the elimination of wastes and defects for ensuring that efficiency and quality improvement is possible by streamlining processes. Initially, even though it was designed for use in manufacturing, it was quickly identified that it can be useful when applied to all aspects of a business; right from introduction of product/service to providing the appropriate support to customers post sales process. Nowadays, it plays a critical role in leadership and large-scale implementation of this system will be helpful for a company to achieve measurable results. What is Lean Six Sigma? This methodology is also used by companies in production and other processes. The purpose behind its usage is cutting down any unwanted steps in the process of product manufacture in such a way that steps that can directly add value to the products. When the unwanted processes are removed, the production can be quickened as well. When it comes to the lean approach, the only ideal method for determining if something has value or not is to find out whether a customer will be ready to pay for it. Combining both: Both have the same objective. Both of them try to eliminate waste and aim at creating the most efficient system possible. But, different approaches are taken by them for the achievement of the goal. The important difference is that they discover the fundamental reason behind the waste in a different manner. It is believed by lean practitioners that wastes arise out of unwanted steps in the process of manufacturing. These unwanted steps do not even add value to the product. On the other hand, it is pointed out by Six Sigma supporters that wastes can differ based on the variations taking place within the processes. The fact is that both of them can be highly helpful and this is the reason behind many businesses using them and is suggesting their employees to join in six sigma green belt certification and black belt programs. Experts suggest that these training programs can be very helpful in quality management for businesses. They suggest the following reasons as to why this tool should be used. When the employees are provided with the appropriate training, they can make use of statistical data for ensuring optimum profits to their employers. The usage of data can also help in meeting the satisfaction of customers with respect to quality of products. It will also be possible for them to compare each and every process within the organization. This will ensure better assessment. The training can enable efficient use of working force and their abilities. Differences between lean six sigma and six sigma: Wastes can be eliminated when both the techniques are applied. The team of personnel trained under the lean technique can focus on improving the speed of the process by effectively reducing wastes. On the other hand, team working on six sigma can focus on eliminating chronic problems. Both these teams can implement DMAIC and DMADV in an efficient manner and prove to be valuable assets to their companies. To conclude based on comparison, it purely depends on the requirement of the employer whether they provide training to their employees in six sigma or lean. Even though, removal of unwanted wastes is essential, unwanted problems arising in the processes can create issues in the whole process itself. So, many employers prefer six sigma certification over lean training. In today's education scenario, since the online learning or e-learning became popular, professionals need not travel all the way to the venue of the training institutes and straight away pursue online training for this kind of course. Care should be taken whether the institute is accredited to ASQ examination body or not. Any registered institute is termed as ATO.
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Apr 21, 2014

How to Reduce Processing Time By 50% in your Office ?

Since 1973, family owned Dalco Metals of Walworth has been a premier supplier of flat-rolled steel-processing services to manufacturers throughout the Midwest. John Ring, executive vice president of Dalco, credits this long-term success to the company’s focus on the customer’s needs, close relationships with suppliers, and constant attention to quality in every manufacturing and business process. “About eight years ago, it seemed that everything pointed toward adopting lean manufacturing methods: a customer recommended we look into lean manufacturing, a classmate in my MBA program recommended 5S (a lean method), and I attended the Manufacturing. Matters! conference and participated in a Lean workshop presented by WMEP. 5S is not a static tool – Dalco Metals continually works at sustaining the changes they’ve made and to continually find new ways to make the process better, cleaner, faster and less expensive. “Dalco Metals is a great example of what it takes to generate the benefits of Lean manufacturing over the long-term,” said Thiltgen. “Many companies start lean programs, but lack the stamina and commitment it takes to fully realize the benefits gained when Lean is a way of life. Dalco Metals has tremendous executive support of Lean – it’s a part of everyone’s job.” Chuck Ferguson, inside sales and applications manager, agrees. “The ‘sustain’ part of the program is the toughest part. We are trying to ingrain the 5S mentality in everyone’s minds here at Dalco and I think it is working. As long as we have the support of the management, Dalco will continue to operate at peak efficiency.”
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