Integrating six sigma and the lean manufacturing process

Integrating Six Sigma and the Lean Manufacturing Process

The lean manufacturing process and six sigma should be used together in order to have the most effect in the bottom line of a business. By combining resources and integrating programs, more can be accomplished with less expenditure of time and money.
Are they competitors?
Six sigma consultants sometimes tend to have an elitist strain, with black belt experts poring over numbers and engaging in long term projects that can be quite far removed from the shop floor. Many lean manufacturing programs, such as those centered on Kaizen events, place an emphasis on teamwork. A recent book, “The Perfect Engine,” by Anand Sharma and Patricia E. Moody, highlights the benefits of joining forces in a sort of Lean-Six Sigma approach.
When most companies begin their lean manufacturing process, they begin with programs such as 5S, and Kaizen blitzes in order to reduce waste. Once these wastes were eliminated, a need is revealed to address the underlying problem. The need to some kind of measurable, statistical method soon becomes apparent and this is where the marriage of lean and six sigma can make such a difference.
How does it help to join together?
By combining methods, results are improved as baseline levels of performance are established. Now statistical tools can be used to ensure the greatest impact.
Now that the lean manufacturing process has revealed the shortcomings, Six sigma offers a way to solve the problems in a sequential, procedural manner. By using the DMAIC cycle (design, measure, analyze, improve, and control), realistic solutions to chronic problems can be applied.
In this way, the root cause of the problem is much less likely to be overlooked, and long term, ongoing solutions can be logically applied and progress measured.
One needs the other
If you just reduce waste you may not ever get to the underlying cause, and if you just do Six sigma, you may never maximize the full potential of your organization. Six sigma really needs lean to enable it to perform optimally.
One of the characteristics of six sigma is it’s ability to link programs together so they work in as a flow, rather than disconnected, stand alone tools.
Top management needs to be involved
Six sigma black belts must not be allowed to engage in months long programs that will not have any impact on the bottom line of your company. It can and does happen that vast amounts of time and money are spent on well-meaning programs that just don’t touch the bottom line.
On the other hand, chronic, deep seated problems cannot be solved by intuitive, short-term 5S and Kaizen programs.
By having top management working to put these two complimentary programs on the same team, you operations will run more efficiently and your profits will increase.

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