Comment by Jennifer Clark, Director of Operations, Spec-Rite Diesigns.
Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, is a combination of two distinct business management techniques: Lean and Six Sigma. And while they are each key components of the other, they are not the same thing. Lean is a strategy that focuses on eliminating waste, variation, and non-value-added tasks. It is a cultural commitment of continuous improvement and customer focus through the optimization of both information and material flow.
Six Sigma is undertaken only after a lean commitment has been implemented, and is a data driven approach to solving complex business problems. It uses a methodical five phase approach (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) to help understand the variables that affect a process in order to better optimize it.
LSS practices have beenimplemented by leadingcompanies all over the world,resulting in savings of millions ofdollars in many cases. Theseguidelines and principles can beused by any business to optimizeand streamline internalprocesses and communication.Also, these benefits are notlimited just to businesses. Thereare municipal governments thathave implemented the LSSculture and also realized millionsin annual savings through thesesame optimizations. Literally anycost center can benefit from LSSprovided there is commitmentand buy-in throughout every level of the organization.
By embracing the methodology that is critical to thesuccess of LSS, an organization needs to make a totalcommitment to a culture of continuous improvement andworkflow optimization. Implementation of successful LSS programs result in increased efficiency, higher quality andbetter customer service from any organization willing tomake that commitment. It can further be an integral partof instilling a team culture where everyone involved in theprocess is empowered to take ownership in every aspect ofthe operation, whether it relates directly to their dailyresponsibilities or not.
Key to realizing the benefits of LSS is utilizing andintegrating individuals highly trained in the process, andwho have attained a certification referred to as a Lean SixSigma Black Belt. An LSS Black Belt must go throughrigorous training in planning, development, project teammanagement, measurement systems analysis,organizational leadership and communication strategy inorder to achieve their certification, of which there areseveral levels.
The LSS Master Black Belt certification is earned by aperson who has achieved the highest degree of trainingand qualification in the LSS process. These individualsincorporate their training and certification to objectively evaluate processes and identify areas in need ofimprovement. As a company or organization movesforward with the execution of these projects, it willcontinually become more efficient in its use of time andresources.
A primary benefit of implementing the LSS methodologyfor an organization is increased efficiency on many levels.LSS Master Black Belts are trained to analyze each processwithin a workflow for weaknesses that can be mitigated oreliminated to achieve maximum efficiency in terms of timeand resource allocation. LSS integration can be simplyexplained as the whole being the sum of its parts, so eachpart needs to operate at its fullest potential to attain themost efficient results. Organizations that successfullyimplement LSS can expect to achieve measurableincreased efficiencies in processes both large and small.
In addition to making processes more efficient, LSSprograms focus on simultaneously achieving the highestlevel of quality. This is accomplished by prioritizing areasof the operation such as quality control standards andpractices, inventory control, production scheduling andelimination of quality issues in literally all operationalprocesses.By identifying the existing standards associated with theseareas, suggesting practical methods of improvement andempowering each employee to own these improvements,the LSS methodology can help any organization achieve ahigher level of quality in their products, processes,communications and services.
Better Customer Service
By increasing the efficiency of the processes and thequality of the output, the LSS methodology will havealready achieved a portion of the customer serviceformula. However, accurate man-hour reporting,production scheduling, bar coding and reducing time tomeet customer requirements are also aspects of the LSSprocess primarily focused on delivering a better experience for the customer. By optimizing these areas of theproduction process, LSS Master Black Belts will enabletheir employers to achieve top-level customer service.
A Safer Workplace
While possibly not the most obvious benefit of successfulLSS implementation, simply by nature of the culturalcommitment and employee ownership that are integralcomponents to LSS integration, not to mention the acrossthe-board process improvements, the net result is asignificantly safer workplace. That is a benefit not only toinstilling the team culture referred to above, but it goesright to the bottom line as well.
The implementation of an LSS program most oftenrepresents a complete cultural shift in the way anorganization thinks and operates. There are several keyaspects of the LSS methodology that organizations mustunderstand before committing to this program.
LSS programs are dynamic processes and need to becontinuously and objectively reviewed for opportunities toimprove. LSS is a continuous cycle of process creation,process management and process improvement. Itrequires vigilance on behalf of the organization and theacknowledgement that LSS is not a task, but a mindsetthat must be embraced by the entire company to besuccessful. If this program is embraced with a fullunderstanding of these points, any company can besuccessful in improving their efficiency, quality andcustomer service.
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