Every industry is subject to evolutions for one very reason -- with stagnancy comes redundancy. This creates the necessity of improvement and advancements, despite the visible competence of current approaches, a revolution is needed every once in a while.
Lean Six Sigma is a systematic approach that was born out of this need for a revolution in various industries in the early 2000s. It draws on the two highly optimized methodologies that form its name -- six sigma and lean manufacturing -- to create a robust approach that has changed the face of manufacturing processes across the globe, so much so, that about 35% of the companies listed in Forbes 500 rely on this approach for performance enhancement. To understand the revolutionizing factors underlying the approach, let’s first break down and understand the components.
Six Sigma Approach
Later parts of the previous century were when the need was first felt to streamlining different businesses process to improve quality. Originating from the standard deviation, sigma, this approach intended to deviate from the conventional by using a set of specialized tools and techniques to uplift the overall process quality and results. Ever since its inception to reach the goals of Motorolla in 1980, the eminence of the approach shot up as the ultimate cost saver and quality optimizer.
Six sigma approach works on various principles that intersect towards a common goal -- reducing the probability of errors and improving the percentage of success. One of the key principles in the converging strategies to the approach was waste elimination -- the very crux of lean manufacturing and later, the scope that gave room to the integration of the two.
The more ancient of the two, lean manufacturing can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century as the industrial age cracked. It was conceived as an effective tool that emphasizes improving the bottom line of the business to achieve customer satisfaction by Japanese engineers and was first used for the Toyota Production Systems. With a principal focus on waste elimination, lean manufacturing outlines eight kinds of
wastes that need to be cornered and thrown out to improve manufacturing productivity. These are defects, unreasonable waiting, un-utilized talent, overproduction, transportation, motion, inventory, and extra processing. In compliment, the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control) is at the heart of the six sigma approach.
Lean Six Sigma: The Revolutionizing Principles
Despite the ultimate all-comprising applications of this approach in the manufacturing and supply chain segments, Lean Six Sigma’s expansive scope is optimum enough for enhancing all forms of business processes.
In manufacturing, the improvisation basics of six sigma meet the elimination principles of lean to form a comprehensive lean six sigma manufacturing approach that guarantees to achieve operational, functional, and service prowess. The ensuing popularity can be credited to the seven revolutionizing tenets:
1. Shifting Focus On The Customer
Lean six sigma approach has identified the potential of focusing on the customer’s requirements. Understanding not only what they need but also where the need is coming from plays a pivotal role in adapting and modifying processes and finally the product to meet their needs. The most minor changes at this point make a difference to the customer meanwhile also inspiring major evolutionary changes to the process.
2. Curating A Customized Value Stream
A value stream is a process followed to reach the final deliverables. Now that you have the focus on your customer, before looking at the final product, understanding the process behind manufacturing it is integral to possible improvements. Scrutinizing every single step right from purchasing, assembling, quality assurance to the distribution activities.
3. Eliminating, Erasing, Eradicating The Waste
The most fundamental tenet to the lean six sigma approach, identifying opportunities for defects, eliminating any type of waste in terms of time, resources, energy, or money, erasing non-value adding activities from the overall process frameworks, and eradicating the scope of unutilized potential is at the core of this approach and one of the reasons why it accelerates growth in the industry.
4. Embracing Improvizations
Like any process in manufacturing and supply chain, six sigma is an iterative process. It’s common knowledge that the greater number of times one goes through a process, the more room for improvements is discovered. Creating a culture that is flexible and open to changes, adaptation, and modifications are at the core of lean six sigma manufacturing revolution.
5. Reducing Variations
Variation refers to deviation or fluctuation from customer expectations or requirement. Similar to the first principle, this tenet finds its basis in identifying any differences or gaps that need filling and bridges the distance to ensure consistency in the expectations and delivery.
6. Trusting The Numbers
Trusting intuitive technologies rather than intuitions is a principle in lean six sigma approach. The basis of every decision should be numbers, statistics, and hard facts that set trends and help to predict future trends. Trusting numbers to facilitate process enhancement has fuelled the progress of industries in all sectors.
7. Maintaining Free-Flow Of Communication
A chain of command is of utmost importance to ensure efficient management and optimization of systems. However, clear and effective communication, by integrating the opinions of employees from all hierarchies and giving breathing space to smooth communication, upstream and downstream, empowers the chain.
Lean Six Sigma approach is a proficient collaboration of all of these tenets, one that has been instrumental in creating path-breaking opportunities for further advancement and revolutions.
Revolution End Results: Lean Six Sigma And Industry 4.0
Since lean six sigma is a smarter, highly potent, and operative approach to attain greater success with the processes at hand, it has been rising in value in Industry 4.0. The fourth industrial revolution has given rise to a manufacturing environment that promotes the use of information systems integrated with technologies like IoT and AI.
Technological magnificence of Industry 4.0 broadens the horizons and scope of the applications and development of Lean Six Sigma manufacturing, thereby proving that it has a long way to go.
If you are interested in learning more about the most efficacious tool of manufacturing, do comment your queries in the comments section!