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Author: tjacowski

Any system invented or developed for improving a process or product is not foolproof. A new principle or system is like a trickling stream which, in the course of its evolutionary journey, is either joined by a number of other contributories or it itself ends up contributing to a bigger stream of thought and system. The synergy produced by this phenomenon benefits innumerable individuals and organizations.

The integration of Lean management tools and Six Sigma produces a synergy that can work wonders for many companies.

In order to achieve the integration with Six Sigma it is imperative that Lean management tools are incorporated with caution and wisdom. If not done properly, it can cause considerable damage.

Recent experiments in a business unit of a Fortune 10 company found five Lean tools and principles that can be safely introduced into a Six Sigma framework.

-Cause-and-Effect Diagram or Ishikawa and 5 Whys: When concrete statistical data is not available in the Analyze phase, it becomes difficult to identify the root causes of a problem.

On such occasions, applying 5 whys in conjunction with the cause and effect diagram can make the job easier. It is a visual tool to logically organize possible causes of a problem area.

-Takt Time: The German word "Takt" meaning 'beatᆻ, is the time it takes to finish a project to the fulfillment of customers' demands. During the Analyze phase, the cycle times can be compared to current SLAs (Service Legal Agreements) for processes that involve cycle times.

In the event of a mismatch exceeding tolerance levels, improvements will be needed for matching the cycle time with the takt time.

-Value Stream Mapping: During the Analyze phase, a value stream map helps categorize value enabling, value adding and non-value adding activities. The focus is on identifying and eliminating the non-value added activities in each process step, leading to the reduction in the waiting period between consecutive steps wherever possible.

The process becomes compact, which is beneficial in the process improvement projects that are aimed at reduction of variation. Value stream mapping can be made a part of a Kaizen cycle that is included in the Analyze and Improve phases.

-Mistake-Proofing or Poka Yoke: This Japanese phrase, meaning mistake proofing, can be used to fine tune process steps. It is also useful when creating a new system with DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify).

The Pareto analysis and Ishikawa chart bring out the problems of the current process. During the Improve and Design phases, ways for error elimination can be investigated and the process improved or redesigned in its entirety.

For example, in a software system where data needs to be entered, if there are two options such as 'end' and 'quit' which seem similar in utility, there can be mouse-over text added, specifying the utility of each option in clear terms.

Heijunka Or Load Balancing: This system of production design is aimed at providing a more even and consistent flow of process work. In the Design phase, the principle can be used to eliminate the bottlenecks that may have been identified in the Analyze phase.

Load balancing can be used to introduce a level load balance in the system that introduces push systems to eliminate bottlenecks. Load balancing helps reduce inventory as well.

A workout can be undertaken to design a roadmap for the integration of lean and Six Sigma and include the lean tools and principles into the system. This will help improve the tangible benefits and turnaround time for improvement projects.

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About the Author

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.


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