How to Implement Lean Six Sigma Projects

The methodology of lean six sigma is very useful at reducing the non-value added activities – the 7 Mudas out of any manufacturing process. However, this concept also finds its application across other industries as well such as healthcare, finance, IT, Sales and Marketing, defense, etc. After a firm decides to implement Lean Six Sigma in their projects. They first train their employees- many times by hiring an external consultant and sometimes by the senior and experienced members from the same firm who have learned the concept of Six Sigma on the job and have become field experts due to frequent exposure.

1. DMAIC: THE STRUCTURED APPROACH

The structured framework of implementing the Lean Six Sigma concepts goes into 5 phases, namely Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control. To use the six sigma tool to solve a problem, the firm first has to define that problem. This activity is carried out in the define stage and it is in this phase that a Lean Six Sigma team is formed with members from different departments. The team then identifies the ‘voice of the customer’ and recognizes it in terms of engineering parameters. A more organized and effective way to do it is to create a Project Charter. The purpose of a project charter is to set expectations that are agreed upon by the team members and the sponsors. As the project progresses, there are times when the team might deviate from the milestones set for achieving the required goals. In such a scenario, the Project charter helps in keeping the team’s focus on the goal, ensures that the goals the team members are trying to achieve are aligned with the goals of the business, and facilitates open dialogue.

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2. THE KAIZEN AND SIX SIGMA

Kaizen is a Japanese corporate philosophy that roughly translates to “change for the better” in English. The improvement of systems, programs, and people, according to the kaizen principle, is a continual, ongoing activity. Employees at all levels of manufacturing and service businesses are involved in the idea, which aims to foster a culture of continuous improvement and optimization. A kaizen blitz, also known as a kaizen event or kaizen activity, is a process improvement exercise completed in a short period of time by a group of employees. Brainstorming, process mapping, value stream mapping, interviewing, check sheets, run charts, histograms, and Pareto charts are some of the improvement techniques used in Kaizen. The goal is to create solutions that are rapid, easy, and long-lasting.

3. KAIZAN DMAIC: THE COMBINED APPROACH TO SIX SIGMA PROJECTS

Kaizen events can occur independently or can be incorporated with the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC approach. Kaizen event may come at any stage of Six Sigma implementation but it is generally performed at the Improvement stage. The Kaizen described below is a 4 weeks event. The amount of training needed for such an event depends upon the complexity of the problem statement and the hands-on experience of the team members in their respective fields.

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Time frame

Description

Preparation: Define

Define the scope and objectives of the kaizen project. Select the type of Kaizen training required for the team according to the previous experience of the team members. Agree upon a project charter, which will serve both as the kaizen plan and as the progress tracker of different milestones. Collect and refer to any previous and relevant subject material. Secure logistics and create a work breakdown structure for the coming 4 stages.

Week 1: Measure

An introductory meeting to brief the team about the purpose of this activity must be conducted. Keep giving the kaizen training, as applicable. A Q&A session for resolving doubts or queries about the project charter and plan must be followed. Once the team has been briefed and trained, the team leader should lead the team to begin the Measure phase by observing the process, conducting interviews with the process owners, and collecting relevant data. To ensure that the repeatability and reproducibility of the measuring instruments and the QA team are consistent and well under the tolerance, the Kaizen team should perform a measuring system analysis (MSA) and obtain additional baseline data as necessary.

Week 2: Analyse

Once all the relevant data has been collected, the team must begin the Analyse phase (root cause analysis) to identify and verify the root causes of the target problem of the kaizen project. The knowledge of a few statistical tools such as SPC, FMEA, VSM, and visual factory comes in handy during this phase as these tools help us in deriving conclusions.

Week 3: Improve

Move into Improve phase to find and implement solutions.

Week 4: Control

Move into the Control phase. The statistical tools such as control charts help in controlling the process whenever it deviates from its performance. The team should then prepare real-life applicable methods (error proofing, visual controls, control plans, standard operating procedures, training, etc.) to sustain the gains. After the procedures have been installed, the team then checks for all the project milestones indicated in the project charter. Prepare and deliver final results presentation to top management.

Follow-up

In the follow-up phase, the project leader helps to complete the implementation and to escalate issues wherever needed. After the solutions have been implemented, the team then works for putting such actions into place that’ll then transform the work culture of the organization.

 

Kaizen events can serve as a powerful tool and an integral part of an organization’s overall improvement strategy. When performed with the lean six sigma approach, they can deliver quick sustainable improvements while reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction.