Category Archives: Six Sigma

Process Improvement Stages

by Douglas Wood

The End Game: Advanced Lean Tools

Deming talks about the feeling of importance

Diligent application of Six Sigma reduces process variation, and sets the stage for successful implementation of advanced Lean tools including total productive maintenance, drastic changeover or time reductions, Kanban inventory controls, single piece flow, demand pull, and agile production.

Prior to this end stage, early Lean tools establish consistent but variable processes. In the end stages, Six Sigma reduces process variation. This paves the way for advanced Lean tools to be applied effectively. The result is a world-class operation.

Of course, a company’s operational needs should guide where transitions take place. No two firms have the same needs, resources or environment. Often, those closest to the operation must make the choice of tools on the spot. The need for team and individual training is paramount, and while top leaders should be involved and supportive, those at operational levels must have good knowledge to more effectively make those instinctive choices and apply the tools correctly and quickly.

I have observed over years of experience that the choice of tool is less important than the approach and the guidance of leaders. I have seen the wrong tool used in the wrong way and the project succeed. I have also seen the right tool used the right way and the project fail. The difference between success and failure, in my opinion, is often the leadership and the engagement of all employees concerned.

Fortunately, the application of the tools of quality and process improvement by those doing the work task always results in an increase in engagement.