six sigma continuous improvement program

Lean, Six Sigma and 5 benefits of investing in a Continuous Improvement program

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Waste shows a lack of quality in manufacturing, and also an increased cost associated with the production of an item. Therefore, when waste is minimized, quality is optimized and the cost is reduced. Waste is often a necessary consequence of deviating from tested standards and also the product of adopting poor systems and substandard operating procedures.

There are two improvement methodologies that can be used to pinpoint waste and determine what techniques may be applicable for eliminating or at least minimizing waste. They are Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma.

• The Lean method centers on maximizing customer value while minimizing waste. The end result is the creation of a process that gives more value to customers with fewer resources consumed. This approach is essentially streamlining the process to eliminate quantifiable wastes.

• Six Sigma, on the other hand, emphasizes the stability of set systems and predictability of results and therefore focuses on the improvement, rather than on streamlining the processes. Six Sigma seeks to pinpoint the causes of waste and removing or fixing these causes by means of defining, measuring, analyzing, improving on and controlling established processes.

By combining the best of two worlds from Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing, a more effective improvement methodology may be achieved with them and realized with the following goals:

• Measurable, quantifiable financial results summarized in reliable financial returns.
• Reducing the adverse effects of deviation from set standards.
• Taking advantage of set solutions established as a result of day to day adjustments to new challenges.
• Reliable leadership standards with a clear and unobstructed vision of where the company needs to be.
• Implementing standardization – and removing the guesswork.

Continuous improvement – through the combination of Lean and Six Sigma methodology – will bring in a more organic, incremental improvement environment. These two methodologies complement each other because these are customer satisfaction driven while at the same time minding the bottom line of the income statement. Five key benefits of continuous improvement are:

1. Lean methodologies exact customer value at the lowest possible cost because it gives priority to using fewer resources. It streamlines the production or service process to give the best product or fastest service at minimum waste.
2. Streamlining cuts back unnecessary processes, systems are simplified for the workforce or the team.
3. Six Sigma quantifies the problems with the Lean methodology. As simple processes are stretched to their limits with fewer resources, certain problems arise within these processes. The key role of Six Sigma is to identify, quantify and analyze these problems as to how to come up with solutions that are workable within the Lean methodology framework.
4. Using these methodologies will increase the potential of the organization to continuously improve over time – but also be open to adapt to instant and big improvements.
5. The Lean and Six Sigma methodologies open the organization to the constant improvement mindset benefiting the entire company. Improvement can be seen and most importantly, quantified.

The days of resting on achievements through old methods and remaining in status quo are gone. Consider the words of Leonard Sweet; “Change is life. Stagnation is death. If you don’t change, you die. It’s that simple.” Pretty sobering, right?

The global arena presents a challenge to staying ahead of the game, with constantly opening doors to new potential niches. Continuous improvement ensures an organization will be on top of its game. The end result of continuous improvement through Lean and Six Sigma methods ensure customer value with quality products and services which are absolutely necessary for increasing sales, reducing injuries and creating a perfected product.


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