Are You Ready for Lean Six Sigma?

How to implement Lean Six Sigma
How to implement Lean Six Sigma
How to implement Lean Six Sigma

Are You Ready for Lean Six Sigma?

Are you ready for Lean Six Sigma (LSS)? Implementing LSS requires preparation and focus. To implement LSS successfully, you need a precise mix of organizational conditions that include time, money and support from the top. In this blog are questions to ask yourself before starting a Lean Six Sigma journey, as well as key competencies your organization must possess for successful implementation.

Central Questions

John Dyer, president, JD&A-Process Innovation Company, asks six central questions before embarking on a Lean Six Sigma journey.

  1. Does your company leadership team understand and embrace their role and are they willing to learn what Lean and Six Sigma are all about?
  2. Does your company utilize cross-functional, multi-level teams to get things done?
  3. Have you mastered the basic problem-solving tools throughout the company, driving to root-cause corrective actions?
  4. Do you have accurate data systems (gauge repeatability and reproducibility) that are easily accessible to workers closest to the process, and does this data drive your improvement actions?
  5. Are employees empowered to shut a process down if an out-of-control condition occurs, and are there resources instantly available to help the employee identify and implement corrective actions to get the process back up and running?

“I have been using these five questions for the past 20 years or so when beginning an engagement with a company’s leadership team. If the answers are not satisfactory – and there is no indication of the willingness to change – I will explain my reservations and walk away.” – John Dyer

Core Competencies

Samuel Silva, a Lean Six Sigma black belt at HiPower Systems, has mapped eight core competencies necessary for successful LSS implementation. Below are his top three. You can read the other five in his Reliable Plant article.

1. You must have a compelling reason.
Maybe you’re suffering from quality loss. Perhaps you aren’t meeting productivity goals. It’s important to record your reasons for wanting LSS to set measurable goals, gain buy-in from the top and overcome employee barriers to change.

2. Senior management must be on board.
LSS is sustainable only if your leadership team is onboard. Company leadership needs to be familiar with your reasons for wanting to implement Lean and Six Sigma and understand how LSS addresses and solves organizational problems. They also must lead the charge by being hands-on in the employee roll-out.

3. You must be prepared to invest in resources.
While it’s true that Lean and Six Sigma initiatives will save your organization money, implementing LSS improvements will cost money upfront. Your organization must invest in appropriate, qualified resources for the initiative, whether those resources are employees, materials, technologies or a combination of all three.

Measuring ROI of Lean and Six Sigma

Returns on LSS investments come in two forms: hard savings and soft savings. Hard savings are the dollars saved by implementing initiatives. Soft savings are harder to measure because they include non-cash-yielding benefits such as cycle times and customer satisfaction.

John Lopez-Ona, President of Six Sigma Qualtec wrote, “...the greatest difficulty in measuring ROI in any performance improvement initiative is assigning value to non-cash-yielding improvements, like if the initiative boosts sales growth rates or advances the company’s competitive position.”

Addressing Employee Concerns

In addition to assigning ownership to LSS initiatives top leadership should host a kick-start, all-company meeting to explain to employees why LSS is being implemented. In an article on Six Sigma and people management, Tony Jacowski wrote, “Increased employee involvement enabled by Six Sigma will help the organization to foster team spirit, build trust, and improve coordination, all of which are necessary for the success of any business organization. An organization that has a committed workforce will not only be able to achieve its existing objectives but will also be able to secure its long-term future.”

Interested in learning more about Lean Six Sigma? What better place to learn modern manufacturing process knowledge and Lean Six Sigma skills than the university that taught the brightest minds in automotive manufacturing? The only program of its kind in the United States, Kettering University Online’s Lean Manufacturing master’s degree was developed in collaboration with General Motors to give you the skills you need to improve quality output, streamline processes and reduce waste. Learn more.