Lean Six Sigma Principles: Applications Beyond Manufacturing

05/30/2015 20:230 commentsViews: 9

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) principles and methods have long been used in manufacturing for reducing waste and removing errors and variations in production all of which improve profitability and customer satisfaction. But the principles apply into almost any organization or function, not just manufacturing.

Lean focuses on identifying and eliminating waste and non-value adding activities. The “8 Wastes of Lean” include things such as waiting, defects, and over processing, and has been applied to eliminate waste and inefficiencies in everything from initial design processes to final product or service delivery.

The 5S system is the highly implemented Lean methodology based on five Japanese words that translate to Sort, Set in Order, Standardize, Shine, and Sustain. A successful 5S implementation would result in substantial reductions in the space needed for existing operations. Lean methodologies and tools can be applied to the broadest spectrum of business processes not just manufacturing.

Six Sigma is a methodology that includes tools to improve the capability of business processes of all types. It is a data-driven approach that emphasizes analyzing results to a very fine degree. Six Sigma (6σ) is actually a 99.99 percent performance yield. An example of the difference between four sigma (99 percent yield) and six sigma is the difference between 5,000 surgical mistakes per week and 1.7 surgical mistakes per week – so achieving Six Sigma level results can clearly be very important.

Both Lean and Six Sigma are management philosophies that are designed to increase customer satisfaction, improve quality, reduce waste, improve productivity, and foster collaboration and innovation in the workplace.

While LSS is a tremendously effective process improvement methodology, it is also a valuable strategy for cultural change and leadership development when implemented organization wide. It is now being applied in a wide range of businesses expanding into health care, education, government, and many other industries.

Companies and organizations ranging from Amazon to the United States Military have implemented LSS methodologies. These practices are also being applied to knowledge-economy work, such as with information, software, or media in the place of physical product.

Even corporate legal departments are using Lean Six Sigma principles to achieve successful outcomes with minimum wasted effort or resources. The American Bar Association’s Business Law Section recently held a special panel which discussed the application of Lean Six Sigma to their work.

The panel agreed that using the tools and methodologies of Lean Six Sigma are important for legal departments. “…there are real advantages to streamlining procedures and processes” said the deputy general counsel at Xylem Inc., a leading global water technology company. According to the vice-president and associate general counsel at Oracle Corp., the question corporate legal departments should be asking themselves is, “What does success look like for our department?”

She followed up by saying that utilizing Lean Six Sigma principles will get to this outcome.
In his blog, 5 Must Do Lean Office Best Practices by Flextronics, Flextronics Chief Financial Officer Paul Read shares how you can eliminate waste and improve efficiency through adopting lean office, “Every day on the job, I need to ask myself how we can eliminate waste and improve our efficiency. For me, Lean Office delivers significant productivity gains, quality and customer service improvement through waste elimination, and process optimization in office and administrative environments — such as human resources, IT, finance, procurement, and program management where typically 60 percent to 80 percent of activities are non-value added.”

According to The Association of Talent Development, organizations on average spend $1,208 per employee on training and development. This amount is likely to grow as education and training become increasingly more important in the workplace. As companies consider how to invest their training dollars going forward, Lean Six Sigma programs may be one of the best investments they can make.

Leave a Reply