The Six Sigma Lean

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Published on February 21, 2008

I attended the Atlanta APICS meeting the other day. Juergen Meyer from Step 3 Consulting spoke about Lean in administrative processes. Now APICS, The Association for Operations Management, offers three certification programs, Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM), Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), and Certified in Integrated Resource Management (CIRM). As a result, much of the audience and much of the membership is from the manufacturing arena. I’m a CPIM member of APICS Atlanta. And, I’m a bit of an oddball in the group, since I’ve had a long career in information technology. But, I’ve also earned Six Sigma certification to assist in the process improvement and re-engineering activities that often take place in technology projects. Six Sigma utilizes data and statistical analysis to measure and reduce variations in processes and ultimately eliminate defects. More and more, Six Sigma and Lean are spoken of together.

In Juergen’s talk, there was much mention of process improvement, although Six Sigma was not mentioned by name. The goal of Lean is to eliminate waste and non-value added activities. And the byproduct of waste elimination is lower costs resulting in higher profits. The eight types of waste are: over production, waiting, transportation, over-processing, inventory, motion, defects, rework. Parallels were given between manufacturing waste and administrative waste.

And, how to attack the waste? You Define, Measure, Analyze and Improve the process – key steps in the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology. Often the implementation of the Six Sigma methodology or its use in projects is considered costly and time consuming. But the principles can be simplified. After all over-processing is a waste. The goal is a Lean Six Sigma.

Bottom line, improving and streamlining processes reduces defects, eliminates waste, decreases costs, improves efficiency, increases profits and provides competitive advantages.

Sandra Noble

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