As Tennessee’s manufacturers see a comeback in U.S. manufacturing, it’s important for us to implement initiatives that increase our efficiencies. Manufacturers can increase profitability by eliminating excess waste, reducing unnecessary actions during production and decreasing costs. Lean Six Sigma is a successful way to accomplish this.
Lean Six Sigma is a powerful but flexible system that encourages a culture of continuous improvement within an organization. The methodology focuses on efficiency and speed and strives to identify waste. This isn’t exclusive to the production floor – it applies to all areas of a business including management.
Waste is a result of non-value added processes and steps. This could include an abundance of reporting requirements or personnel practices that limit or hold up more essential tasks. The goal is to eliminate this waste so that ultimately goods are produced faster and with fewer costs. By decreasing the length of time needed for a manufacturer to deliver goods to a consumer, customer satisfaction improves. The rule: longer cycle times mean higher non-value-add costs.
A critical part of identifying waste in all areas of a business requires employee buy-in. A “Lean Six Sigma culture” can only take place if employees drive it at all levels. This culture contains a staff that is consistently looking for ways to find non-value added activities. The Lean Six Sigma system is designed to encourage buy-in from employees and demonstrate its benefits to the entire organization.
There are numerous tools that manufacturers can use to keep cycle times down such as:
- Value Stream Mapping – This graphical tool illustrates the flow of material and associated information as a product or service moves to completion.
- Value-Add versus Non-Value-Add Analysis – This tool helps determine what the customer actually values. This helps a manufacturer increase capacity by preventing the production of things that customers don’t actually want.
- 5S Program “Sort, Set-in-order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain” - The 5S program develops a productive and safer work environment.
Also, a unique benefit of Lean Six Sigma is that it works to fundamentally change the culture and infrastructure of an organization. It is an ongoing pursuit to drive a Lean Six Sigma culture.
As we conclude the first business quarter of 2013, it’s vital for Tennessee’s manufacturers to reduce excess waste, shorten cycle times and improve efficiencies. Creating a culture of continuous improvement can accomplish this and The University of Tennessee – Center for Industrial Services (UT-CIS) can help you cultivate this culture. For more information, please click here.