Monthly Archives: October 2011

30 Rock Definition of Six Sigma

A couple of weeks ago, I posted something from a guest blogger James Lawther (“Do They Get It?”).  During our emails, James showed me the 30 Rock Six Sigma approach.  I found it to be very funny so I thought I would pass it along.  It is a good way to go into the weekend.

The Six Sigmas are (link to the 30 Six Sigma page):

  • Teamwork
  • Insight
  • Brutality
  • Male Enhancement
  • Handshakefulness
  • Play Hard

Not sure where they came up with the six attributes instead of the variance, but it adds humor to it.

I also enjoyed the acronym for C.L.A.S.S.  Consuming Lunch and Simple Socializing.

That sounds just like the reason most people go to all day classes, doesn’t it?  Get a free lunch and because either friends or people you want to know are going.

Here is one last very short clip of Frank’s definition of Six Sigma is

Have a great weekend!


Lean Considered A Poor Investment

Earlier this week, I saw an article titled, “Lean Manufacturing Program Seen As Poor Investment For Most Companies.

The article gives statistics as to how companies did with meeting their cost savings/reduction.

Most large manufacturers last year failed to reach their cost-savings targets, despite significant investments in lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, and other productivity programs as part of their overall retrenchment efforts in this tepid economy. Nearly 70 percent of manufacturing executives say that their manufacturing-improvement efforts led to a reduction in manufacturing costs of less than 5 percent, the typical minimum threshold for successful productivity programs. That’s according to a survey of manufacturing executives conducted in May and June 2011 by AlixPartners, the global business-advisory firm.

There are a lot of companies trying to implement lean.  Some are doing a nice job while others seem to be L.A.M.E., as coined by Mark Graban (Lean As Misguidely Executed).  So it shouldn’t be surprising that some companies think lean is not delivering what people say it will.

The article even mentions Shingo Prize winners and their results.

According to AlixPartners’ research, winners of The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence have, after three years’ time, generated revenue growth and gross profits just on par with, or even weaker than, their peers’.

That does cause an eyebrow to be raised.  The Shingo Prize has recognized how it use to grade organizations.  In the last couple of years, they have revamped their criteria and awarded more on process, results, and thinking.  Were these companies awarded the Shingo Prize under the new system or the old system?  I don’t know.

“Most continuous improvement initiatives focus too much on implementing a particular ‘checklist’ of program tools and processes, rather than on basic execution,” says Steve Maurer, managing director and leader of AlixPartners’ manufacturing practice. “Many traditional lean and Six Sigma programs also tend to fail to institutionalize the improvements that they do generate. As a result, the cost benefits often aren’t sustainable. That was reflected in our survey, where some 60 percent of the respondents believe that half of the savings that they generated last year will be unsustainable. Only 13 percent said they could sustain more than three-quarters of the identified savings.”

I would have to say the company is practicing L.A.M.E. if results are not sustaining.  A lean company values standardized work and when  are made the results have a much higher chance of sustaining.  If a company is focusing on implementing a checklist of tools and processes then they are not understanding lean to be about the thinking.  The companies are trying to copy and paste solutions that will not fit their needs.  When that happens there is no reason to believe the results will be sustainable.

Steve Pfeiffer does hit on a few very good points.

“What’s good about lean and Six Sigma manufacturing is the emphasis on process control, defect prevention, and the elimination of waste,” says Steve Pfeiffer, director in AlixPartners’ manufacturing practice. “But such programs come up short when companies decide to implement techniques without the prerequisite process discipline. And, companies that have relied too heavily on investing their capital in automation find that such projects are often expensive and slow to implement.”

Lean and Six Sigma are focused on process control.  If you don’t have it before an improvement is made then you can’t expect the improvement to be sustainable or even know if you made an improvement.  Steve also speaks to creativity over capital because capital investments take too long to implement and are expensive.

I don’t believe the article was intended to attack lean or Six Sigma.  I think it highlights the misconception that companies still believe lean is about implementing tools and concepts and not about the thinking and understanding of their own business and how it applies to them.

As a lean community we still have a long way to go to help the masses see lean how it is intended.

Error Proofing An Overhead Projector Case

Error proofing is a concept where systems are designed to help prevent failure.  A common Japanese term is poke-yoke.  There are different levels of error proofing such as prevention, detection, and warning.

Prevention is where the process is designed to work one way and one way only.  An example would be the charger cable for you phone.  The end of the cable is shaped so it will only insert into the phone one way.

Detection is a method that senses something is wrong and lets the process know.  An example would be a piece of assembly equipment that senses all the components are not in the machine and a light turns on, but the equipment can still cycle.

Warning lets someone know how to correctly execute a process.  A colleague of mine showed be a great example of this for our Overhead Projector case.

(Click on image to enlarge)

The group was having a problem with people putting the projector in backwards.  It caused damage one time.  Quick, simple, and easy to understand.  It may not prevent someone from putting the projector in backwards, but it does significantly reduce the chances and makes the right way visual.