The goal of lean is to eliminate waste and non-value-added steps at all points in the manufacturing process. To accomplish this, lean implements continuous improvement practices and eliminating waste across the enterprise. Technology has been successful as key to achieving this end. While saving money might be an initial consideration with lean strategies, customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to any organization. By concentrating on customer satisfaction and value while eliminating waste, a company can build profits as well.
According to the Lean Enterprise Institute (www.lean.org), there are five principles of lean techniques:
- Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product family.
- Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating whenever, possible those steps that do not create value.
- Make the value-creating steps occur in tight sequence so the product will flow smoothly toward the customer.
- As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.
- As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.
Lean principles can help businesses reduce costs, improve product quality, streamline processes and increase customer satisfaction, says the Institute.
Six Sigma, on the other hand, focus on defining specific processes to produce an exact level of quality that can be repeated. In order to do so, processes must be documented, monitored and analyzed. Working together, lean initiatives and Six Sigma principles can make an effective organization that eliminates waste, reduces cost and improves profitability.
According to the Lean Enterprise Institute, to achieve a waste-free production process, organizations must be willing to supervise the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets and departments to customers. Companies who do so can better respond to changing customer needs, with higher quality and with lower cost. Lean principles can also improve communication and accuracy of data, a definite plus for compliance.
When you apply these lean and Six Sigma principles to an automated quality management system, you create the ideal foundation for succeeding. Technology makes it easier to view your processes, document them, and measure your success using consistent measurements. You can make more accurate predictions without a try-and-see approach. Technology enables you to be more flexible and respond to customers faster.
Most importantly, by using an automated quality management system with your lean initiatives, you make the system create the lean environment for the organization, rather than relying on a few people who have learned lean principles. Therefore, lean initiatives continue to thrive and grow in the organization, regardless of personnel changes.
Lean and Six Sigma aren’t limited to the factory or even the supply chain. All parts of the organization can use these principles to improve processes: train employees, manage documents, monitor suppliers, create audit trails, and meet compliance. Even administrative processes can utilize lean principles to reduce and eliminate waste.
Going lean isn’t easy and requires an organization to gain commitment from the entire organization, set reasonable goals and monitor improvements. You need to establish common processes and extend them to a common technology platform. The focus should be on establishing repeatable performance and profitability through customer satisfaction.