Six Sigma Had a Demise?

I happened across an article, just a couple of weeks ago, about the alleged demise of Six Sigma.   (Read the article here.) Now, I’ve never been either a huge fan or a detractor of Six Sigma.  I myself am not a Six Sigma any-kind-of-belt but I took a fair amount of statistics in college and grad school, some of it pretty advanced.  All to say, I’m aware of both the utility and the limits of statistical tools of the sort Six Sigma practitioners use.  I’m also aware that Six Sigma isn’t just a bundle of statistical tools, rather it’s an overall approach to analyzing and addressing variation of both processes themselves and the outputs they deliver.  Finally, I’m aware that, the only thing the media like better than boosting a particular management “fad”  (and I use that term cautiously, mainly because I don’t like it.  It’s most often used by lazy journalists writing the sorts of articles I’m about to refer to)…is tearing management “fads” apart.  The article in question isn’t quite the latter but it is a good example of an article that gets a lot of stuff wrong as it makes the case that Six Sigma is, perhaps, passe`.  Mind you, it’s not a bad article…in fact, it’s well worth reading.  But…well, let’s take a look at the article in a bit of detail and I’ll go over some of my quibbles.

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“But What If We Don’t Need Workplace Organization?”

I was talking recently with a very smart distribution manager at one of my clients.  We’ve been very involved with Workplace Organization and Visual Management all over the organization and especially in manufacturing.  That fits my usual modus operandi.

The manager was telling me that his folks are getting a bit bored with these phases and are starting to wonder what the purpose of all this “lean stuff” is given that a strong focus on Workplace Organization doesn’t do much for them in the warehouse.

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A Video You Should Watch About the GM Lordstown Plant

I just started reading Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors, written by Maryann Keller.  It was published in 1989, so it’s not a new book by any stretch.  A lot has happened to GM in the past 31 years.  But it’s an interesting read for anyone interested in learning more about how big companies manage to screw things up in spite of having lots of resources at their disposal.

At any rate, the book discusses the bad days at the nearby (to me) Lordstown plant back in the 1970’s.  That led me to the interwebs to learn more about  all that, where I found the 1973 documentary Loose Bolts. (Click on this link.)

It’s about 30 minutes or so long and worth a viewing.  The production values aren’t great but the interviews with some of the workers and supervisors at the plant are interesting to hear, especially given that they took place shortly after the three-week strike at the plant.

As one learns more about the conditions and management approach at Lordstown, it’s hard not to conclude that GM purposefully created intolerable conditions expressly for the purpose of engendering a strike.

 

How to Implement Lean Manufacturing: Simplify and Solve – Setup and Changeover Time Reduction: Part 3

In Part 1, we talked about the “why” of quick change.  In Part 2, we started the discussion of “how” to get to quick change.  In particular, we talked about gathering some information about the current state of setups and changeovers, e.g., how long they take and how they’re carried out.  In Part 3, we’re going to talk about what to do with that information.

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