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.
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.
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.
In Part 1, we talked about the “why” of quick change. Now, let’s attend to the “how”.
Before you read this post, take a look at this video. It’s related to our topic and…it’s just really cool. (You can start at the 30 second point. Then, watch closely because it happens quickly.)
I just posted my newest YouTube video, “How to Implement 5S: A Quick Overview”. It’s just that…a quick overview. All the detail will be coming in further videos.
Here it is.
In a recent (excellent) article on the challenges of sustaining 5S, James Womack (author of “The Machine That Changed the World”) tells us:
“I frequently hear 5S advocated as some sort of “clean up, fix up” campaign, an “easy way to get started with lean”, raise morale, impress investors, impress customers, and, in general, create the appearance of a “world-class” company (whatever a “world class” company may be).”
In the last post, we recommended posting charts at each work station to gather information about production and performance that would be used to identify and solve problems. Remember, the purpose of these charts isn’t simply to gather data that will be used later by your resident black belt (though it certainly could be). The purpose is to identify and address problems in real time, in other words, lean problem solving. So we’re interested in gathering as little information as possible in as “user-friendly” a way as we can and still get good problem solving accomplished.
Lean efforts will be successful to the degree to which we have operational excellence in the shop. Inventories and costs will decrease to the extent that we can reduce downtime, scrap, delays, scheduling problems, die problems, and equipment problems. There’s no value in a value stream mapping and no good in pushing a pull system unless we also address those problems that will keep them from being effective. Supervisors and operators need to be actively involved in problem solving.
I’ve updated a video I posted to YouTube some time ago. (Actually, what I did was delete the old video and replace it.) The video is a quick overview that answers the question, “What is 5S?”. I hope you’ll take a look at it.