• The History of Lean Six Sigma

    11 May 2022 | by

    Lean Six Sigma serves as one of the world’s most effective process improvement tools. At its heart, Lean Six Sigma is an expression of our need to pursue perfection and refine the work we perform. Getting to the current version of Lean Six Sigma has been a process several hundred years in the making. The history of Lean Six Sigma is broad and varied, but the modern iteration has its roots in some of the world’s biggest companies. To understand why Lean Six Sigma continues to be a popular tool in the modern business world, we want to take a look at history and see where process improvement began.

     

    Process Improvement Throughout History

    Humans are industrious by nature. For as long as we have been making things, people have been looking for ways to streamline and improve their work. 

    While the history of Lean can be traced as far back as the 15th century, it was the Industrial Revolution that sped along process improvement research. The true beginning of process improvement is often attributed to Eli Whitney’s championing of interchangeable parts in the early 1800s. An inventor and manufacturer, Whitney saw the value in the standardisation of parts, and became a key proponent of the technique.

    As manufacturing continued to advance and standardised parts became the norm, other inventors and manufacturing companies sought their own improvements. A seminal work is the 1911 publication The Principles of Scientific Management by Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylor’s work was among the first detailed accounts of the benefits of coordinating each part of an enterprise to improve efficiency and productivity.

     

    The Toyota Production System

    The Lean Manufacturing system is famously based on a model developed by Toyota. The Toyota Production System (TPS) was one of the first and best-realised process improvement frameworks. When creating their TPS, Toyota drew inspiration from many sources, including both Taylor’s work and the advancements made by automaker Ford. 

    Ford’s work on production efficiency drew the attention of Toyota’s executives in the 1950s. Following World War II, Toyota’s business was struggling, and they were unable to keep up with the large-batch manufacturing that was common in other parts of the world. Wanting to expand their business, Toyota’s directors visited American carmakers, including Ford, to learn from their successful systems and power the future of their own company. Toyota developed their TPS following that visit.

    The Toyota Production System (which, in 1988, became known to the rest of the world as Lean) was underpinned by simple concepts. At its core, TPS was designed to reduce organisational waste, limit production defects and produce vehicles more efficiently. Much of the TPS is built into the principles taught to modern Lean Six Sigma practitioners.

     

    Motorola’s Six Sigma Concept

    Around the same time the Toyota Production System was becoming known, Motorola developed their own system, dubbed Six Sigma. In 1986, an employee of Motorola developed Six Sigma as a way to improve the quality of manufactured goods by identifying and eliminating the cause of defects.

    At the time Six Sigma was developed, Motorola was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of microprocessors. Producing high-precision computer components put Motorola at the forefront of a burgeoning industry, but it required them to develop some of the world’s most accurate manufacturing processes. The name Six Sigma came about from the level of precision it aspired to achieve. Motorola’s system dictated that a Six Sigma process was one in which 99.99966% of process steps were without defect.

    To achieve such highly controlled manufacturing accuracy, Motorola’s Six Sigma proposed the central DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) principles that are still used in Lean Six Sigma today. Using DMAIC, Motorola’s process improvement teams reported savings of more than $2.2 billion in the first four years after implementing Six Sigma. The process was so popular that several other major manufacturers – including General Electric and Honeywell – were quick to adopt the system and report their own large-scale successes.

     

    Modern Lean Six Sigma

    Although they have separate origins, Lean and Six Sigma were combined in the early 2000s. Dubbed Lean Six Sigma, the new system is an amalgamation of its predecessors. Lean Six Sigma emerged as a way for manufacturers to reduce both defects and organisational waste, improving product quality, production lifecycle and the satisfaction of customers. Modern Lean Six Sigma incorporates all the best tools, practices and processes that came before it, delivering a process improvement system that now sees use all over the world.

     

    Want to See How Lean Six Sigma Works? Speak to Thornley Group Today!

    The Lean Six Sigma system we are familiar with has its roots in hundreds of years of human development. While our business processes have advanced significantly, Lean and Six Sigma methodologies continue to make meaningful improvements to organisations across the world. Boosting efficiency and reducing waste is the ultimate goal for all Lean Six Sigma training with Thornley Group. Our instructors conduct a range of training programs that are suitable for all members of an organisation, from the workshop to the boardroom. If you are interested in Lean Six Sigma training, get in touch with us for more information or to book a course.

  • The Importance of Communication in Lean Six Sigma

    11 May 2022 | by

    Lean and Six Sigma both provide robust frameworks for businesses to improve their processes. Through careful planning and measurement, Lean Six Sigma makes it possible for organisations to largely eliminate waste and deliver better products and services to their customers. However, it is a common mistake for process improvement teams to focus solely on the technical aspects of their work. The culture and people of an organisation play a major role in Lean Six Sigma projects, so it is critical to include a communication plan that addresses the human element of projects. In this article we are going to explore the key reasons why communication is important to Lean Six Sigma project success.

     

    Increasing Organisational Commitment with Communication

    Clearly communicating your project’s plan, outcome and expected benefits can significantly improve the results. This is due to a rise in organisational commitment. When making large-scale changes to a business’ processes, the human element is a major component. A Lean Six Sigma team can have all the technical skills and tools they need to complete a project. But, without the commitment of other organisational members, the success of projects will be severely limited. 

    A Lean Six Sigma communication plan typically includes the details of how a project will be communicated with employees. Creating transformation requires early and frequent communication with the employees who will ultimately affect the project’s outcome. Getting everyone involved increases their stake in the project and gives them a vested interest in making it a success.

     

    Sharing the Information Teams Need

    Process improvement professionals can only be successful if they are given the tools they need to complete projects. Clearly communicating a project’s vision, strategies, benefits and requirements is critical to its success. Communication and information sharing should go both ways:

    • Communicating with management ensures Lean Six Sigma teams will receive the tools, personnel and support they need.
    • Communicating with employees means they are more likely to make meaningful contributions and be champions of the project.

    Sharing information with teams affected by a Lean Six Sigma project is also important for communicating their role in the strategy. The more information teams have, the better they will be able to participate in projects and contribute to their success. For instance, providing quality control teams with clear, written goals will greatly improve their performance and keep projects moving.

     

    Communicating Between Management and Employees

    Much of the waste in an organisation can be attributed to its employees lack of process awareness. As fantastic as your staff may be, it is common for them to become entrenched in inefficient processes. Shifting these processes requires more than simply undertaking projects and expecting staff to follow suit. 

    Effective communication between management and employees is key to Lean Six Sigma project success. Communication is an excellent tool for overcoming organisational inertia and making real changes. Giving employees access to project information – or even Lean Six Sigma training – offers them a greater understanding of Lean Six Sigma strategies. This ultimately makes communication between management and employees more effective. Employees who understand the nature of their work and the intended outcomes are more likely to make lasting changes and contribute to process improvement.

    It is also important for management to ensure their communication is clear and understood by all employees. Managers often have a greater understanding of an organisation that makes it simpler for them to champion Lean Six Sigma projects. Employees will not always share this level of understanding and may require more information than is being provided. Management and process improvement teams should regularly communicate to make sure employees have access to all the information they need.

     

    Improve Communication with Lean Six Sigma Training from Thornley Group

    Providing awareness and Lean Six Sigma training to more of your employees is key to the success of large-scale projects. Inviting employees to upskill and become invested in the nature of their work ultimately leads to better outcomes for everyone involved. Thornley Group offers a range of Lean Six Sigma training opportunities suitable for everyone from senior management to front-line employees. Our corporate training packages are designed to boost communication and improve the effectiveness of your Lean Six Sigma projects. For more information on our training or to book a course, feel free to speak to our consultants at any time.

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