The Significance of Six Sigma Training Program

Six Sigma training has become a favorite topic of discussion in most organizations, even as executives try to embrace the concept. Part of the reason for its popularity is the fact that it seeks to bring perfection in operations, which leads to profitability and efficiency in workplaces.

Basis for accomplishment of projects

When a company embarks on some project, all the details that pertain to it need verification to identify all requirements that will lead to successful accomplishment of such tasks. However, you may not achieve it due to one reason or the other, which means that such projects will eventually fail. As such, six sigma training offers insight on how to avoid breakdowns in between projects from conception to the accomplishment stage.

Positive impact on one’s career

Six Sigma Training has a lifetime implication on your career because it avails the analytical skills and knowledge that will help you accomplish your duties with little or no challenges at all. Also, anyone with Six Sigma certification proves that they have some unique capabilities. That is what most employers consider, and candidates with such certification will naturally stand out.

Practical application capabilities

Through Six Sigma Training, one can realize a positive impact on some business aspects in measurable terms. These include a reduction in the cost of doing business, improvement of knowledge, streamlining of business processes and promotion of employee commitment. All these provide a better business environment because they affect daily operations directly. Call us now for more details.

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Agile Manufacturing Rebounds – Are You Ready?

Agile manufacturing is poised for a big comeback. Fully 50% of the 2014 Industry Week Best Plants class reported “significant” implementations of agile manufacturing across their operations, which represents a sharp uptick after a three-year decline:

  • 2010 = 47%
  • 2011 = 44%
  • 2012 = 41%
  • 2013 = 31%
  • 2014 = 50%

This rebound undoubtedly reflects the need for many organizations to pivot in response to growing market volatility, but it also suggests that agile manufacturing will play a greater role in how the next generation of manufacturers define their metrics for success. Whereas Lean Manufacturing drives profitability through reduced costs, agile manufacturing drives profitability through increased sales opportunities. It would seem that organizations aiming to stay ahead of the curve need to learn not only to be more efficient, but also more nimble in their operations.

The whole idea behind agile manufacturing is to be prepared to respond as quickly as possible to sudden shifts in consumer demand and to capitalize on narrow windows of opportunity. In practical terms, this often takes the form of:

  • Modular product architecture – designing products in such a way that they are comprised of standardized “building blocks” that can easily be arranged and rearranged in a variety of ways to form new products from existing ones.
  • Pervasive implementation of information technology – relying upon the automation of IT to expedite production cycles and enable rapid response times.
  • Virtual supply chain partnerships – forming strategic alliances with key vendors and distributors to reduce time-to-market delays for new products.
  • Knowledge culture – aggressively training employees in the mining of information assets and incentivizing innovation while simultaneously placing decision-making processes closer to the “front line” of production to reduce bureaucratic delays in bringing new designs to fruition.

Organizations that structure their operations around these principles are not only better able than their competitors to deliver the novel things their customers desire. They can also more rapidly phase out under-performing products and reallocate their resources to new, more promising frontiers–which establishes them as industry leaders rather than “me too” manufacturers. Such things make a big difference in markets with fickle customers who demand instant gratification.

Agility can’t be achieved in an inefficient work environment, though. A thorough appreciation of the principles of lean manufacturing–things like production in small batches, fast changeovers, and a commitment to continuous process improvement–can help pave the way for a successful implementation of agile manufacturing. If you’re considering such a move, we can help you get off on the right foot. Contact us today to learn how our training resources can prepare you to take your organization to the next level.

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Can Innovation and Lean Six Sigma Coincide?

Companies often introduce Lean Six Sigma because it is an effective way to cut costs and improve profitability. A very powerful tool indeed.

However, what if your company goals include innovation? Can a process-focused methodology such as Lean Six Sigma promote creativity and drive innovation?

Yes, it can.

In the 2010 post, “Leadership and Lean Six Sigma Opens Door to Innovation,” Steve Crom writes:

Lean Six Sigma improves the quality of management, working processes and applies resources in a targeted way that can dramatically increase the productive and creative potential across a business population. 

As Crom suggests, Lean Six Sigma is an opportunity to solve business problems by developing new working processes. To do this, companies need to:

  • Encourage employees to consider new approaches
  • Find ways to improve new ideas rather than throw them away
  • Establish “stretch goals” that require functions to work together
  • Prioritize resources and develop talent to work in cross-functional teams

Jay Arthur, author of Lean Six Sigma Demystified, states it well in his post, “Is Lean Six Sigma Killing Innovation”:

Simplify, streamline and optimize existing business operations using Lean Six Sigma to boost productivity and profitability. As Lean Six Sigma clears away the clutter, look for ways to redesign or re-engineer the business. 

Lean Six Sigma isn’t an innovation killer. It’s another tool in the business toolkit. It’s about creating the right business environment; one that embraces innovation under a continuous improvement umbrella.

For more ideas and further information about Lean Six Sigma or to learn how our LSS training program can enhance the innovation in your organization, contact us.

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Quality, Costs, and Six Sigma

Six sigma is not about quality for the sake of quality; it is about providing better value to customers, investors and employees.

Six sigma isn’t just about quality for quality’s sake.

Your employer, Peerless Systems, acquired Acme International for its technology. But your leaders want more than just Acme’s technology; they also want Acme to be successful in its own right. But Acme has problems. Acme, it seems, is still operated as a traditional three-sigma company. Peerless has long since moved to six sigma and beyond, and you played an important role in making that happen. Your new challenge is to lead Acme from three sigma to six sigma. It’s what you’ve been waiting for your entire career–welcome to senior leadership!

You bring your staff together to establish a baseline. Bob, the vice-president of marketing, says, “We’re losing customers due to poor quality, and our competitors are killing us on price.”

Ann, your director of quality, is next. “When Bob told us about the quality problems, we increased inspection and testing, ” she says. “Field failures dropped, but (of course) costs increased.”

Figure 1: Cost and Value of Quality

Lorraine, vice-president of finance, shows Figure 1. “My staff and I believe that the customer places a certain value on quality,” she states. “At first, our quality was too low, and the customer wouldn’t buy our products. When we improved our quality, we also increased our costs, but the customer wouldn’t pay the higher prices we had to charge. We’ve found that profitability is maximized when total cost of poor quality is about 25 percent of sales. The problem is that there is very little profit, even at that cost level.”

This all has a familiar ring to you. You know that the typical three-sigma company spends about 25 percent of each sales dollar on the cost of poor quality. Before starting the six sigma journey, Peerless was in similar shape. You’ve prepared the slide shown in Figure 2 to illustrate the difference between three-sigma and six-sigma quality for your staff.

Figure 2: Three Sigma Profits
vs. Six Sigma Profits

“Right now, our business is only capable of operating at a level equivalent to about three-sigma quality,” you explain. “Trying to get better quality out of our existing systems only adds costs. We must develop new systems that deliver better quality and lower costs simultaneously. We need six sigma systems.”

You go on to describe the differences between six sigma systems and three sigma systems, and the importance of six sigma to Acme. You tell them that six sigma is not a destination, but a journey of continuous improvement. Of course, Acme won’t go from three sigma to six sigma in one big jump. Instead, overall performance will move from three sigma to four sigma, then to five sigma and so on as people are trained and systems redesigned and improved. Figure 3 illustrates the expected progress toward six sigma.

Figure 3: The Journey to Six Sigma

You summarize by telling your staff that six sigma is not about quality for the sake of quality; it is about providing better value to customers, investors and employees. Paraphrasing the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, you announce, “Six sigma is a journey of a thousand miles. Creating a roadmap that links customer satisfaction, quality and costs is the first step.”

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