Make Your Lean Six Sigma Project a Success
Whenever you are using Lean Six Sigma to make improvements to your facility and eliminate waste, you need to make sure you take the time up front to plan it out properly. In fact, the planning stage is often considered the most important of the entire Lean Six Sigma process. During this stage you will be making a checklist to help make sure you don’t miss anything.
One great way to ensure you complete the planning properly, and then go through the entire process without overlooking any of the essential steps as defined by the Six Sigma methodologies, is to use a Six Sigma checklist. This checklist will be used throughout the process improvement initiative, but especially in the beginning phases while you are planning the improvements out.
Gather Your Team
Another important step on the Lean Six Sigma checklist is to gather together the right people for this initiative. Typically this will include people who work in the impacted area, key management individuals, and at least one or two people from outside the department. This step should be done at the beginning, but adjustments can be made as needed throughout the initiative.
Know where you are starting from
One of the most important things you can do when performing any type of process improvement in your facility is to take the time to learn about the way things are currently done. Document all you can about the current processes so that you can accurately measure how much of a benefit you are getting from the update.
In addition to helping to see how much benefit is achieved, having a good understanding of the way things currently are can help you to identify additional opportunities for improvement. This step is often much more time consuming than people would like, but it is absolutely essential for achieving the best results.
Plan Your Changes
Once you have clearly identified the current state of the processes you hope to improve, it is time to start planning your changes. In most cases, you will have some end goals in sight, such as reducing overall downtime or speeding up the length of time it takes to produce a part. While this is great, you also need to come up with specific changes that will help you to get to that goal.
Working with your process improvement team, identify every change, no matter how large or small, that you want to make. During this phase, you should encourage everyone to make recommendations and come up with ideas on how to improve the system. You’ll be able to choose which ones to implement in the next section.
Another important part of the implementation planning stage is to think about safety. If you are making adjustments to machines or other items in the facility, for example, this can create a significant hazard. Alerting people to these changes by using safety signs (like these) or vinyl labels (which you can find here), for example, will help avoid any accidents or injuries.
Reviewing Your Changes
Once you have a list of proposed changes, you need to review them all to make sure they will help you toward your end goal. There are a number of small things that you need to look at when reviewing potential changes, so this step is essentially a mini-checklist within the full Six Sigma checklist:
- Conflicting Changes – You need to make sure that none of the steps within your changes are going to conflict and cause problems. Looking at all the proposed changes, and seeing how they will interact is essential.
- Progress Toward Goal – Are the changes you will be implementing going to help make progress toward the specific goal identified for this Six Sigma project? If not, the change should be put off to the side. Even if it is a good idea, it should only be included in this project if it will help it to be a success.
- Best Practice – Does the proposed change line up with industry best practices? If not, think about how you can adjust it in order to make improvements.
Create Implementation Plan
Once you know which changes you plan on making, you need to plan out how and when they will be made. In some cases, you can implement most or all of the changes at once. In others, however, they will need to be put in place in a specific order.
Whatever the case, you need to make sure you have a detailed implementation plan ready to go so that all the changes can happen smoothly. This will also reduce downtime and improve the results.
Part of your implementation plan should be a back out procedure too. This way, if things aren’t going well during the changes, you can ‘fail back’ to the way things were before and reevaluate the situation. Ideally this won’t be needed, but it is good to have before you make any changes. Once everything is planned out, you can proceed with planned changes and improvements.
Once the changes and updates have been put in place, you should begin measuring the results immediately. In many cases, you will find that the changes actually have a negative effect at first, but this is normally because of learning curves and getting used to new processes. In addition, there is often training that is taking place at first.
Over the course of several days, weeks or even months, however, you should begin to see the predicted benefits from your changes. Gathering as much data as possible after the changes will help you to determine the success of the project, and also help you to look into future changes for the next project.
Celebrate Success & Analyze Failures
With virtually every process improvement program you will find that there are some things that were successful, and others that didn’t go as planned. Once the changes are implemented, you should take some time to celebrate the improvements that were made. This is to help show the employees and management why these types of changes are necessary and important.
In addition, however, you should also take the time to analyze the things that didn’t go well. Learning from mistakes and planning for future improvements is essential when creating a long term culture of improvement.
Check out this Gemba Infographic by Creative Safety Publishing