Category Archives: Six sigma

Department of Defense Lean Six Sigma

Gordon England, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, signed a directive establishing policy and assigning responsibilities to institutionalize the effort throughout DoD. See a webcast of his speech on lean six sigma to a DoD conference on continuous process improvement.

Leading Business Transformation the “Lean” Way

Since it began employing LSS, the Department of the Navy (DON) has completed 1,700 Black Belt/Green Belt projects and over 2,000 Kaizen events (i.e., action-oriented events designed to improve existing processes). Initial projects were designed to build confidence and gain momentum for success in high-impact core business value streams. The DON’s total of 3,399 trained LSS Green Belts exceeds the Secretary’s goal of 2,000 by the end of 2006, and of the 935 trained LSS Black Belts in the DON, 93 have attained American Society for Quality (ASQ) Black Belt certification.

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) joined with Raytheon to complete an LSS project, which ultimately saved $133.5M across the 2006 FYDP and $421M over the life of the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) Block II program. The integrated product team developed a three-tier approach to reducing weapon unit cost over a two-year period. Success of the JSOW program has led to development of a follow-on Block III weapon system.

The Marine Corps is applying LSS concepts, analytic techniques, and tools to improve the process for identifying, evaluating and acquiring critically needed warfighting equipment. Initial analysis focused on the evaluation stage, where improvements reduced the time required for this step by 35% – from 131 days to 85 days – and identified savings valued at $135K per year.

The first LSS initiative for Army aviation scheduled maintenance was deemed a success and signals a more efficient future for maintaining the Fort Rucker helicopter fleet. More than 32 days of scheduled maintenance were saved during the first LSS effort for Aviation Unit Maintenance involving UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter scheduled maintenance. The first helicopter inducted into the newly developed process was returned to flying status in just 18 days, which included a four-day break for the Fourth of July weekend. That is a 67% improvement in phase flow efficiency from the previous average time of more than 50 days of phase cycle maintenance for the UH-60.

See: online six sigma resources and lean manufacturing resources from the Curious Cat management improvement web site.

Related: Government Lean Six SigmaPublic Sector Continuous Improvement SiteTransformation Through Lean Six SigmaArmy Business TransformationHistory Of Quality Management OnlineMore Lean GovernmentArmy Lean Six Sigma
Doing More With Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin by William G. Hunter, Jan O’Neill, and Carol Wallen, June 1986.

3M Cuts Back on Six Sigma for Research and Development

3M Shelves Six Sigma in R&D

For the past two years, 3M Corp. has been giving back freedom and decision-making to its researchers following four years of Six Sigma mania under former CEO and Chairman W. James McNerney Jr. Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology and associated toolset for eliminating process defects.

Under McNerney’s successor, 3M CEO George Buckley has de-emphasized Six Sigma in R&D. At the same time, R&D spending in 2007 has been increased by 11 percent over 2006. “3M is a technology company so it’s essential that we keep investing in and creating new technology and product platforms

“George is throttling back in the laboratory and in R&D. At the same time, he’s a very strong proponent of lean Six Sigma in manufacturing and our supply chain,” according to Wendling. “Six Sigma has a place, but more in what I’d call transactional activities as opposed to basic research and product development. The key is to selectively use what makes sense in R&D, but not let Six Sigma become the end. For instance, we use (Six Sigma) design of experiments routinely in basic research

My previous posts on the proper use of six sigma: Process Improvement and InnovationSix Sigma Outdated? No.3M CEO on Six SigmaWill Six Sigma Fix Bad Management?New Rules for Management?Quality and Innovation

Six Sigma for Erie County Government

Chris Collins proposed bringing six sigma to Erie County government in his campaign for county executive. He won the election. From his web site:

In business, you satisfy your customers or you fail. But in Erie County government, if you fail taxpayers who are your customer, nothing happens. Under Chris Collins, that will change.

As County Executive, Chris Collins will reform county government to make sure it serves its customers: the taxpayers. He will implement new management techniques – Total Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, ISO, Six Sigma and more – to focus on making every government agency and worker more efficient and accountable. These are the same techniques he’s used to turn around failing companies.
Chris Collins will also choose a business management expert as Deputy County Executive – and then make their only duty to fight everyday to make sure taxpayers get the value we deserve for our tax dollar

Where did he pick up this interest in six sigma? He is the founder, owner, Chairman and CEO of Audubon Machinery:

Audubon is a Six Sigma quality company focused on Total Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, and Lean Manufacturing. The operations manager at Audubon is a Six Sigma Black Belt driving continuous improvement with a focus on customer service.

Audubon Machinery is one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and will be recognized on the INC 500 list this year as well as the new Business First list of the fastest growing companies in Western New York.

I wish him luck in bringing management improvement practices to Erie County.

Related: Bringing Deming to the Public SectorPublic Sector Continuous Improvement SiteSix Sigma City Government

Six Sigma and Innovation

Peter Pande adds his thoughts on how six sigma and innovation can work together. In his podcast, Innovation vs. Efficiency, he makes the argument that innovation and efficiency can work together. As I have stated many times, while bad six sigma efforts may harm innovation but there is no reason good six sigma efforts would. In fact good six sigma efforts help innovation.

Related: Six Sigma Outdated? No.Fast Company Interview: Jeff ImmeltBetter and DifferentNew Rules for Management? No!Six Sigma Success
via: Peter Pande’s Take on Six Sigma and Innovation

Six Sigma in Software Development

Six Sigma makes inroads in software development organizations

“A lot of big companies are developing their own software engineering variance of Six Sigma training,” said Siviy, “putting software-specific examples into the normal Six Sigma curriculum.” However, she said, it’s early in the adoption curve. “In the software world there is a real lack of case studies that show applications of Six Sigma in software engineering,” she said. And those that use Six Sigma in software are often reluctant to share examples because they consider it a competitive advantage.

Still, Siviy said, “At a lot of software conferences now you see a sprinkling of presentations that somehow touch on Six Sigma or Lean, and the quality and depth of questions have evolved tremendously. In general, and not just in Six Sigma, as the [software] industry matures you see a wave of interest in measurement and analytical techniques.”

McKesson is a prime example. “Measurement is key,” Childers said. “What you can’t or don’t measure, you don’t know.”

A couple points. First, you can know what you don’t measure. Do you know your parents? Do you measure them? Manage what you can’t measure.

The Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University has great materials. There is a danger in using those materials to become overly bureaucratic but the material was developed out of an excellent understanding of quality management (way back when that was the way this stuff was referred to). David Anderson provides some good insights, see: Stretching Agile to fit CMMI Level 3

Design of experiments is very suited to testing software: Planning Efficient Software TestsDesign Of Experiment For Software Testing.

six sigma does seem to foster a lack of sharing; which is a shame.

Related: six sigma articles and linkssix sigma postssoftware development postsdesign of experiments articles

Six Sigma Outdated? No.

Here is another of those articles that promotes the idea that oversimplifies six sigma and then declares that mindset is outdated because innovation is needed nowadays – Six Sigma: So Yesterday?.

The discipline was developed as a systematic way to improve quality, but the reason it caught fire was its effectiveness in cutting costs and improving profitability. That makes it a powerful tool—if those are a company’s goals. But as innovation becomes the cause du jour, companies are increasingly confronting the side effects of a Six Sigma culture.

Previously I have addressed this mindset in New Rules for Management? No!, Has Six Sigma been a failure?, Managing Innovation and Fast Company Interview: Jeff Immelt:

I don’t see any reason why managers in the past shouldn’t have had the qualities he seems to be saying are needed now. And I don’t see any reason why the qualities needed now were not needed in the past. This sure seems like a bunch of words saying nothing to me: perhaps I just don’t see the wonderful cloths the emperor has on.

My guess would be that what leads to this quote is not a lack of understanding that managers need the same qualities today they needed 10 years ago but the compulsion to feed the media frenzy for some incredible new insight. It just isn’t sexy to say “we need the same leadership qualities we needed in the past.” Deming stressed the importance of these “new” qualities he states more than 50 years ago

Yes execution of six sigma often focused too much on cost reduction, optimizing short term projects (which resulted in sub-optimizing the entire system), ranking and rating employees… But innovation is not harmed by a good six sigma program – in fact a good six sigma effort a decade ago understood the importance of innovation perfectly well.

Six Sigma at Cummins

Six Sigma winning supply-chain converts

“More and more of our decisions are made after data is collected and analysis done. It’s less of a gut feel and more data-based.”
On any given day, Cummins has 2,500 active Six Sigma projects involving 10,000 of its 34,000 employees, Strodtbeck said.

Next year, senior managers at Cummins will be required to have Six Sigma certification before they can switch jobs or be promoted. “Six Sigma is headed toward being a condition of employment,” Strodtbeck said.

“In 10 years, will we be calling it Six Sigma? I don’t think so,” said Roger Schmenner, associate dean for Indianapolis programs with the Kelley School of Business. “We’ll have something else with a new name. Will it use the same statistical techniques? Absolutely, because some of these things are immutable.”

Six sigma has persisted for well beyond a 10 years already. I must admit I think the name “six sigma” is not the best but it seems to be holding its own. Six sigma is obviously achieving results many companies find worthwhile as they continue to grow their efforts year after year. While I would agree I think it is likely six sigma efforts will transform and be renamed within the next ten years, in many organizations, the momentum seems to be strong still – which is very rare for a management approach. I agree that is due to the benefits of applying statistical tools, education and focus on specific project based success.

Related: six sigma portalSix Sigma ResultsCan six sigma fix bad management?Seduce Them With Six Sigma Success6 Sigma Conference 1999

Find Good Management Improvement Jobs

Peter Abilla (shmula blog) is hiring a Manager for Process Improvement to work with him at eBay. A great opportunity, in my opinion.

Here are some highlights of what he is looking for:

  • Experience implementing Lean and Six Sigma in transactional environments (non-manufacturing).
  • Experience with Value-stream Mapping (current- and future-state), Lean Consumption and Lean Provisioning
  • Experience with Lean beyond just book knowledge — I’m looking for hands-on implementation of Lean.
  • You can explain why variation sucks, with examples — both qualitative and quantitative. How does the DMAIC framework approach variation?
  • You can explain the difference between poke-yoke and mistake-proofing (trick question) and give examples from everyday life of poke-yoke.
  • You can explain and have an intelligent conversation about the above items with people who don’t have backgrounds in Engineering, Lean, or Six Sigma and have the ability to make the above-items relevant and in-context.
  • See the Curious Cat Management Improvement job board for more lean manufacturing, six sigma, quality engineering… jobs.

Toyota, Lean, Consultants…

Toyota’s success pleases proponents of ‘lean’

The publicity about Toyota becoming No. 1 will create another burst of energy to lean, even though a survey by management consulting firm Bain shows that just 19% of companies that have tried it are happy with the results, says Mark Gottfredson, Bain’s head of performance improvement.

More evidence that lean works will result in interest in lean – that seems true. And then those that have an interest will be disappointed in their efforts to do what Toyota does. Yes, half hearted attempts to institute some instant pudding management improvement will fail. And many companies will make those half hearted attempts. It is sad but true. Serious attempts will also be frustrating at times and can also fail but most organizations won’t even commit to attempting serious change. Most will just look for some items from current fads to dress up how they have always managed.

That management consultants will also jump from fad to fad, without conviction, is not news. Deming called them “hacks” in the 1980’s. Bob Sutton’s excellent article calls 90% of management advice crap. Care must be taken to manage effectively. It is very easy to implement management ideas poorly. So I am not surprised when good management concepts are implemented poorly.

Related: Management ImprovementManagement Improvement LeadersDeming and Six SigmaDeming and ToyotaCan Six Sigma Fix Bad Management
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Six Sigma City Government

A recent report from the Brookings Institution, Reconnecting Massachusetts Gateway Cities, has some good words on the efforts of Fort Wayne, Indiana:

In a short time, the city reduced water main replacement costs by 18 percent, cut pothole response time by 86 percent, and slashed the waiting time for building permits from 51 days to 12 days. And because the Six Sigma process permeates all functions of the city’s government, these productivity enhancements have piled up, generating more than $10 million in cost savings over the last five years.

In this time, Fort Wayne’s first-in-the nation municipal foray into Six Sigma practices has proven that statistical analyses and stringent quality control standards do not lose their power outside the boardroom. Such data-centric attention to detail, in fact, is making all the difference.

Related: Doing More With Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin (pdf)Public Sector ManagementLean GovernmentQuality Best Practices in Government (pdf)Six sigma management resources

Lean Six Sigma Efforts

Lean/Six Sigma: The quest for efficiency in manufacturing:

After years of working with lean and Six Sigma principles, many companies realize that, to continue improving, they need to get suppliers and even customers involved — such as happened with Toyota.

Good idea, but there is no good reason a six sigma effort didn’t do that from the start.

Rather than laying off factory staff as processes have become more efficient, the firm has expanded its product line to include doors. In fact, companies that have adopted the lean approach often find that their market share increases because quality and lead-time improvements give them powerful competitive advantages.

Successful lean efforts reduce waste, improve value creation, improve productivity, expand sales and expand jobs.
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3M CEO on Six Sigma

3M in building spree to end capacity constraints

3M should complete the first of an 18-factory build-out in the third quarter, said its chief executive late Tuesday, as it makes up for years of underinvestment on the factory floor – even in its well-known household products. “Our major challenge will be getting all these plants launched,” said 3M CEO George Buckley at a Lehman Brothers conference. Buckley, who joined the St. Paul, Minn. company just over a year ago, has embarked on a global physical expansion program… Buckley said he realized the company was facing manufacturing constraints in several of its product lines.

In the past, a 3M culture that viewed new investment with circumspection and an over-reliance on the Six Sigma management technique made it shy of building some needed capacity, Buckley said. “We got ourselves into a position in which we thought Six Sigma would come to our rescue. We all known that in reality it’s something that runs out of steam,” he said.

Well if you “know” that you are not properly executing a six sigma management system. Previous posts on this topic: Management Advice FailuresChange is not ImprovementLeaving Quality Behind?Going lean Brings Long-term Payoffs. Often six sigma programs amount to cost cutting programs (which can easily run out of steam),; but that is so far from effective six sigma management that it isn’t really fair to equate a programing calling itself “six sigma” with the actual practice of six sigma management.

Still the CEO still seems to believe in lean six sigma:

“We will continue to drive our growth agenda, which will be funded via aggressive productivity improvement efforts, such as global strategic sourcing and lean six sigma.”

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Why Use Designed Factorial Experiments?

One-Factor-at-a-Time Versus Designed Experiments (site broke link so I removed it -when will people learn how to manage web content?) by Veronica Czitrom:

The advantages of designed experiments over [One Factor at a Time] OFAT experiments are illustrated using three real engineering OFAT experiments, and showing how in each case a designed experiment would have been better. This topic is important because many scientists and engineers continue to perform OFAT experiments.

I still remember, as a child, asking what my father was going to be teaching the company he was going to consult with for a few days. He said he was going to teach them about using designed factorial experiments. I said, but you explained that to me and I am just a kid, how can you be teaching adults that? Didn’t they learn it in school? The article is a good introduction to the idea of why one factor at a time experiments are an ineffective way to learn.

Related: Design of Experiments articlesStatistics for Experimenters (2nd Edition)Design of Experiments blog posts

Investing in Six Sigma

Bank of America: Investing in Six Sigma by Thomas Hoffman:

To help the bank’s IT organization align more strategically with its businesses, Desoer has challenged her IT staff to learn more about the bank’s external customers and their needs. “The voice of the customer is what you start with when you embark on a Six Sigma piece of work,” she says.

I think in reality there are several things needed at the starting block but voice of the customer is one, and one that is given too little attention far to often.

Six Sigma … at a Bank? by Milton Jones Jr.:
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Lean is Harmony

In Mike Wroblewski’s capstone, to his posts on his tour of lean manufacturing in Japan, he states:

My lean manufacturing epiphany is quite simple, LEAN IS HARMONY.

The lean principles are helping us develop and promote harmony by removing barriers, rocks, and conflicts that disrupt flow in our business.

Yes, lean is about eliminating waste and using great lean tools to improve our business but that is all we seem to focus on in the US. Lean principles are much more than that.

He captures the difficulty of truly operating in a lean manner. The tools are useful, but they are not the end. Just using the tools can help move an organization to the point where they are ready to truly examine how to improve. Most often the attempts (just like previous attempts with quality management, six sigma… did) stop short of more than superficial change where a few new tools are used in the same old system. Luckily more an more organization are moving in the right direction.
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Management Improvement History and Health Care

Squeezing the fat from health care by Hanah Cho is another article on lean healthcare. This one provides a better view of the overall picture – especially compared to all those claiming to be one of the first lean thinking effort in healthcare. A good sign was that the author referenced, Going Lean in Health Care, a great report by IHI (James Womack and others).

It is nice to see a recognition of management history (so often missing):

Workers may remember theories such as Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, re-engineering and other business techniques that use flow charts, problem solving and role playing to help make their organizations more effective.

But some health care management experts say that some hospitals – like corporations – have gone through numerous quality improvement methods, only to abandon them for the latest management program.

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Six Sigma in Sales

Can Six Sigma Work in a Sales and Marketing Environment? by Paul Selden:

The more systematic view demystifies sales….
As such, that system can be subjected to objective analysis using tools common to Six Sigma and other well-grounded disciplines.

Sales is often an area that is treated as though it were separate from the company. That leads to all sorts of problems. Sales needs to be seen as part of the system of the organization and managed in that way. Just remember systemic thinking (viewing the entire system) will be needed, not just analysis (viewing the components of a system).

Related: Marketers Are Embracing Statistical Design of ExperimentsAppeal for Marketers to Apply Deming’s IdeasMarketing in a Lean CompanyProblems with BonusesFree, Perfect, and Now (book by Robert Rodin)Design of Experiments explanation

Army Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma eases fiscal constraint challenges by Beth Reece, Army News Service:

During fiscal 2005, the Army Material Command saw $110 million in savings and cost avoidance by implementing Lean Six Sigma practices. By removing waste and better controlling output, for example, Letterkenny Army Depot, Pa., reduced costs by $11.9 million in Patriot air defense missile system recapitalization. And Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark., reduced repair cycle time by 90 percent and increased its production of M-40 protective masks by 50 percent.

Another press release on the Army’s use of Lean Six Sigma. See: online six sigma resources and lean manufacturing resources.

New Rules for Management? No!

Fortune recently published an article talking about the “new rules” for management using Jack Welch (GE six sigma) as the focus of the old rules. It seems to me there is nothing new here (once again).

“New” rule: “Agile is best, being big can bite you”
Yeah. Does anyone think this is new. Do they really believe Jack Welch thought agile was not a good thing? Yes, Jack Welch wanted to be number 1 or number 2 in the field or get out of that business line. I still don’t think that he thought being a big un-agile organization couldn’t hurt you.

“New” rule: “Find a niche, create something new.”
Yeah, good idea. I seriously doubt GE was against creating new things. Finding niches in fact is basically what being number 1 or 2 is about. Find those niches you excel in and focus there. I think saying you have to be number 1 or 2 is a silly arbitrary target. But that was just as true 10 years ago as today. Lets look at who the article for these new ideas quotes (with big photos on the main page): Starbucks – number 1 coffee shops, Xerox (I don’t know), Cisco – number 1 switches/routers, Coke number 1 sugar water sellers. Boy this old idea of number 1 or 2 is sure old thinking. Why are those highlighted as experts all perfectly suited to the old rule?
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