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.
Corporate inertia is another obstacle, particularly where shop-floor personnel cling to traditional notions learned early in their careers. It’s hard, for example, for the operator of an expensive machine to discard the notion that idle machinery loses money.
My opinion is that management is the most common and most persistent obstacle, not “shop-floor personnel.” Others can resist yet another effort to adopt the latest management fad but the real challenge is in getting management to change their poor practices.
“You have physically to change your process first and then bring in the technology to help,” says Sharma. “You cannot depend on technology alone. Using technology as a panacea gets a lot of companies into trouble.”
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