Manufacturing & Operation

Lean Six Sigma in Manufacturing and Operations

Why apply Lean Six Sigma in Manufacturing and Operations?

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a data driven business improvement methodology which can be applied to all parts of an organisation. It consists of a set of principles and tools to systematically improve a process, or an entire organisation, from its current state to a desired higher performing state. The idea is to provide the best quality product or service to the customer at the lowest price and shortest delivery time while maintaining a safe and engaging work environment and fulfilling legal and communal responsibilities.

LSS originated in the manufacturing sector. There are many examples of small and large manufacturers who have benefited from LSS in improving their processes and business performance. The results are quantitative and verifiable. LSS evolved over time, going as far back as Henry Ford’s production line of cars in the early 20th century, to the Toyota Production System in the 1950s and Motorola’s Six Sigma methodology to improve quality in the 1980s. LSS has a strong track record and is well proven in the industry.

Where LSS has been implemented and sustained properly, numerous benefits have been realised, as evident from published case studies covering various industries and countries. The top benefits are:

  • Higher profits
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Lower costs
  • Shorter cycle or lead time
  • Higher productivity
  • Fewer defects / higher quality
  • Lower inventory
  • Improved staff morale and creativity
  • Safer and well organised work environment

What are the key principles of Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma focuses on the customer and value is defined by the customer. In manufacturing and operations, the ultimate customer is the external end user, with internal customers being the receiver of the semi-finished product downstream of each operation.

The key principles of LSS are:

  • Focus on your customer: Establish the product quality requirements with your customer which you promise to deliver.
  • Identify your value stream: Map out your existing value stream, showing every single process step, from purchasing raw materials to manufacturing operations (including quality assurance) to distribution of finished products.
  • Eliminate waste and/or defects: Remove any non-value adding activities or opportunities for defects in your operations.
  • Maintain momentum: Sustain improvements through clear and effective communication of new standards and practices by leaders and provision of necessary training and feedback to employees.
  • Create and sustain a culture of continuous improvement: Embed a culture of embracing change and flexibility involving all employees who are empowered to continually look for ways to streamline processes and eliminate waste and defects, thereby ultimately improving business profitability.

How is Lean Six Sigma applied in Manufacturing and Operations?

LSS is data driven, focusing on eliminating waste, reducing process variation and providing the highest quality product for the best customer experience. It is a structured problem solving methodology using visualising and analytical tools from statistics and other fields.

In manufacturing and operations, waste and value are identified using value stream mapping. Types of waste consist of defects, overproduction, waiting for a machine or person, non-utilised talent of personnel, transporting of items, inventory, motion of people and extra processing. The idea is to increase flow using Lean tools and reduce defects or process variation using Six Sigma tools.

Below are some examples of how LSS is applied in manufacturing.

  • Significant annual cost savings from reduction of scrap in the main extrusion line of a polypropylene manufacturing plant.
  • Quality improvement through great defect reduction in abrasives belt manufacturing led to significant sales growth and increase in customer satisfaction. Problems with abrasives belts had been the highest occurring customer complaint for several years.
  • Eliminating waste while improving productivity and safety in a threaded products manufacturing plant led to a remarkable reduction in scrap and rework costs and increase to 99% on time delivery.
  • A drastic reduction of cycle time to a small fraction of previous figure in a manufacturing plant resulted in significant improvement in all key performance metrics, e.g. lost time accidents, customer complaints, on time delivery in full, average annual inventory and full time equivalents.

As LSS is a structured and systematic methodology, a team of highly trained and experienced staff members or consultants is required to implement, embed and sustain the improved changes, with the unwavering support of management. Depending on the size of the manufacturing business, the initial implementation could be forming an in-house core team of highly trained change agents or engaging an external consultant.

What could your business achieve with Lean Six Sigma?

Imagine you now have an improved business with the measurable and undeniable benefits, after applying LSS successfully. What could your improved business go on to achieve?

For example, what if your manufacturing processes are operating consistently at 99.99% in specification products with a due date performance of greater than 95% on time in full delivery? What increase in market share could that open up for you? What kind of guarantees could you give your customers which your competitors are not able to do?

How can CBIS help you?

Please contact us if you need more details on how our expert team can assist you. We are simply experts in the application of Lean Six Sigma in the manufacturing and operations sector.

22 Jun 2022
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