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Where’s Your Hammer: Using Lean and Six Sigma to pick more than low-hanging fruit

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Maybe you want to implement a quality system.

You buy a book or talk to a consultant but immediately run into a mountain of strange terminology. Kaizen Events and Six Sigma. DMAIC Methods and 5S. You thought Value Stream Mapping was a cheaper way to drive somewhere, and the closest you’ve come to Lean is in the hamburger case at the grocery store. Forget it, you’re thinking, we have parts to ship.

Still, competition is fierce, and it’s only going to get worse. Price, delivery, and quality—manufacturers could once get away with saying, “Pick two, Mr. Customer.” But in today’s world, customers expect all three, while also demanding shorter lead times, smaller lot sizes and quality levels only dreamed of twenty years ago. Shops that wish to survive must embark on a journey of continuous improvement, shaving every ounce of fat they can from their production processes. Back to the book.

Who the heck is TIM WOOD?
Take a walk around the shop. Chances are you’ll see plenty of things that could be made to run faster, more accurately, and with less wasted motion. These opportunities generally fall into one of the seven types of waste, or Muda, defined by Lean manufacturing: Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-processing, Overproduction, Defects. Lean consultants use the acronym TIMWOOD. But Larry Coté, founder of Lean Advisors Inc., Ottawa, ON, says it takes more than memorizing a few acronyms to implement Lean. “First of all, you need commitment from management. It doesn’t have to be the entire leadership team but you do need someone at a decision-making level who can say this is where we’re going and why we need to change. That’s where you start.”

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