Lean Thinking, Value Analysis, and Six Sigma --
The long-term viability of a company's business plan depends on sustaining its competitive advantage. Competitive advantage is usually achieved through developing new products and services that satisfy and delight customers and through restructuring and improving business processes to improve quality and reduce costs -- adding Value.
There are many examples of companies successfully using comprehensive quality improvement processes -- primarily Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma -- and Lean Thinking to restructure their products and processes:
Team-based Process Improvement became prominent with the advent Quality Circles, Total Quality Management, and Lean Manufacturing (Kaizen events). Value Analysis and Six Sigma provide a quantitative structure for the teams to utilize in improving processes.
The Brecker Product / Process Improvement Methodology integrates techniques from
The four-phase Brecker Product / Process Improvement Methodology ensures results.
Most Six Sigma training courses focus on the statistical process improvement techniques used in phase 3. TQM failures have shown us that it is far more important to identify processes with financial impact and to commit to implement the necessary improvements. The four phase Brecker value-based approach ensures Product / Process Improvement teams work on the "right" problems and that improvement goals are met or exceeded .
One client used this Value and Lean-based improvement methodology to reduce their product cost by over 50% in 2 years.
The application of the Brecker Product / Process Improvement Methodology is flexible and can accommodate the spectrum of business and marketplace needs. Emphasis can be placed on completeness or speed in accordance with the company's economic cycle time.
The improvement process can be undertaken gradually to insure compatibility with the business and to demonstrate the range of benefits. Individual workshops are used to identify value and quality improvements for specific products / services and processes (Phase 2). Workshops include training in applying a variety of value, quality, and productivity (lean) tools. Teams or individuals are assigned responsibility for solving specific problems and implementing recommended improvements (Phase 3). Additional workshops are conducted as needed to address complex products / processes and to improve additional products / services and processes.
When an organization is ready to commit to a business level improvement system, Value Workshops at the business level are used to identify and prioritize the areas of opportunity (Phase 1). Six Sigma-Value leaders are trained while conducting the Planning and Re-design workshops (Phases 2 and 3) and are responsible for implementing the improvements. Management participates strongly in prioritizing opportunities (Phases 1) and in guiding implementation (Phase 4). Implementation can be self-funding and does not require a costly up-front training program.
Value, quality, and productivity (lean) techniques that are especially useful in addressing specific business areas are discussed below.
The mission of all organizations is to satisfy customer's needs repeatedly
after day. Customer Satisfaction is a key element in TQM and
The most successful organizations provide the greatest value
to their customers
-- superior benefits per unit cost.
A multi-functional team develops a consensus list of customer needs and desires (values) -- spoken and unspoken. These values usually include delivery, responsiveness, trust, and other "intangibles" as well as functional requirements. Quality Function Deployment (QFD) provides a structured approach to quantify the relative importance of these customer requirements (values). Critical To Quality requirements (CTQs) are determined, and improvement targets are set. CTQs can then be determined in sequence for the the various components of the product, the processes to make the components, and the process controls.
This chain of CTQ requirements links marketing, design, and production requirements to
core customer requirements.
Customers demand increasingly high quality and reliability. QS9000 and ISO9000-2000 quality systems require continuous quality improvement systems. The first efforts for improving quality are usually on improving the process since that is usually less costly than re-designing the product.
Multi-functional process improvement teams are particularly effective in eliminating defects, resolving repetitive quality and productivity issues, and meeting the process CTQs. Focusing on a broad process perspective works well in job shop operations as well as in high volume operations. The brainstorming techniques of Value analysis (VA) lead to consensus improvements that can usually be implemented quickly. Simple statistical testing can be used to determine CTQs. Simple Design of Experiments (DOE) can be used to improve performance in complex processes . Statistical Process Control (SPC) is used to keep processes under control.
When process improvement is not practical or is very expensive, product re-design is necessary. Focus needs to be on producing a "robust design" -- a design that is not sensitive to the normal variations in materials or processes. Creativity is needed to identify alternative methods of providing the desired product functions. This can be different hardware or software concepts, different materials, different processes, etc. VA brainstorming is an excellent tool to refine creative solutions and to develop consensus on the best alternative approaches. Simple statistical testing and Design of Experiments can help identify and prioritize key product and process parameters (CTQs). Design for Manufacturability (DFM), Design for Assembly (DFA) , and Lean Manufacturing concepts are applied to insure balance between design requirements and manufacturing capabilities. Concurrent engineering teams work especially well.
The product and processes used to produce it need to fit business strategies for producing product variations as well as having "Six Sigma quality."
Companies frequently out-source materials and services that are not central to their business strategy or core competencies. Their suppliers can often achieve competitive advantages of scale with lower labor and / or lower overhead costs. The printed circuit board industry is a prime example. Since purchased materials and services costs can be 50-70% of the cost of goods and services, it is important to get the greatest value possible for these expenditures.
High productivity depends on the high quality of materials. A Six Sigma quality level means that disruptive quality problems are rare. Customer-supplier VA workshops focused on improving process quality as well as providing greater functionality lead to quick and dramatic cost savings for both customer and supplier.
High volume transaction processes are usually automated and / or are heavy users of computer systems or communications equipment. Process improvement here also encompasses both computer systems and automated equipment capabilities and human interactions with them. A variety of Statistical Process Control (SPC) and Design of Experiments (DOE) techniques can be applied to analyze process performance. The techniques applied vary somewhat from those used in manufacturing.
Administrative process renewal parallels process improvement in
businesses except that customers are primarily internal to the
QFD usually focuses on implementing business strategies and
tactics especially lean thinking.
Teams which include internal customers
develop a deep, shared understanding of
common quality issues.
Brainstormed solutions are "shared" as is a commitment
to implementation. Simple statistical methods -- usually not as detailed as in design and manufacturing processes -- can be used to analyze and improve process performance.
Applying the Brecker Product / Process Improvement methodology results in a renewal of aging products / services and business processes. Costs are reduced while adding Value for customers and the business.
Brecker Associates specializes in conducting Value Analysis, Lean, Six Sigma, QFD, and Process Improvement workshops to increase the value and profitability of our client's businesses. We customize these techniques to fit the unique requirements of each client. Workshops and training are "hands-on" and are customized to fit the skills and needs of participants. We guarantee results and competitive prices.
Services include implementing and updating quality systems. Our on-site Six Sigma-Value Leaders program identifies, analyzes, and implements improved products / services and processes while training personnel in applying Six Sigma, Value, Quality, and Productivity (Lean) methodologies. Statistical methods are "de-mystified", simplified, and applied practically. Your company obtains results during the training process.
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