How to be the Apple of Lean Six Sigma

Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and Process Improvement have revolutionized the way businesses approach Operational Effectiveness in their physical processes for decades.  Elimination of wasted time, energy, and materials in physical processes took the world from the industrial revolution to the smart phone.

For an example of process improvement in Lean Manufacturing, imagine:

You start a lawn mower engine company in your garage.  By the end of the engine assembly process the engine weighs 50lbs.  The process requires six tables with equipment necessary for the process.  These tables are arranged three on each side of the garage in the order you purchased them, oldest to newest .  Your back hurts, your feet hurt, and you’re having trouble keeping up with demand.

One morning, sipping your coffee, dreading the job you once loved, you have an epiphany – changing the arrangement of the tables would allow you to eliminate walking across the garage three times while holding the engine as it gets increasingly heavy!  So you take 20min to move the tables, but cut 30 minutes per engine from the process.  You spend more time doing what you love, less time in pain, and now – energized and more efficient – you meet customer expectations easily.

Starting a small engine company in your garage in the digital era sounds pretty unlikely today right?  Won’t we all 3D print engines soon?  Won’t lawnmowers use solid-state hover-board technology that never breaks in the next decade?

This physical mindset for Lean is the fundamental issue facing anyone I know in Six Sigma or Lean Process Improvement.  Companies large and small are facing the same problem I’ll call “Improvement Saturation”.  Improvement Saturation is exactly why Operational Effectiveness is not Strategy – best demonstrated practices become common knowledge across and outside industries.  While Lean initiatives can secure margins and save the health of employees, each short-term edge is destined to become commonplace (and sometimes, mandated by law).   But what if that well dries up?  What happens when you just can’t find another way to get more operationally effective than the competition?

Companies today MUST rethink their approach to Six Sigma in the digital era.  The physical world has reached Improvement Saturation.  The ROI of Lean projects are shrinking.  What should you do?

Don’t just aspire to be the Toyota of Lean orSix Sigma.

Be the Apple of Lean Six Sigma.

In the digital era, process improvement must shift to the cost, the waste, and the inefficiency of the way information is handled, carried, and distributed across your employees in both the physical and virtual world in which your key business processes are completed.

What is the number one sign your company has information process inefficiencies?  THE CLIPBOARD

Imagine the most important piece of information your company writes on a clipboard everyday.  Now pretend that one piece of information is a 50lbs box.  If you want to really feel the three gen of that information, grab a real 50lbs box and follow that clipboard with its imprisoned, currently useless, but mission-critical information until it reaches its final destination.  How many days did it take?  How many minutes or hours from Point A to Point B?  How far did it walk?  Are you tired now?

If that were a real 50lbs thing and you could “fax it” to a 3D printer instead of carrying it, how much time, energy, and money would you save?

Companies who keep carrying around baggage like this will get left behind.

If that information is truly mission-critical, that clipboard is delaying information symmetry and encouraging decision fatigue.  A mature mobile strategy fixes this and it will launch your Lean Process Improvement program into the information age.  Take the leap from improvement to transformation.

To become the Apple of Lean or Six Sigma you need three things:

#1  Intuitive workplace experience – Just like the assembly line removed virtually any need to train the location of fabrication and assembly steps and Apple brought the one touch visual interface to our preferred window to the world, mobile apps done right take the training out of new best practice implementation, minimize the on-boarding of new hires, and give your Process Improvement projects version control, instant feedback, and usage analytics.

#2  Crowdsource everything –  Just like autonomation at Toyota let one Quality Control person oversee the output of triple or quadruple the output and safety has been revolutionized by empowering every employee to stop the line when they spot a hazard, the iPhone “went viral” once the App Store gave everyone a place to publish and distribute supply-side, download and consume demand-side billions of new smart phone software options.  Lean Six Sigma in the digital age of social media and blog posts must empower the passion and pride of the people, engage the disruptive mavericks, and re-create the social ecosystem of your company in ways that transcend corporate structures to solve problems.

#3 Learn the ROI of Information Efficiency – 2014 was deemed the year of “Consumerization of IT” and 2015 was the “Re-enterprisation of IT” – the next three to five years will be both.  The worker as enterprise consumer and the enterprise as solution provider will need cross-functional collaboration to reinvigorate stagnant processes.  Just like Kanban removes the waste of a batch-and-queue system, Apple’s iPhone shifted information consumption to “on-demand” or “notification” driven.  People love apps.  They put the world easily and instantly at our fingertips, personalized to our needs.  They tell us it will rain before we ask, where to go when we’re lost, and instantly answer virtually any trivia, schedule, and sports question we may have.  Information efficiency is contextual, proactive, and self-advertising.  You don’t need to “hunt” on a clipboard, spreadsheet, or green screen for the data that matters – that data, and its implications, should alert you proactively, predicting your need-to-know.

#4 – Don’t do it alone!  If you are looking for ideas or training on these concepts for you and your team, send me a message!

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