Profitability has been, and will always be, the main driving focus for any business. If a company is not making a profit, the long-term health of that organization may be at jeopardy. In today’s world, many factors have emerged that continue to erode a company’s bottom line: rising fuel prices, inflation on materials, competition, overseas outsourcing, labor costs and many more. In order to combat these variables, companies have invested numerous cost savings programs.
These programs take on a wide array of naming conventions and focus. To name a few, in my relatively brief experience, I have encountered: CIP teams (Continuous Improvement Practices), PMO (Project Management Offices), SIA (Service Improvement Initiative), CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) and countless others. These teams and philosophies usually have the same foundation and basics. Many of you may know them more as Lean and Six-Sigma programs.
Lean Six-Sigma are methodical practices that help to remove Muda (waste) out of a value stream. These wastes usually fall into 8 categories:
By examining these wastes, companies have been able to save thousands, if not millions, throughout an annual life cycle and process.
The current economic landscape of today is one where companies are no longer merely competing against each other by whoever has the best widget or service. It is a competition of supply chains. These supply chains extend all the way back to the supplier and manufacturer. In other words, the company that can streamline the entire process from beginning to end the best, will be more efficient, easily adaptable and ready for the ever-changing consumer needs and habits – thus becoming more profitable.
As we dive deeper, let’s examine each cost savings event or Kaizen. Teams are often faced with the challenge of implementing rapid solutions so that the results and forthcoming cost savings dollars can be achieved with quicker and greater efficiency. For example, if we were to hold a Kaizen event at a manufacturing plant, one may suggest that we re-arrange some work cell layouts, reposition inventory, eliminate unnecessary tools etc. These improvements are usually pretty quick to implement and you can witness the results first hand.
However, when the Lean Kaizen team begins to examine ‘process’ related improvements, the solutions tend to converge on system related enhancements. For example, if we were to examine a Return Material Authorization (RMA) process some process steps may be:
- Product created by manufacturing
- Product stored in warehouse
- Customer orders product
- Product ships to customer
- Customer receives product and determines defect
- Customer sends product back and is shipped new
- Defect product is examined by quality team
- Defects are stored, analyzed and tracked
- Product scrapped
Any suggestions to examine issues and implement change in this area may involve IT support, as a lot of these processes tend to interact with core IT systems. As we discussed above, LEAN and continuous improvement are meant to be quick Action Workouts (AWOs) that show cost savings results quickly. Changing any core IT system may take months if not years to alter, implement and begin seeing cost savings results.
So how can Platform Technologies such as Quickbase, Intalio|Create and Microsoft Business Solutions help the typical LEAN Six-Sigma Engineer?
Platform Technology systems offer a robust solution that is easy to customize, integrate and implement within any environment. A manual process such as writing down a defect on a piece of paper or even logging the event in Excel may not drive the desired Quality Improvements that is needed to improve an RMA process and more importantly the customer experience. By implementing a Platform solution, one can implement a solution in a matter of weeks that includes:
- Automatic emails to desired departments
- Safety alerts to Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) Managers
- Quality Metric Dashboards
- Executive Dashboards
- Root Cause Corrective Action tracking
- Pareto analysis of top defects
- Project tracking for major quality improvements
- Frequent Defect Databases
- Customer notifications
- Multi-site/location data compiling
- And so much more…
Through Platform solutions, LEAN Six-Sigma Engineers and all continuous improvement managers can implement robust IT solutions at a fraction of the time/cost and with all the bells and whistles to make a typical Lean Kaizen event into one that will be sustained and remembered for a long time.
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For more information on Lean Six Sigma visit: www.goleansixsigma.com