6.28.2012

Where is Lean and Six Sigma Going?

I recently read a very engaging article by Alan Nicol titled What Are The Futures Of Lean And Six Sigma? over on the Manufacturing.Net site. Essentially, Mr. Nicol sees Lean continuing to expand and having "an on-going evolution." He believes Lean's most powerful strengths are: "1. It attacks an enemy we can all perceive. 2. It is a relatively simple methodology that is reasonably adopted and executed by most anyone; it does not require great skill other than some proficient problem solving."


One point I found quite interesting -- he posits that "Lean has almost utterly failed to succeed where the greatest waste exists, in the office. This is because, having been born on the manufacturing floor, Lean-thinking people tend to try to apply manufacturing solutions to office waste." What are your thoughts on this view? Do you see "office Lean" initiatives as failing  up to this point?


In addition, Mr. Nicol states that "the next Lean movement or revitalization will occur in the 'transactional' realm." I agree with this prediction, but I'm surprised he didn't mention the growing trend of organizations incorporating "green thinking" into their Lean initiatives. I've read about some positive results in the "Lean and green" movement, and I'm wondering what readers here see for the future of Lean initiatives that consider sustainability not only from a technological angle, but from public policy concerns.


Mr. Nicol believes that Six Sigma will "diminish." I think he makes a very insightful point in regard to its failure: "... the specialized team approach fails to change the cultural behavior of the business and its management. In order for Six Sigma to manifest significant improvement, the business must change the way it makes decisions." What are your thoughts on this? One of the criticisms of Six Sigma is that it relies on expensive experts, but never changes mindsets on the operator level.


I find David Rogers' book titled The Future of Lean Sigma Thinking in a Changing Business Environment quite perceptive on this topic. He especially provides some inportant information on the impact of e-commerce on Lean initiatives.

88 comments:

John said...

As I pointed out in my recent book "Progressive Kaizen" Six Sigma generally falls far short in taking Lean to its ultimate level of achievement. Companies have to get back to the process of spreading the knowledge, actively involving and encouraging workforce participation and focusing on a set of Lean principles that serve to drive and guide the process. From there it takes strong communications and an unweavering commitment to see that implementation is fully carried out.

Marty Yuzwa said...

Great Post! I wouldn't say that Lean has failed in the service sector. However, I would say that Lean has not demonstrated an ability to customize terminology and methods for the service industry, and this significantly hampers its growth in this area.

For instance in the seven wastes, Overproduction is often considered one of the worst wastes because it creates most of the others. However, in the Service industry it is rarely as large of a problem. Yes, another potential waste such as "Hand-offs" are a significant source of opportunity.

Similarly, SMED and QCO are not significantly helpful in service since setup time is not normally a major problem. However, Triage tools can be very helpful at helping to separate Value Streams.

Until Office Lean gets its own terminology and focus areas, it will continue to struggle.

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Ari Kause said...

It seems as if Lean theory itself must do what it teaches, kaizen, continuous improvement, and evolution towards better, in order to be applied to areas other than manufacturing. Would it be possible to eventually have different versions of Lean for different industries? Or would the versions no longer be Lean?

mwilson said...

I agree. I am seeing a significant decrease in numbers of people even searching for six sigma--and that is one of the tell-all areas to me. Much less demand for our products there as well. I would love to see a related article about lean office and reducing office waste. Hint hint.

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