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From a lab at MIT to connecting 50,000 high school students live around the world, Norman Gaut's team at PictureTel were pioneers in connecting the world via real-world time, visual communications.
What does "Lean" mean? This article provides the basic background, terminology, and insight entrepreneurs need to understand how specific, proven processes lead to reduced costs, improved quality, and delighted customers. It also briefly considers the next logical extension of Lean Manufacturing (Lean Thinking), which allows service companies to benefit from the hard-won lessons of manufacturers.
The Six Sigma manufacturing process drives production to near-perfect levels, seeking less than 3.4 defects per million output units. Here, the basic purpose and process of the Six Sigma methodology, and its connection to "lean" manufacturing, are clearly explained for entrepreneurs. The article also provides tips on getting started and guidelines to successful implementation.
As Buck Knives, Inc., celebrated a century in business, it also faced a cash crunch that was putting it out of business. CEO CJ Buck shares how his team took dramatic action (including moving the company from Southern California to northern Idaho) to fend off high-quality global competitors and to turn the historic and highly regarded company around with its own version of the Toyota Production System (TPS).
After leaping into "Lean," Southern Vinyl Manufacturing gained efficiencies in nearly every area of its operations. Specifically, entrepreneur Rod Matthews explains the challenges and rewards of involving employees in finding and eliminating waste using the "Five Why" process. As a result of "getting lean," the company resolves manufacturing problems by digging deeply to identify root causes instead of just treating symptoms.
Six Disciplines energized this manufacturing firm as its CEO and management team struggled to motivate and reward employees by measuring performance. Engaging employees in ongoing strategic planning, using Six Disciplines software to stay focused on the plan, and remaining accountable for performance resulted not only in increased enthusiasm and efficiency. An unexpected benefit was that it helped management and employees learn how to work much better together.
This article outlines the purpose of the Six DisciplinesT approach, explains in brief the value of some of the tools used in this methodology, and provides useful links, especially to the Six Disciplines Web site. The site provides entrepreneurs with a way to see what implementation might be like and offers examples of companies that have put Six Disciplines to work in their companies. The process is designed specifically for small and mid-sized companies with more than twenty employees.
Even with trained and certified internal quality-improvement leaders, or "belts," Six Sigma efforts can fail because management does not understand the support they need. Such ignorance can mean that Six Sigma quality projects don't match company strategy, receive the right resources or financial support, or benefit from regular reviews by managers who can resolve such issues. Entrepreneurs thinking about implementing a Lean Manufacturing-oriented process need to have a full appreciation not only for the returns but also for the investments required, especially their own time and energy and that of their top team".
Among the newest business-excellence methodologies now available, Six DisciplinesT is growing in popularity as a holistic tool to help manufacturing entrepreneurs remain competitive against all comers. It's designed specifically to help small and mid-sized businesses ensure they are doing the right things at the right times. Goals include simplifying the quality management approach, fostering practical planning, and delivering effective, sustainable execution management. Many practical tools to implement the program are available.
Does Six Sigma methodology have benefits small- to medium-sized entrepreneurial manufacturing firm? "Yes!" proclaims this author, a Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He provides an overview of, outlines four actions needed for a company to succeed with, and defines steps to deploying Six Sigma.
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