Lean tools are tools used in a company to not only reduce waste but also improve flow in an organization. Lean tools have over the years been championed by Japanese companies with Toyota in particular being at the forefront of their use. In the recent past, researchers have come to find out that the lean approach can easily be integrated with the Six Sigma approach to make it more effective (Roy, 2010). This is so since as opposed to before when they were regarded as alternatives to each other, research showed that they actually complemented each other. Lean’s weaknesses were the Six Sigma’s strength and therefore incorporating both proved more beneficial to an organization. Six Sigma focuses on product quality and therefore effectively compliments the lean approach. In order to integrate the two approaches, some principles need to be adhered to as discussed below.
First and foremost value streaming is core to these. It entails grouping of activities into value enabling, value adding and non value adding. This is aimed at elimination of activities that are non beneficial and recognizing those that are of major importance. Another principle is takt time which translates to beat. It is therefore the need to complete a project to meet customers’ demand in time. In addition, poka yoke which translates to mistake correction is elimination of error in the businesses processes and therefore aims at the minimization of error (Cole, 2011). Furthermore, Heijunka is another process which means load balancing. This effectively alleviates bottlenecks and used in conjunction with takt time to make the process effective. Last but not least is the Ishikawa (cause and effect) diagram which is discussed in detail below.
The Ishikawa diagram also referred to as the fishbone cause and effect diagram is a diagram that focuses on showing the particular cause of a given event (George, 2002). The diagram takes the shape of a fishbone thus the name fishbone diagram. The main causes are grouped into different categories key among them being; people (persons involve in the process), methods, machines, materials, environment and measurements. Most uses of the diagram are quality defect prevention and product design. In creating a fishbone diagram, a procedure is followed. First and foremost one has to agree on the problem statement and note it on the centre right side of the board you are representing the diagram (Harry, 2010). A box is drawn on it and an arrow drawn horizontally running to it. Next brainstorm the main categories of the causes and write them as branches from the main arrow. Again ask the cause of the causes and write this down as sub branches from the main branches. Once the whole chart is done then where there are few sub-branches then further brainstorming should be done to effectively fill the sub branches for uniformity.
It is important to note that the main importance of this method is that it enables proper and thorough solving of a problem by addressing all angles involved in the problem. For this to be possible, it is advised for the brainstorming to be done by a group of people instead of one person. This enables different perspectives being developed to know the all causes of the problem at hand and therefore addressing it the problem becomes quite easy and straight to the point.
Cole, B. (2011). Lean-six sigma for the public sector: Leveraging continuous process improvement to build better governments. Milwaukee, Wis: ASQ Quality Press.
George, M. L. (2002). Lean Six Sigma: Combining Six Sigma quality with lean speed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Harry, M. J. (2010). Practitioner’s guide for statistics and lean six sigma for process improvement. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons.
Roy, S. (26, february 2010). six sigma. Retrieved 2014, from www.isixsigma.com/methodology/lean-methodology/5-lean-tools-and-principles-integrate-six-sigma/