Here are the three Lean Six Sigma Consulting tools that I like the most. These tools are my favourites because they are easy to use and understand, they get employees engaged, and they WORK.
1. FIVE-WHY FRAMEWORK
The concept behind the Five-Why Framework is quite simple. If you repeatedly ask WHY to a problem statement, by the fifth why you should discover the root cause of the problem. For example:
Problem Statement: I constantly have headaches.
1. Why do you constantly have headaches? Because I don’t get enough sleep.
2. Why don't I get enough sleep? Because I drink wine before I go to bed.
3. Why do you drink wine before you go to bed? Because drinking wine relaxes me.
4. Why do you need to relax? Because I am worried about forgetting to do something the next day.
5. Why are you worried about forgetting something you need to do the next day? Because I never write out task lists to remind myself.
In this example, my headaches will stop if I learn to write out the tasks I need to do the next day.
Addressing the root cause of a problem is the only way to ensure the problem is permanently corrected, and performance is improved.
2. Value Added Analysis
Value added analysis is a tool used to identify which one of the following categories an activity within a process falls under: i) value added, ii) non-value added, and iii) value added but required (e.g. due to legislation and policy). Those non-value added activities are activities that are wasteful, such as duplication, rework, over-production.
There are many ways to conduct a value added analysis; however, I find a determining factor is to have input and engagement from employees, who know where non-value added activities are in their processes. Employees could then be asked to measure the frequency, extra time/effort/costs of these activities that are adding to the overall process. Once this measurement is complete, employees will also provide input to design a new process in which non-value added activities are eliminated and those that are non-value added but required activities are minimized.
3. Pareto Charts
Pareto charts are great graphical bar charting tools allowing one to easily identify which process issues are creating the biggest problems. The bars in the chart are ordered in descending frequency magnitude (i.e. from issues that occur most frequently to those that occur less frequent).
In most cases, I have been able to use this tool to show how a majority of our clients’ resources are focused on the smallest problems and ignoring the greatest issues.
The sample Pareto Chart provided in this section shows the average utility cost per month by appliance type with the water heater costing the most at close to $40 and the can opener costing the least at less than $1.
These three tools are not meant to be used in isolation; however, incorporating them into your continuous improvement or process improvement initiatives will go a long way to success.
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