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Learning Lean Six Sigma….with legos

January 17, 2008

Lean Six Sigma, that corporate re-engineering craze may be coming to a Fortune 500 company near you.    Sounds great, but what is it?  “Lean” applies principles to remove waste from processes, while Six Sigma strives to remove variances (defects).   The Six Sigma level of quality achievement is equivalent to about 3.4 defects in a million iterations.  

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a class on LSS.  Heading into the class, knowing just slightly more than what I outlined in my opening sentences, I was prepared for 8 hours of material dry enough to double as kindling, served up by some unknown presenter doing his best Ben Stein impression.  Wow, that’s really dry.

Luckily for me, the material was being presented by Ron Sicker of the TCM group.   To say that Ron is high energy, is like saying the surface of the sun is rather hot.   Ron talks fast, he paces enough to wear out a patch of the best grade commercial carpet in six or seven hours.   He gets the room engaged, and the whole day felt like a lab – theory and practice.

Enter the legos.   Ron put together a great manufacturing simulation featuring the progressive build of a widget.   The starting process was very wasteful in many ways, and our team was only able to build ten of them in as many minutes.   It was very embarrassing, and deliberately so.   We tried our best to time all the different components of what we did, and then mapped out what we did, found the bottlenecks, and were allowed to re-engineer the process to eliminate them.   We re-ran the exercise and built 63 in the same ten minutes.  

Coming out of the lab, it was really hard to imagine being proud of yourself for building and taking apart a bunch of Legos, but proud we were.  It felt as though we really solved a problem – the lab made tangible the paper concepts.   

The processes within LSS actually seem broadly applicable in our daily lives.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. vijaysaradhi permalink
    May 10, 2009 10:57 am

    You would be amazed to see a system with six sigma rating of 99.9999 and these guys dont even have any documentation to run their business!This is an ingenious way of obtaining six sigma!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dabbawala

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