Organizations of all sizes and industries have practiced Lean Six Sigma for decades. Businesses in the manufacturing sector in particular rely on the philosophy—whether to gain a competitive advantage or even to stay in business period. Lean Six Sigma concepts are well-proven, which is why they’re so in-demand. For leaders seeking to make the jump to an executive position within the manufacturing industry, these concepts are all but essential for the C-suite.
Lean Six Sigma as a cornerstone of executive leadership can keep operations steady even during challenging times. As manufacturing faces a period of evolution (Industry 4.0), reliance on these concepts will become more and more critical. Companies are looking for executives who understand how to deploy Lean Six Sigma methodologies in alignment with mission-critical operations.
Get familiar with Lean and Six-Sigma philosophies
Lean Six Sigma is a combination of the managerial concepts Lean and Six Sigma. They both add value to the manufacturing process, guiding organizations to better profits by reducing waste.
The Lean approach focuses on eight types of waste: defects, over-production, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion and extra-processing. Developed by Toyota in the 1980s, Lean is designed to maximize throughput through incremental efficiency improvements. Lean remains the gold standard for manufacturing management, and governs the decision-making of the world’s largest manufacturers today.
Six Sigma hones in on reducing defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing processes. Six Sigma users reach different levels (belts), giving them foresight into everything from project planning and organization, to efficiency planning and workflow administration. Six Sigma evangelists believe a successful project is one in which 99.99966% of all production results are free of defects.
When used together, Lean and Six Sigma work to expose and reduce process variations, to improve a continuous flow of high-quality products. They’re both cornerstones of manufacturing excellence.
Lean methodologies govern modern manufacturing
While Lean and Six Sigma are decades-old approaches to manufacturing, they retain their value today. Not only can their principles be applied to manufacturing and supply chain processes, they have benefits in all aspects of an organization, helping teams recognize and decrease waste. The Lean methodology has actually been around since the beginning of the industrial age. It’s always been a goal for every manufacturing business to constantly strive to meet demanding expectations from customers while improving the company’s bottom line.
Major manufacturers demand a deep knowledge of Lean Six Sigma from their executive teams to remove waste and increase customer satisfaction with a better-quality product. When you follow Lean Six Sigma principles, you reduce or eliminate activities that add no value to the manufacturing process. It follows that you’ll reduce costs and increase margins by eliminating unnecessary wasteful steps and adding ones that are valuable.
Manufacturing executives who can combine Lean Six Sigma philosophies with mission critical operations will find themselves at the helm of a company that’s doing everything right—even as the manufacturing industry becomes more and more technological.
The IIoT is expanding Lean Six Sigma opportunities
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is continually changing the way industrial companies perform day-to-day operations. In effect, the IIoT is a network of industrial devices that communicate data from sensors through wireless networks. They provide a constant stream of industrial data that’s then collected and analyzed to make business processes as efficient as possible.
By combining industrial data analytics with machine-to-machine communication, today’s manufacturers have access to unprecedented insights that have the potential to boost efficiency in a variety of applications, from manufacturing to aviation, oil and gas, utilities and more. From detecting maintenance issues to uncovering potential areas of additional capacity at a manufacturing facility, executives need to harness the IIoT to push efficiency further and improve productivity and performance.
Visualize the value stream through a leaner lens
Manufacturing currently faces a period of influx—not only because of technological shifts, but because of global demand. Businesses are struggling with increasing supply costs, a global supply chain that’s in disarray and a hefty backlog of orders.
As Americans continue to spend, manufacturers are falling behind on fulfilling orders. While factory production has increased after the shutdowns of 2020, companies can’t restock in time to keep up with demand. It’s now up to high-level executives to make their businesses disruption-proof. Some will have to focus on rebuilding lost revenue streams, while others will have to adjust supply networks to keep up with demand. For all executives, though, agility and flexibility are key to resilience in both the short and long term.
A Lean path forward in manufacturing
There are many benefits that come from leaner thinking in the board room, especially in unprecedented times. After a volatile year, and likely some unexpected challenges ahead, agile leadership ensures that businesses are able to meet customer demands while creating a stabile workflow that customers, employees and even shareholders can rely on. It starts (and ends) with a deep understanding of Lean Six Sigma at the executive level.