Everything we measure generates variation, especially when there are multiple hands involved. To be honest even with just one person performing the same function, there will be some variation. Variation is not the enemy, uncontrolled variation is our nemesis!
When creating a Measurement System Analysis (MSA) there are 3 characteristics that you should focus on before you try any of the bells and whistles.
Is it accurate?
You need to know how accurate your measurement system is. If you can’t correctly count the number of variations happening can you really call them variations? Your measurement system is only as good as your accuracy, so it makes sense to spend a fair amount of time ensuring that not only are you counting defects, but you are counting the correct defects. This goes back to knowing why you want to measure something. If you want to find out why your shipments are late, measuring the number of birds around your facility won’t help. So accuracy needs two things: measuring the right data and ensuring the data is being measured in a way that answers your question.
Is it precise?
We’ve talked about precision and for a refresher precision is the reduction in variation. When you have identified your improvement area in the process, you are now ready for precision. So you are going to take one process, completed by the same person, in the same order every single time. Once you have identified this, you can began to reduce the variation and create precision.
Can you reproduce it?
The thought behind automating any process is ultimately making it scaleable, that is can you repeat the success? This is what determines a successful process from a failed one. Any process is good in theory, but where you get a great process is when you find one that can be repeated with the same amount of variation no matter who does it. That’s your end goal folks.
So we’ve covered the 3 basic characteristics of a Measurement System Analysis, so have a conversation with your belt and figure out your current state and your future. Your MSA will heavily influence your future, so take this conversation seriously. If you need more help, give us a call and let us help.
With every improvement project you learn something valuable and a tool for improvements that need to happen quickly are Kaizen events. Kaizen events are rapid responses to very specific areas usually taking 3-5 days. Kaizen events are not difficult, but if you do not put the appropriate planning in place before you begin you will not realize any improvements. To begin with a basic structure of a Kaizen event should include the following:
- Training-what Kaizen is and how it works.
- Defining the problem/goals
- Documenting the current state
- Brainstorming and developing a future state
- Developing a follow-up plan
- Presenting results
- Celebrating successes
The most important thing to remember is that a Kaizen event is driven by two principles: What can we continuously improve and what waste can we eliminate? Those two principles bring us to my next point.
What Can’t Kaizen Events Do?
Kaizen cannot solve any 6Sigma problem. It is a tool that works best with situations that are not heavily focused on metrics. Situations such as yield improvements or variation reduction would not benefit from a Kaizen exercise.
There are many tools for a Kaizen checklist, but as with most 6Sigma tools the best advice often comes from your belt. If you are looking for a quick introduction to 6Sigma without the total commitment often necessary for a 6Sigma improvement project, Kaizen may be your answer.
In any lean project there are a ton of buzzwords, but the one thing that is a universal truth in all lean initiative is that for any tool used to be successful it must be understood. In today’s blog we are going to talk about a Gemba walk and why it works.
What is it?
A Gemba walk is literally seeing where the work happens and the value of work. The reason for the walk can be varied but its importance is to illustrate the process to the people who will be responsible for improving it. I like Gemba because it takes 6Sigma out of theory and metrics and illustrates it in a tangible way that makes sense to the people using it.
What do I do?
This is by no means a comprehensive checklist, but it is a place to start when you are planning your Gemba walk. I provided a simple but comprehensive checklist to create your Gemba walk below.
- Identify the processes (internal/external) that the customer pays for and has an expected output.
- Identify who understands the process- What you are looking for here is not the person/division/team responsible for the process, but the person who designed the process and understands why it operates the way it does. This person should understand the performance gap analysis and have a plan to correct the gap (or at least the beginning of an idea).This step is hard for a lot of people because the knowledge master generally isn’t the person with the official responsibility, but it is critical that you get this step right.
- Focus on the steps of the process that add value, show standardization or show how the work is distributed.
- Know the expected outputs-Are they gaps? Are you asking why? Are you assigning blame? (If are, you shouldn’t be.)
- Identify the areas of the process that are going well, what is making that success happen?
- Now that you know what is working and what is not, create your checklist based on this information.
- Remember to steer clear of the 3M’s and educated your process leaders on them. Muda-Waste, Mura-process variation not caused by the customer, and Muri-overburden on facility, people and equipment caused by Mura and Muda.
This is pretty comprehensive checklist, but as with all my posts this is just to introduce you to the Gemba Walk tool. Consulting with your belt will give you the most useful questions and sources of information in your walk. Done correctly a Gemba walk jumpstart rapid improvement events, done incorrectly they can derail an entire initiative. What will you value today?
This blog post comes out of a recent conversation about Six Sigma specifics. I was discussing a Six Sigma engagement and the client asked to see specific experience in Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word for improvement, for Six Sigma purposes it means continuous improvement. To be categorized as a Six Sigma project, the project will inherently be improvement focused.
When looking for specialized service, the temptation is to use the acronyms and jargon is pretty normal, but beware sometimes using these terms only highlights your lack of knowledge to unscrupulous consultants. To shift the knowledge paradigm back to the customers here are a few basic 6Sigma terms and what they mean.
Six Sigma Belts
This refers to the level of the Six Sigma professional running your project. Yellow is the lowest level of expertise and Master Black Belt is the highest level of expertise. I break down each belt and the belt responsibilities in my blog post ‘What’s in a Belt”?
Continuous Improvement Methodology
Six Sigma is a management methodology and as you consult experts you will hear them talk about continuous improvement methodologies as they try to impress you with facts and figures. What you need to know is 6Sigma is one of many improvement methodologies. The key to improvement methodologies is to finding one that works well with the internal culture of your organization.
This simply refers to the lean projects your organization has attempted or completed. This phrase usually shows up when a consultant or an organization is analyzing the ROI in lean projects. When you hear or see this phrase, what you are looking for is a summary of the projects and their respective results.
These are lean projects tailored to produce immediate or near immediate results. Now from my prospective rapid and lean are mutually exclusive, but any tweak to a process can create improvements. Organizations should be aware that fast improvements typically are not sustainable improvements and rapid deployments need to have a near perfect implementation. If you are in the operations field you probably work on the basis of Murphy’s Law so you’ll have realistic expectations; for the other fields there is no such thing as a magic bullet. There are changes that can be made but a process is a very fragile thing and any change even the most subtle ones, can wreak havoc to an improvement project.
So these are the terms that you will probably hear thrown around regarding Six Sigma and as you delve deeper into the methodology you will hear more complicated terms. The key to Six Sigma is understanding that it isn’t this archaic, complicated methodology.
If you have a question about it, I have an answer.