In metrics the most honest finding will be that your metrics will have degrees of variation. Understanding where and how those metrics occur, is the key to using your data in a forward thinking strategy. Let’s start with something simple, like toy production. We are going to track some standard variation sources.
Within Unit Encoding
This variation source occurs when you are measuring output from a single production cycle. Some places that variation is likely to occur are the width of parts, color shading, length of toy etc. Now you can choose to analyze different production cycles on the same day or alternating days, but you will always be comparing samples from the same cycle. A new production sample means a new data point.
Between Unit Encoding
These names are dead giveaways, but I digress! This implies that you are looking at samples from two different production cycles. This is different in that you would want to identify two different samples from different production cycles. The variations you are looking for will give you some clue as to whether the variations are operation influenced or process influenced.
This is the trickiest variation source. This specifically calls for you to compare your variation averages from all of your data points in a single day. So you can theoretically have both within unit variation data and between unit variations data, depending on how specific you need to get.
The key to getting the most out of your data is to understand what it’s telling you. Understanding where the variations are coming from is the first step to getting the most out of your data.
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.