Mark A. Nash is a lean specialist, certified NIST/MEP lean trainer and operations manager for Pelco Products Inc. (Edmond, OK). Sheila R. Poling is a managing partner of Pinnacle Partners Inc. (Oak Ridge, TN). For more information call (865) 482-1362 or visit www.pinnaclepartnersinc.com .
Process mapping tools are found in every quality practitioner’s toolbox. Whether flowcharts, SIPOCs (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, customers), mind maps or swim lanes, there is a process mapping tool that can document the process under review. Since the 1970s, when the quality movement took hold in the United States, the most often used and most widely accepted of these tools has been the flowchart. It is from this basic mapping concept that all others have emerged.
Management invests time and money in Six Sigma to get better results. Projects are the key to organization improvement in Six Sigma; they also are the most visible and quantifiable part of this effort. Too often, organizations do not do the basics of good project selection and project management well.
Pull systems, one-piece flow, elimination of waste-these are the concepts most often discussed when lean is the topic. Quality at the Source, on the other hand, is rarely front and center when lean improvement efforts are presented.
Even though improved quality is a common outcome of lean transformations every day, the glamorous lean concepts and tools seem to get all the attention. However, just as 5S systems are credited with productivity improvements of up to 10%, Quality at the Source (QATS) can produce dramatic quality improvements in short order.
What is the purpose of using the Six Sigma Methodology? Have you ever heard Six Sigma referred to as a problem-solving methodology? This is a disservice to both problem solving and Six Sigma. There are numerous problem-solving methodologies around, but they are focused on finding the cause of some exceptional event that has occurred. Six Sigma, on the other hand, is a process improvement methodology and goes far beyond problem solving.