Questions continually arise about the relevance of lean six sigma in Australian businesses, particularly from non-manufacturing companies and small to medium size enterprises. Here’s some thoughts.
Successfully Approach Lean Six Sigma in Australia
The Australian company approach most successful in the use of Lean Six Sigma shows an emphasis on waste reduction and local problem-solving based on the Lean methodology. This focus is well supported by the rigor of Six Sigma with its attention on data analysis and ensuring a company is meeting customers’ requirements.
In essence what this means is this. Most companies primarily benefit from a focus on lean methodology; the platform for removing waste from processes and solving throughput and cycle time problems. Six sigma provides additional benefits through better analysis of data, making decisions on the back of quantifiable conclusions, and making sure the company understands how well it’s actually performing in respect of customer expectations.
Lean Six Sigma is widely recognised as a strategy for creating efficiencies and minimising waste / cost in large organisations. Less know is it’s use in the running of small to medium enterprises.
Large and medium sized organisations – e.g. Qantas, Woodside Energy, Virgin Regional Airlines, Christchurch City Council – employ lean six sigma in obvious ways with some employees being given full time business improvement roles and projects targeting specific problems and efficiency challenges.
From a smaller business perspective, the application of lean six sigma thinking is reflected in what you see at retail outlets such as Macdonalds stores. These are effectively small businesses that employ lean systems.
Small businesses can employ lean and six sigma methods in more subtle ways through the owner/s or operators ..
- Speeding up cycle times and removing non-value adding activities,
- Being able to analyse data and better meet customers’ requirements without rework, and
- Generally using various tools from the lean six sigma toolkit to create efficiencies.
Application Beyond Manufacturing
Both Lean and Six Sigma methodologies originated in manufacturing. Since the mid 1990s, these methods have continued to evolve and adapt, and are now widely used in other areas of industry to great effect. For example:
- Commbank, NAB, Suncorp, ANZ (banking / finance)
- New Zealand Post, IBM Australia, Western Power, Flight Centre (service)
- Qantas (transport)
- Snowden Max (consulting)
- ADF (defence)
- Nestle, Coca Cola Amatil (manufacturing)
- Medical Systems, Resmed (health)
- Macquarie University (education)
Yes, lean six sigma methods are relevant across industry. When they don’t add value it’s more a reflection on how a company deploys these methods, not whether or not the methods work.
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