How Lean Safety Creates a Culture Shift
Two of the most effective methods used in manufacturing today are Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. Lean reduces waste in the manufacturing process and the Six Sigma methodology is used to lessen the variation in a process with the expectation that there are never more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Both put the spotlight on the customer and emphasize quality, reliability, timely delivery and products that exceed expectation. So what happens when these two approaches are merged together and used to enhance the safety of a workspace?
While there is a great deal of overlap to begin with, both Lean and Six Sigma address business goals from a different perspective.
Lean manufacturing hones in on removing waste in a process where a product is made to given specifications. Most often, there are opportunities to reduce waste in areas like inventory and overproduction or in transportation and movement – like in the case of travel between workstations.
Six Sigma is focused on variation reduction. Its goal is to solve problems that are caused by an actual process. The end result is to ensure there are no defective parts.
According to ASQ, a global voice for quality, Lean achieves its goals “by using less technical tools such as kaizen, workplace organization and visual controls, whereas Six Sigma tends to use statistical data analysis, design of experiments and hypothesis tests.”
The truth is you can make a superior part but have excessive waste in the supply chain and manufacturing process as well as unsafe working conditions. It’s also true that you could have a highly efficient manufacturing process but continue to see a rise in part defects. Hence the reason it makes sense to take advantage of the overlap that exists between these two practices.
Lean Six Sigma will help reduce overall costs for your organization by removing waste from a process and by solving problems caused by your process. This type of philosophy helps eliminate and prevent defects before they happen and addresses safety concerns before they become an issue. Both of which ultimately drive an increase in customer satisfaction. On one side, you are reducing waste, cycle time and variation while on the other, you are creating standardized processes and flow. This double-edged line of action creates a competitive advantage for many manufacturers. It also offers an opportunity for a safety culture unlike any other.
Using Lean Six Sigma, safety should be addressed both tactically and strategically, and operational systems that are already being used to enhance quality and effectiveness should be utilized to improve any safety procedures. It only makes sense to improve workplace safety applying the practice of Lean Six Sigma to help standardize safe work practices and protect workers from injuries. Because Lean Six Sigma looks at the manufacturing process more holistically and removes both waste and inefficient systems, it results in a process that by its very nature addresses any relevant safety issues that might exist.