How Six Sigma Can Measure your Process Waste Level

Within Six Sigma are a few methods that most practitioners will follow. Of course, everyone requires different outcomes from their process improvements and thus will use different sets and combinations of methods and tools. However, Six Sigma has one key underlining task that almost every organization strives for – reducing waste. This can range from having too many parts for your production line to long assembly times. To combat this, Six Sigma offers the Lean methodology to help measure and reduce your process waste level.

Types of Waste

For Lean Six Sigma, there are two definitions for “wastage”. First, it can be necessary for a system to function normally. Second, it can be unnecessary for a system to function normally. Regardless of your organization’s definition of waste, you can use Lean Six Sigma to measure and analyze it critically. Taiichi Ohno, one of Toyota’s Production System leaders identifies a total of seven different types of unnecessary waste.

  1. Transportation – parts and materials that move in between processes.
  2. Motion – movement of parts and personnel.
  3. Inventory – any excess of materials, work-in-progress, or finished products that do not add value.
  4. Waiting – this refers to people, parts, or products that must wait for a process to be complete.
  5. Over-production – when you produce more products faster than customers demand.
  6. Over-processing – all work that is being performed outside of customer requirements.
  7. Defects – products that are being manufactured that customers would reject.

Measuring Waste

As you can see, there are many areas where you may be producing waste in your business processes without you even knowing! Lean Six Sigma aims to help reduce and minimize your production waste by measuring each individual process. Although this may be time-consuming compared to other methods, this is the most effective way to reduce your overall waste. First, you must decide which processes you want to measure. Then, for each process, you will need a metric to measure. These metrics can vary, depending if you’re measuring transportation, inventory, defects, or any of the seven types of unnecessary waste. You must collect and log data manually by carefully observing each process for a specific amount of time.

Using Your Data

Now that you have your data, it’s time to analyze it. When looking to reduce your process waste level, you should have a clear goal in mind. Do you wish to decrease your transportation time? Do you want to produce only the exact number of products that customers will want? You end goal will help determine what your data set means. Although numbers alone will not mean much, your data set allows you to find trends and detect sources of problems. For example, if you notice that one process requires three times the amount of time that the preceding system, your goal is to decrease the process’ time requirements. Having both an understanding of Lean Six Sigma with basic data analysis will help you reduce your overall process waste level.

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