Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Improving Processes with Lean Six Sigma

Continuous Improvement, KAIP Academy, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Learning, Professional Development, Sacramento, Six Sigma, Training, Workforce Development

By Spencer Sheff, CSM, LSSGB

Whether we notice it or not, our days are full of processes. Waking up in the morning, getting dressed, brushing our teeth, and driving where we need to go each day are just a few of the processes we undertake within the first hours of every morning.

Over the course of a day, we may complete hundreds of processes without even realizing it. Given that fact, it’s no wonder why a complaint most people have is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Although there’s no way of adding more hours to our days (yet…c’mon science) we can optimize the hours we have by maximizing the efficiency of the processes we undertake day in and day out. How, you might ask? By utilizing Lean Six Sigma methodology.

I recently completed the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course through the KAIP Academy. According to Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and course instructor Ashley Christman, Lean Six Sigma is a combination of the Lean and Six Sigma quality improvement methodologies. The two are not the same thing, but they work very complementary to each other and Lean Six Sigma takes full advantage of that. Lean Six Sigma focuses on eliminating waste, improving flow, reducing variation, and minimizing defects.

In the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course, each course participant proposed a project to the class and as a group, we had to pick one project to focus on over the course of the 4-day class. We chose to work on a project proposed by someone who worked as an industrial engineer for a manufacturing company. Her company had been using the same manufacturing process for 20 years and had become inefficient, but they didn’t know how to fix the process.

As we became more and more knowledgeable with our Lean Six Sigma Green Belt skills, we were able to construct a business process map of the manufacturing process and apply Lean Six Sigma analysis to reconstruct the process in a way that eliminated waste within the process and streamlined production. We were able to fix the problem at hand, but more importantly we were able to deliver a solution that we projected would make the company even more profitable. Rather than just being able to eliminate errors in production, we came up with a process that made production faster thus allowing the company to manufacture more of their product than ever before.

The most interesting part of the class was not the solution we created, but seeing how we were able to solve the problem. Our class consisted of myself (a college student) and my two classmates, the industrial engineer and a nurse case manager. We undertook the industrial engineer’s problem, and at face value it’d be a fair assumption to think there was no way a college student and an RN could help solve an industrial engineer’s problem. However, as the class progressed, the RN and I were able to give what our engineer friend referred to as “extremely valuable” input. This absolutely blew my mind because from my perspective I didn’t think I’d be any help trying to solve problems an industrial engineer is facing and struggling with.

With my newfound Lean Six Sigma skills, I was able to give valuable insight into a problem I didn’t know I had the capability to solve, proving to me just how effective Lean Six Sigma is and how valuable it is to have as a tool in my toolbox.

The skills I learned were used to solve a real world industrial problem, but that’s not all they’re good for. Like I said earlier, we undertake so many processes each day. For one reason or another it always seems like there’s not enough time to do what we need to do with the time we’re given. Lean Six Sigma isn’t limited to just the business world. If you learn these skills, you can apply them to your personal life as well. By eliminating waste and reducing variance in the daily processes, you can put yourself in a place where at the end of the day it seems like you have too much time and not enough to do. I’ve already started implementing Lean Six Sigma in my daily life and by eliminating waste and variance in my morning routine, I was able to get myself an extra half hour of sleep every day, and who doesn’t love sleep?

After taking this class, I feel like I can get more done than before and in far less time. The skills I learned in this class have already helped me in my everyday life. More importantly for me though, these skills are going to help open growth opportunities as I begin my career no matter what field I go into. That is invaluable. After seeing it firsthand, I feel confident in my ability to walk into whatever company I work for and help make impactful change that benefits the company as a whole. I don’t believe many people will be able to say that their first day on the job…Unless they are Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified, of course.

Interested in taking the KAIP Academy’s Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course? Check our Eventbrite page for a complete listing of our course roster. Want to chat with our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt directly? Email Ashley Christman to learn more about the course!

About the Author: Spencer Sheff is an Intern for KAI Partners. He is a rising junior at Claremont McKenna College dual majoring in Applied Math and Economics. Spencer is also the captain of Claremont McKenna’s football team. In his spare time, he likes to read, lift weights, and go camping.

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