Jun 2, 2011

Using Lean Six Sigma in Content Distribution

Lean has a tool set that is geared to improve process flow.  Six Sigma was designed to specifically focus on process variation. Lean + Six Sigma can be and should be combined as a complete process toolkit as we approach process improvement. Instead of focusing on just the process map or matrix, a Value Stream Map is normally a good starting point. Once you cut out the non-essential (sometimes they are not total waste but lower value) in a process you won't have to wait long until you find the sources of variation in 6 sigma analysis.

An example is in the content distribution business. When distribution volume goes up or customer requires value-added services, sometimes the turn around time will go up and result in customer quality issues. Labor force might be added but the output will still most likely not successfully increase.  This will affect the performance metrics, especially those dealing with on-time delivery.

To deal with such situation, Lean Six Sigma can help reduce waste, improve service flow to support increased throughput, increased on-time delivery rates, and overall distribution efficiency.  Goals should be established based on these program goals. 

Before improvements are made using Lean Six Sigma, root causes for the problems should be identified.  In addition to the Value Stream Map mentioned above, another great tool for use is the cause and effect analysis diagram that can identify root causes of the reduction in on-time metrics.  These are sometimes also called fishbone diagrams or Ishikawa Diagrams. Current processes need to be examined for waste and errors. Other quality tools that can be of use are KPIs, also known as key performance indicators, and run charts, that are to be used for data analysis. 

Companies incorporating Lean Six Sigma into their process improvement efforts should be prepared to make some serious changes to their processes. For example, the Operation Support System for distribution management or Master Data Management software might need to be implemented to allow for better integration and more effective feedback mechanism.

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