Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why Manufacturers Don't Really Need Six Sigma

Before you go apoplectic on me, let me explain. In a perfect world, there is no need for any manufacturing shop control systems. No ERP. No SPC. No labor reporting. And of course, no Six Sigma.  “Not possible” you say? “We need those systems,” you say.

Simply put, everybody would do everything correctly, on-time with perfect "repeatability". Workers would be constantly improving their work habits, workstations and processes on their own without the need of an external “system” to guide them. Parts would be released at the proper time to allow for the most efficient and least cost production methods. All costs would meet or beat those quoted and would be repeatable every time.  Even machine maintenance would be performed before any failures occur that would upset the perfection. Clearly, this is utopia and you can’t get there from here.

Which brings us back to why we set up systems within manufacturing companies to manage them. It’s us. Unfortunately, we are fallible and make mistakes, omissions and even some stupid errors. These systems are used to keep the errors to acceptable minimums that we define like Six Sigma, Cpk, and production up using Lean processing, ERP and KanBan, etc.

In talking to shop owners, the conversation usually revolves around some problem that invariably can be solved by implementing a control system to correct and prevent the problem from occurring again. Disappointingly, I also hear talk about how an existing system is too balky or isn’t “speedy” enough and will result in “wasted” effort if followed.

Workarounds are put into place and you can guess what the result will be.

I submit that using common sense, and appropriate procedures, systems and good work habits will result in an efficient and profitable shop. One size does not fit all and each manufacturing facility should put into place those systems and changes that solve their unique problems. Short and long term goals should also be created to anticipate future growth to build upon the processes in place and those to come.

Manufacturing can be a challenge but with some forethought and perseverance, there is nothing that cannot be achieved! Even with humans involved.

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