How Engineering Companies Utilize Lean Six Sigma to Reduce Waste

Applying Six Sigma in the operations management of engineering companies can be a critical success factor to achieving gains in lead-time, cost, rework and waste. A Six Sigma method known as DMAIC follows the phases: define, measure, analyze, improve and control. A Six Sigma team can use DMAIC to tackle problems associated with existing processes or products and reduce waste.

What is waste management?

Waste management essentially involves understanding the different types of waste with a company, knowing the rate at which the company can reduce them, and identifying the steps that must be taken to implement solutions. Six Sigma professionals using the DMAIC method can help to find wastes or inefficiencies within an engineering company.

Six Sigma training and certification by trains attendees on how to use a combination of statistical and management tools to reduce waste. Waste refers to any material or process which is more than what is required to deliver a product. As unwanted materials or processes add to time lag and overall costs, it is essential to minimize them.

Project selection

Project selection is the process of evaluating individual projects and choosing to implement ones that best achieve the objectives of the engineering company, in this case, to reduce waste.

By reducing waste, it is possible to reduce manufacturing costs. A Six Sigma team can investigate what is preventing the company from reducing waste by using scientific standards to identify root causes and find solutions.

Different types of waste

Six Sigma classifies waste into eight different types:

Zero value processes When a step in a process adds nothing to the quality of a product, eliminating it is essential because it consumes time and energy while delivering zero output.

Overproduction – Engineering companies that produce more goods than required by market trends are wasting resources and effort. By producing only when there’s market demand, it is possible to schedule and forecast production strategies and reduce unwanted inventory costs.

Motion – Unwanted motion adds to time and costs. An example of this is a production engineer and his team having to move to and fro to collect tools or documents instead of having them available within reach.

Inventory – Inventory waste is somewhat related to overproduction which directly adds to storage and transportation costs. It is possible to reduce inventory waste by properly forecasting needs and having strict production processes.

Transportation – Transporting products unnecessarily is a waste. For example, delivering products to an incorrect address. The company has to carry extra transportation costs with no added customer value.

Defects – Defects in products add to wasted inventory and can downgrade customer trust.

Unused employee talent – A lack of training or a lack of motivated leadership can result in talent waste. This happens if companies don’t use the right talent in the right role at the right time.

Implementing DMAIC

Six Sigma can significantly reduce all types of waste in engineering companies if implemented by Six Sigma certified professionals who are adept at using various tools and techniques to find and eliminate waste.

In the define phase, they will identify activities throughout the value stream and categorize waste based on the types defined above, such as defects.

In the measuring phase, they collect data regarding the defects, which they can use as a baseline to determine the success of a project by comparing this data with their results data.

Analyzing the data helps them to determine the causes of waste and come up with solutions. The improvement phase includes conducting pilot studies of solutions to help choose the one that offers the best results. Finally, control measures are instituted to ensure gains are sustainable.

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