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Continual Process Improvement

Integrating Lean and Six Sigma for Breakthrough Process Improvement

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Continual Process Improvement

ISO 9001:2008 and ISO/TS 16949:2009 differ from previous quality system standards in their strong emphasis on documenting and continually improving the organization's product realization, management and supporting processes, which together make-up all of a company's business processes. ISO 9001:2008 and ISO/TS 16949:2009 requires organizations to define and document their business processes; and, to adopt a data driven management process for achieving continual improvement of those business processes.

As organizations study these new requirements for continual process improvement, a few critical questions start to arise. How do we determine which business processes should be included in our quality management system? How do we measure the effectiveness and efficiency of those processes? What improvement methods should we adopt to achieve continual improvement of those processes?

This paper will promote the idea that organizations should adopt an integrated approach that deploys Lean Manufacturing principles combined with the Six Sigma quality improvement methodology as the best in class process for achieving the continual improvements required by ISO 9001:2002 and ISO/TS 16949:2009.

What is Lean?

Lean Thinking is a term coined by Jim Womack and Dan Jones to describe the underlying concepts and principles of The Toyota Production System. Toyota has produced a paradigm shift in the management of production processes when compared with the traditional mass production model. Toyota has demonstrated that this new way of organizing and managing production processes, now known as Lean Manufacturing, leads to breakthrough levels of improvement in the productivity of labor, materials, facilities, tools and equipment.

"Lean companies use less of everything when compared with traditional mass production organizations, " lean companies bring into play:

  • Half the human effort in the factory;
  • Half the manufacturing space;
  • Half the investment in tools and equipment;
  • Half the engineering hours to develop new products in half the time;
  • Less than 1/10th of the inventory;
  • Far fewer defects;
  • Much greater flexibility to respond to variations in customer demand.

Toyota has developed and refined its production system to achieve significant financial advantage over more traditional mass producers. Toyota reported more profits for the year 2002 than Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group reported in combined profits. Toyota achieved this level of profitability with less than 10% of the market while Ford, GM and the Chrysler Group, combined sales were approximately 60% of the market.

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