April, 2007

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Article Index

Six Sigma Tools to Improve Process/Product Development Performance
Article by: Jack Stewart
Several years ago I was responsible for a team that was charged with bringing to market a product that represented a totally new product platform for us. Because of the huge market potential of the product, speed to market was considered critical.
Lean for Service Businesses: Where to Begin?
Article by: Kelley Buckentine
As lean practitioners, we've heard many times how lean is just for manufacturing. In actuality, lean principles apply wherever work is done. Statistics do tell us, however, that lean for business process is four times harder to implement, because our processes in the business setting are not as visible as those on the shop floor. A simple solution is to begin by making your business processes visible through lean mapping tools: value stream map, business process flow map, and spaghetti diagrams.
The Lead Role is Always a Speaking Part
Article by: Lynn Moline & Mike Braun
An obviously intelligent, educated leader had interesting things to say on a recent radio program, but her speech was loaded with distracting "uhmms," and she ended most sentences in a sing-song lilt. A recent presentation by a business executive was so rambling and pointless that it was hard to believe he had any idea what he was talking about.
Book Review: No Shortcuts to the Top
Article by: John Hehre
"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."
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Six Sigma Tools to Improve Process/Product Development Performance
Several years ago I was responsible for a team that was charged with bringing to market a product that represented a totally new product platform for us. Because of the huge market potential of the product, speed to market was considered critical.

From a Rapid Product Development standpoint we were only violating three basic speed-to-market tenets: It was a product we had never built before; it introduced an exotic metal as the critical component of the assembly which we had never worked with before; and it required all new processing technologies we had never used before. So, other than being a product we had no manufacturing history with, a material we had no experience with, and processes we had never managed before, it was a "slam dunk". To help us manage the process development component we developed a simple Process Stack-up Matrix consisting of the process steps (in order) down the left-hand side of the paper and simple yield information, assigned resources, and improvement activities listed horizontally across the paper. This gave us a crude but effective tool to direct the process development resources and in the end yielded a very successful product launch. Over the years additional information has been added to the tool such as cumulative yield, cost information, and finally six sigma tools that I will explain below.

Over the past 10 to 15 years many medical device companies in the Minneapolis area have spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to improve their product development processes. The most popular approach has been to adopt a phased-base gated system for managing projects. At a minimum these project systems are usually broken down into four management phases: Concept, Development, Validation, and Commercialization. Some companies may insert a fifth or even sixth phase depending on perceived need for additional oversight. These systems are called "gated" because a formal management review is required at the end of each phase before beginning work in the next phase. As a general rule the process of formally defining the activities required to deliver a successful project is very valuable and helps clarify for the organization just what those steps are. While this approach typically does a good job of identifying what has to happen, it leaves open the question of how to manage those activities. And this is where applying basic six sigma concepts can yield tremendous benefits.


When managing process development within a new product development project there are two critical six sigma tools that are very powerful. The first is applying the concept of Critical to Quality (CTQ) to the work needing to be done. The second is using a DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) approach for managing priorities and resources in the process. In the Define phase the goal is to establish a clear priority list for attacking the work to be completed. This begins by identifying the CTQ elements. In this case you are looking to identify which process steps are the most critical for delivering the defined product. Determining the CTQ's will be very straightforward if one of the elements of the development cycle is a formal Risk Analysis document or a Product/Process FMECA. From either of these two documents you should be able to extract enough information to identify the processes involved with the CTQ elements. This first step will separate your process steps out into two lists, the CTQ items and "others". Taking the process steps on the CTQ list, then evaluate which of the process steps are new ones for which new process technology needs to be developed, process technology which exists but needs improvement, or existing process technology that is currently performing well. Begin applying your engineers and technicians on developing the new processes first, then the existing processes that need improvement, and finally confirming that the processes currently performing well will continue to work well on the new product. By deploying in this order you are assuring that the processes that have the greatest quality impact are addressed first and in an order that allows you to accumulate experience on the critical process steps that are new.

As early as possible begin the Measurement phase. With the first pilot runs begin to gather simple process data on yield (good units divided by total units) by process. Using the yield data you can then begin to track simple scrap dollars (scrap units times material purchase cost) by process. Initially, don't worry about labor or overhead costs since in most early phase development projects it is not accurately defined anyway. You can add those elements later. After the first month of collecting data you will then be in a position to Analyze the simple costed scrap by process step and prioritize the "others" list based on largest economic impact. Each month close out the scrap data and reanalyze the list to reset priorities (Improve phase). As a general rule it is a good practice to allow the activities previously prioritized and started to continue to completion and use the new priority list to initiate the next set of activities. Completing this cycle on a monthly basis will give you the Control process to ensure that the most critical activities are being managed on a priority basis. This same approach using CTQ and DMAIC can be used very successfully with slight adaptation in other functional areas of the development process such as Quality and Product Design.

New training offered by the Manufacturers Alliance
Design For Six Sigma (DFSS) on May 31. This two part workshop will teach critical success factors in capturing customers' needs and translating them into customer requirements, as well as techniques to select critical parameters and track a solution that meets customer needs.
Learn More
<img src="http://www.mfrall.com/newsletter/authorpics/Jackstewert.jpg" align="left">Jack Stewart is an independent manufacturing consultant specializing in continuous improvement across organizations- new product development through manufacturing. He can be reached at consult.jack@comcast.net or 763-404-0528.

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Lean for Service Businesses: Where to Begin?
As lean practitioners, we've heard many times how lean is just for manufacturing. In actuality, lean principles apply wherever work is done. Statistics do tell us, however, that lean for business process is four times harder to implement, because our processes in the business setting are not as visible as those on the shop floor. A simple solution is to begin by making your business processes visible through lean mapping tools: value stream map, business process flow map, and spaghetti diagrams.

The first step in continuous improvement is developing your current state value-stream map, or VSM, (all actions, value added and non-value added, currently required to bring a product or service through your internal processes and into the hands of your customer). Your VSM is a visual tool, a picture of your process steps that allows you to see and understand the flow of both resources and information as your service makes its way through the value stream. You can easily see the ratio of value added to non-value added steps, redundancies, loop backs, and handoffs in the process.

Next, you create a shared vision of the future state using the VSM mapping. By identifying the gaps between current and future state, you are creating your list of prioritized kaizen activity to help you near future state. Your VSM will define direction and the pace of your lean conversion. From it you will understand the top two or three priorities, the most important expected deliverables of the lean conversion activity. Examples might include reducing your resource costs by three percent, or increasing margin by five percent.

The next key to a successful lean transformation is communication. The leadership team needs to communicate what is happening to all concerned; even more importantly, everyone needs to know why lean is being implemented. They need to know that change will be eminent and understand the need for change. Your future state needs to be visible and show that the future includes and is contingent upon the participation of everyone.

The full benefit of lean transformation cannot be realized unless the lean principles and tools are correctly applied repeatedly throughout the entire value stream. A new culture emerges that is relentlessly focused on removing waste–waste as defined by your customer.

The stated ideologies of service companies that have consistently performed extremely well have a strong focus on flowing value to the customer. The customer service theme from these companies resonates with lean thinking philosophy:
  • Service to the customer above all else. We exist to provide value to our customers--to make their lives better via lower prices and greater selection; all else is secondary

  • People are number one–they are your only appreciating asset, treat them well, expect a lot, and the rest will follow

  • Partner with employees, include them in the process

  • Encourage individual initiative

  • Expect hard work and productivity, yet keep it fun

  • Work with passion, commitment, and enthusiasm

  • Continuous self-improvement; there's always something more to be improved

  • Excellence in reputation

  • Run lean by continuously identifying and eliminating waste

  • Never settle for less than what is possible


Lean for service businesses works, and the above suggestions provide you with a starting point. Now, it's up to you to begin.
<img src="http://www.mfrall.com/newsletter/authorpics/KelleyBuckentine.jpg"align="left">Kelley Buckentine is a dynamic lean leader, energetic trainer, and is certified as a 6 Sigma green belt with experience on both sides of the fence: operations and marketing. She may be reached at kelley.buckentine@gsnai.com

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The Lead Role is Always a Speaking Part
An obviously intelligent, educated leader had interesting things to say on a recent radio program, but her speech was loaded with distracting "uhmms," and she ended most sentences in a sing-song lilt. A recent presentation by a business executive was so rambling and pointless that it was hard to believe he had any idea what he was talking about.

On the other hand, the speakers on my educational CDs begin every lecture by telling me what they're going to say, and then deliver content in an organized way with engaging stories and examples relayed in conversational tones.

Speaking well doesn't require James Earl Jones's resonant voice and commanding presence, nor Jay Leno's timing and delivery. Nearly everyone can be a competent speaker by learning and practicing a few simple tricks that Leno and Jones know well.

All good presentations share important characteristics. One is that good speakers consciously establish credibility. Using a deft combination of words, voice, and physical presence, they seem to say, "I have a keen sense of who you are out there and I'm going to shoot straight with you."

The most memorable time I saw a pro do this was when I moderated a large corporate conference. The well-known keynote speaker asked me for a thorough debriefing about our audience some weeks before the conference. On event day, we briefly chatted again just before going on stage. Once there, he made a direct reference to a comment I had made not two minutes earlier and built it into a story that perfectly articulated a concern on everyone's mind that day.

Another shared characteristic of good presentations is content that is logically organized, relevant, and interesting to the audience. Your content must suit the listeners. The presentation you gave to the sales staff isn't going to cut it for your engineers, even if both groups need the same information. Presentations should also follow the Debator's Rule–yes, the one you learned in high school: "Tell them what you're going to say, say it, then tell them what you said." By following this simple rule, presenters make it easy for audiences by setting and delivering to expectations and then summarizing the key points to drive them home.

Finally, all good presenters make the most of vocalization. You don't need an actor's elocution; you practice the four "Ps": project your voice, pace yourself, pronounce clearly, and vary your pitch. Record yourself while reading aloud. Does your voice sound monotone and indistinct, or energetic and full of variety? To hear the difference between the pros and most people, listen to radio call-in talk shows. The hosts and DJs use great vocal variety while most callers' voices sound flat and dull. Exaggerate your inflection when you read aloud. What sounds overstated to you sounds appealing to your audience.

Not everyone feels comfortable making presentations. But since the lead role is always a speaking part, leaders and anyone else who has to stand before audiences can decrease their discomfort and increase their appeal to the audience by practicing these simple tricks that the pros use.
Lynn Moline, owner of Lynn Moline Associates, Inc., is a consultant and trainer who specializes in executive development, executive team alignment, and planning. Mike Braun is a partner at CLG, a company that provides behavior-based strategy execution and performance improvement services.

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Book Review: No Shortcuts to the Top
"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."

This motto, more than anything else, is why Ed Viesturs, co-author of No Shortcuts To the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks (New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2006), was only the twelfth person in all of recorded history to climb the fourteen highest mountains on the earth, and the sixth to do it without using extra oxygen. These mountains are known as the 8,000 meter peaks because each is at least 8,000 meters (about 26,250 feet) tall.

Elite mountain climbing is inherently dangerous. The mountain Annapurna, although not as tall as Everest, is one of the most technically difficult to climb. For every two people who successfully reach the top and return, one person dies on the mountain. Many more climbers have suffered serious and permanent injuries and still consider their trips a success. These expeditions take many months to plan and execute and cost tens of thousands of dollars, a high price to pay for the risks involved.

That Viesturs accomplished this incredible feat without any serious injuries or complications is amazing. It took him eighteen years and thirty attempts to reach summits twenty times, having attempted to climb several mountains more than once. Concurrently, Ed lost some of his best friends on the same mountains he was climbing.

How He Did It
First, he had a set of absolute rules, like the quote at the top of this article about the importance of getting back down. There were several times when Ed was literally within hundreds of feet of the summit and turned back because the risks of continuing were too great. Second he extensively scrutinized other expeditions to understand what worked and, more importantly, what didn't. Ed learned and applied a great deal from the experiences of others. The third factor was his careful, detailed planning and execution. Finally, his serious training provided the mental and physical stamina and skills to tackle the challenges of the mountains. These strategies are described in considerable detail throughout the book.

Mountain Climbing and Business Parallels
While at first glance, No Shortcuts to the Top may not appear to be about business, the many parallels between Ed's mountain climbing and business, as well as life, make it an exceptionally useful work, especially if you are facing any sort of challenge–and who in the business world–or life--is not facing challenges at one time or another? Although chronologically confusing at times, the book is well written and a nice break from traditional business literature. All in all, an excellent choice for summer reading.
John Hehre is a senior operations executive and provides interim management and project based consulting to mid-sized private companies in need of transformative change. He can be reached at jhehre@cprocess.com.

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