Within the Six Sigma Lean program typically there are two approaches, namely the continuous improvement and breakthrough. While the project by project improvements provide for the continuous improvement culture, the breakthrough (or rapid significant improvement) comes in the form of Kaizen Events, also known as Focused Area Improvement Events. Some organizations use the approach of business process re-engineering, which serves the same purpose.
Kaizen Events are short events of about a week; and I guess some organizations would run this for a longer duration. The formats would differ from organization to organization and what works best must be followed. Just like any of the Lean initiatives I think one has to see and experience to appreciate the true benefits of the event. The energy it creates and the enthusiasm and excitement are clearly visible.
The energy that this event creates and the enthusiasm and excitement are clearly visible.
The planning phase consists of identifying the gaps in the organization and making a 12 month plan to drive improvements. Gaps can be identified by many methods, making a facility level Value Stream Map which captures the main value creating processes in the organization and looking at the metrics on the VSM would throw up lot of areas of improvements. The metrics would be the same as the ones that come under the continuous improvement program, but they are typically the ones that could be accomplished in 3 to 4 days and the champions of Six Sigma Lean need to decide the goals for the event. Except very complex issues which need time consuming and high level of statistical analysis, most improvements could fit into the Kaizen umbrella. The areas of improvement are cycle time, work place organization, visual management, machine uptime, standard work; change over time, safety and quality issues. Looking at the "house of lean" and moving up the house working on the simple things first would be a recommended method.
One week is set aside for an event, with a few teams working simultaneously on different processes; the number of teams would depend on the size of the facility. The first day is training of the team members on the basic lean tools and the next three days will be a full time execution activity, with all team members completely involved in the event. The fifth day is team presentation and recognition. What I have noticed is that people would view under skepticism, when the event methodology is explained for the first time and there would be several questions many of which is best answered only by witnessing and experiencing. Once the first event is completed, things become very clear and all people become complete believers of the initiative, and there is no more convincing and coercing required in getting people to drive events. The energy created in the organization is amazing and unlike other initiatives, this needs no effort to attract candidates to be involved in the team; I think on the contrary we will have people voluntarily requesting to be part of the team.
The team must consists of several people from the shop floor who have knowledge of the process and when people from the process are involved they have accountability, so the most important aspect is that the changes will remain even after event is over. While Six Sigma Green belts and Black belts must be involved in driving specific projects, the small but significant breakthrough improvements would come in from the Kaizen Events.
Pradeep Kumar E.T. A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma , is the Country Manager- Operational Excellence with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be e- mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org