What Is Six Sigma? Essay Example
The purpose of this project is to determine the application of lean methodology in the information technology industry. The report will begin with an understanding of the history of lean methodology in addition to a discussions of the minimum viable product. Applications of lean methodology in addition to relevant successes and failures will be included. Finally, an application of lean methodology in terms of health care, education, and information technology, with an emphasis on information technology, will be included. The study aims to determine the utility of lean methodology in the modern setting.
You need to produce a report that in a detailed manner discusses the lean methodology. Your report should focus on:
- The history of the lean methodology
- Minimum Viable Product
- Sectors where the lean methodology has been used
- Successes and failures of the lean methodology
- How the lean methodology is used within IT
- Lean and tech start-ups
For individuals to thrive in the modern work industry, it is necessary for them to know how to either create or use technology. By implementing use of this important tool, companies are better able to implement interventions in a manner that contributes to their profitability. Even though some companies fail at lean methodology due to a lack of insight about implementation, technology will be developed in a way that will make failure less possible as time progresses. Lean methodology is the key to success.
The History of and Introduction to Lean Methodology
Lean methodology was designed to eliminate waste from manufacturing processes. Overall, it is important for organizations to consider how to reduce this waste in order to gain the greatest possible profit. Since the total earnings that a company receives is based on their income minus their expenses, lean methodology is a useful tool to help get rid of these expenses. Therefore, the most profitable companies are those who are able to sell their products or services for the greatest possible price while avoiding detracted funds in the form of expenses. While this concept has been applied in various practices throughout history, it is important to determine its evolving relevance in the modern business world.
One of the earliest recorded examples of lean methodology is contained within a document created by Benjamin Franklin. In this paperwork, he claims, “He that idly loses 5s. worth of time, loses 5s., and might as prudently throw 5s. into the river” (Wood 2014). In this statement, Franklin is advising people to not waste time. In short, he is stating that “time is money”. In the modern setting, the application of time saving techniques continues to be relevant to business practices. If companies are able to optimize the time of their employees efficiently, they will be better able to product output that will contribute to profit. It is also important to consider that companies could implement many practices that would positively contribute to the ability for them to save time. Therefore, the history of lean methodology is based on this fact in addition to interpretations and adaptations of techniques that could be used to further refine this understanding in practice.
As a consequence of Franklin’s philosophy, Ford developed the assembly line, in which factory workers are each responsible for constructing a certain component of a car. Because of this practice, these workers were specialized in their individual knowledge, which contributed to the company’s ability to produce cars more quickly. The assembly line is a practice that is still used today, whether using human labor or machinery. The use of machinery is another way in which efficiency has been implemented in the modern workforce; even though people are needed to operate the machinery, a smaller labor force is required and this change is associated with higher productivity. Therefore, it is apparent that lean practices have evolved over the years to accommodate the changing needs of small and large organizations.
Another individual that positively contributed to the development of lean practices was Frank Gilbreth. As a professional mason, Gilbreth noticed that workers would stoop down to pick up bricks that they had dropped during the construction process. In addition, individuals were required to climb down to ground level to pick up more bricks to add to existing structures. In doing so, these employees were not acting in the most efficient manner due to the time needed to travel up and down a ladder or to bend down. To resolve this problem, Gilbreth recommended that the bricks be placed at the waste level of each employee to allow them to focus more on their direct job responsibility instead of carrying the brick to the necessary location. As a result of this practice, Gilbreth demonstrated how construction projects could be completed more quickly. This understanding was further developed for additional practices in the modern industry,
A 20th century understanding of lean practices was introduced by Frederick Winslow Taylor, who stated that:
“And whenever a workman proposes an improvement, it should be the policy of the management to make a careful analysis of the new method, and if necessary conduct a series of experiments to determine accurately the relative merit of the new suggestion and of the old standard. And whenever the new method is found to be markedly superior to the old, it should be adopted as the standard for the whole establishment. (Taylor 1911)”
This is an important understanding for modern lean practices because the idea suggests that it is important for companies to use the scientific method to determine which practices it should use to optimize practices. In doing so, they can create an intervention that they believe will reasonably resolve a problem and conduct analytical testing over a period of time to determine whether this will be the case. As a result, Taylor introduced the concept of lean methodology that many organizations implement into their practices today. When companies wish to understand which operations they can implement to reduce waste, they simply look at the existing literature to determine which methods have been attempted in the past and then create an experimental procedure based on this understanding. These individuals then carry out the experiment and analyze results. If it is found that practices are beneficial, they will remain in action. If this is not the case, the intervention and procedure will be refined and the experiment will be repeated until an ideal solution to the problem is found. It is often necessary to repeat an analysis of an intervention several times before an appropriate solution to the problem is found. It is beneficial to examine the information from different angles in order to best determine how to modify the procedure in a manner that will produce viable results.
Minimum Viable Product
The minimum viable product has been defined as the product with the highest return compared to the risk of investment. To achieve an understanding of the minimum viable product, it is important for business professionals to determine the variables that exist in a current market to determine both the risk and how the greatest return can be received. Overall, it could be said that the use of the minimum viable product is a form of hypothesis testing. A hypothesis is typically used in the scientific method to create a direction for the experiment. As such, it is considered to be the best guess to answer a research question based on the existing data. The minimum viable product is helpful because it allows researchers to predict the outcome of an intervention using consideration of a small number of resources. In realistic situations, it is challenging to gain an understanding of all variables related to an economic prediction, so it is preferable to use what is known. Even though an exact answer cannot be retrieved using this method, the minimum viable product serves as a valuable estimation.
Other advantages of the minimum viable product that have been cited include the fact that using this as a form of prediction accelerates the company’s ability to learn about the problem they are trying to solve. As a consequence, they are likely to either confirm or deny their hypothesis more quickly, which allows for progression of the development of a valuable intervention. Intrinsically, this reduces engineering hours in terms of the development of the project and actual product manufacturing hours spent. Last, this method allows companies to get the products to consumers in the most efficient time frame, which contributes to the acquisition of profit more quickly.
Sectors Where the Lean Methodology has Been Used
Although lean methodology has traditionally been applied in the business word, it is important to consider that it could also be utilized in other industries. The most common adaptations for lean methodology procedures have been in information technology, health care, and education. This section will focus on the use of lean methodology in health care and education, as its use will be described in relation to information technology exclusively in future sections.
The health care industry has recently encountered a host of funding issues related to government funding and new requirements. Many hospitals and private health care settings have needed to acquire new technology to be able to comply with electronic health record requirements. As such, there is a greater need for health care professionals to reduce wastes in practice. Initially, focus was placed on reducing staffing available during non-peak hours. However, this failed because it negatively contributed to patient outcome. Later practices indicated that in spite of the initial expense caused by the implementation of electronic health record systems, these machines helped reduce the wait time for patients and are contributing to the optimization of care. Health care professionals are currently conducting a series of studies that will allow them to gain a greater understanding of how lean practices could be implemented using the electronic health record system.
An additional implementation of lean methodology that has been incorporated into health care practices involves the use of six sigma. According to the American Society for Quality, six sigma is defined as:
“A method that provides organizations tools to improve the capability of their business processes. This increase in performance and decrease in process variation lead to defect reduction and improvement in profits, employee morale, and quality of products or services. Six Sigma quality is a term generally used to indicate a process is well controlled (within process limits ±3s from the center line in a control chart, and requirements/tolerance limits ±6s from the center line)” (ASQ 2015).
Ultimately, the implementation of six sigma in the health care industry is related to regulatory practices put in place by hospitals and other health care organizations. Comprehensive research is conducted in the health care field to determine how health care professionals could best contribute to patient care. As such, studies that are conducted on the institutional, city, state, federal, and world level are applied to these practices. Once effective practices are identified by these studies, health care professionals are trained in a manner that helps them make these regulations become a consistent part of care. In doing so, health care organizations are helping to ensure that their practices are controlled, which allows them to more reasonably predict patient outcome based on existing variables. Deviation from these expectations will reflect a need for better training and the six sigma process allows for different understandings to be incorporate into practice to better achieve organizational goals.
In a sense, it could be said that lean methodology is being incorporated into modern educational practices as well. Throughout history, a majority of state governments required that testing should be put in place to help determine the abilities of students and to assess whether they should or should not be allowed to graduate to the next grade. In addition to serving this purpose, these tests are currently being used to determine the efficacy of the teacher and the curriculum. In the United States, a majority of states have adopted a new curriculum called the common core. This curriculum was put in place to implement high standards uniformly for students in each state. As a result, students that graduate from one grade in one state should technically be able to continue in a second state without feeling that their education has been disrupted in terms of difficulty and content. It is important to understand that this methodology is currently in the experimental phase. As such, the federal governments and individual school boards are continuing to collect data to determine if this curriculum change is effective or if it is not and additional modifications should be made to this plan.
Currently, the federal Board of Education is not aware as to whether or not the use of the common core will remain. The plan has only been implemented for two years, indicating that more data is needed to determine whether it is successful or a failure. Therefore, it is important to consider that the longevity that is needed for some studies of lean methodology. If researchers intend to determine what interventions will call for long-term change, the studies need to be longitudinal in nature to effectively answer the research question. Thus, it is important for organizational leaders in a variety of industries to determine which question is being asked and how it should be answered to determine whether their individual application of lean methodology will prove successful.
Successes and Failures of the Lean Methodology
Successes related to lean methodology depend on the industry and method use. As indicated earlier, Ford’s implementation of the assembly line as a lean practice was essential to changing the way that lean practices are viewed. As such, Ford was able to outcompete other businesses in the automotive industry until they too, adopted these practices. In the modern setting, some of the successes related to lean methodology are tied to the transport and logistics industry. When this industry first became prevalent, there were minimal travel options and routes to choose from in order to implement practice. In the modern setting, however, there is a nearly infinite set of possibilities. It is therefore necessary for professionals in these fields to carefully consider the possibilities in a manner that will reduce costs and maximize profit. To do so, they must determine which modes of transportation could be used in addition to the speeds of these vehicles and the routes they are able to take. Additional considerations include the locations of warehouses and altering the locations of manufacturing altogether. Transportation and logistics businesses are successful when they are able to compute the right combinations in a manner that allows for profitability. Even though this appears to be specific to this industry, most organizations are able to successfully implement lean methodology if they carefully consider the procedures they use, if they are able to justify their methods, and if care is taken in their application.
According to professionals in the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, the most challenging aspect of lean methodology is its actual implementation. As a result, it is essential to consider how implementation of these plans will be conducted:
“The most important parts of lean implementation are preparation—especially an objective assessment and development of the business and technical cases for lean—leadership that can get things done, appropriate training, resolution of people issues, and well-designed deployment methods” (Kallage 2006).
It is likely that a lean methodology intervention will succeed if it is carefully developed (Liker 2003). However, a lack of consideration of the plan will likely destine it for failure. As a consequence, it is important for a team of specialized professionals to be involved in the development of this plan. In addition to having an understanding of lean methodology, it is also important for them to have comprehensive experience in their particular industry in addition to an understanding of the scientific method. Individuals that are responsible for creating lean interventions must act as scientists. Therefore, it is important for them to be able to think critically about the problem and potential plans for solutions. Last, they must have the analytical skills necessary to determine if an intervention is effective or not.
It is also important to consider that organizations that have effective lean methodology plans have good leadership as well (Denning 2012). It is the responsibility of the leader to determine whether individual members of a team will work together in an effective manner and to pair abilities on this basis. Furthermore, the leader must also be considered an expert in the field and have an understanding of organizational needs in a manner that will allow him or her to direct the work of these employees. The best type of leader to encourage such as process would implement either transformational or transactional leadership because these individuals are best able to facilitate the development of creativity and skill among employees. Furthermore, employees are more likely to be satisfied while working for this type of individual. As a result, the personality of the leader is highly connected to the ability of the team to be able to successfully complete a challenging and long-term project. If employees are provided with the skills they need to accomplish such a task, they will succeed. If they are not provided with the correct resources, whether human or material, they will fall to failure.
How the Lean Methodology is Used in Information Technology
In the information technology setting, waste is broadly defined as work that does not contribute any value to a product or service. The application of lean methodology in the information technology field is interesting because this concept has only been recently applied in this work. In a sense, this could be understood in terms of both the practices implemented by information technology professionals with regards to the services they provide to individuals within their organization in addition to the physical coding they need to occasionally perform.
In terms of coding, it is important to consider that coding could be conducted in several ways. While several codes can be used to obtain the same result, the leanest code would be the one that has no redundancies and is able to complete its function in the quickest manner. As such, it is important for information technology professionals to revise their codes in a manner that allows them to identify these redundancies. Doing so will positively contribute to the outcomes of their applications.
Information technology professionals are employed in a variety of fields which makes their practices an important component of the lead methodology process. Since nearly all modern companies use computing in some manner, information technology professionals can become directly involved in these optimizing practices to contribute to the team. In the health care setting, for example, information technology staff members are typically required to enforce HIPAA requirements, which call for a provision of patient privacy. These individuals are therefore required to implement safety measures on the computers and electronic health record systems of health care professionals to ensure that they don’t mistakenly or purposely disseminate information to the wrong individual. One method that is implemented to prevent these practices is programming computers to instantly time out after periods of disuse. This helps contribute to lean practices because it reduces the financial risk of the health care organization that would result if a lawsuit was placed for accidental release of information. Another way these professionals prevent the spread of information is by setting password requirements for members of the team and monitoring individual access to health information.
In a broader sense, information technology professionals are aware of software and hardware modifications that are needed to optimize company computer systems. As a result, they are able to boost the networks they work with in order to offer company employees greater browsing speed and accessibility to necessary work information. Furthermore, they are responsible for recommending software that will further optimize these practices. Thus, it is reasonable to consider that information technology professionals are responsible for increasing the speed of work, which helps contribute to profitability in terms of efficiency.
Overall, information technology professionals are currently being used by a number of organizations to help the company executives determine how to improve customer service. For some companies, this can be web-based or over the phone. The best example of waste reduction in the modern era is the widespread implementation of robotic answering systems that are used to determine the concerns of the customer and forward them to the correct party. Because of these procedures, customer service representatives are able to spend more time assisting customers, and less representatives may be needed as a whole. In fact, many customer concerns can be addressed by the information presented by the robot operator. Very advanced systems have learned to detect the frustration of the customer and will automatically transfer certain clients to operations if they express their anger with the company. In doing so, organizations are better able to meet the concerns of multiple customers at the same time.
Lean and Tech Start-Ups
Because the implementation of lean practices in information technology is relatively new, it is important to consider the new innovations that have been possible as a consequence of its use. One of the most fascinating applications of these measures are being used to prevent against robot scams and other scam phone calls. Modern scammers make calls to a variety of phones to determine which number will lead to a person in addition to the individual’s likelihood to answer the phone. These scammers will then use this phone information in addition to conversations with the person who answers the device to retrieve a portion of their private information. They will then call banks pretending to be the individual in order to make small to large withdrawals, depending upon their confidence about the information retrieved. Sine many scammers have gotten away with these practices and have successfully retrieved money from banks in this manner, companies have developed anti-scamming technology to help determine the probability that the individual calling is a scammer. To do so, a technological system measures the tone of the caller’s voice in addition to how they phrase certain requests to determine their level of confidence and likelihood that they are the individual who they say they are. This technology is a consequence of the integration of information technology and human psychology and will prove significant benefit to many members of society.
Preventing scammers is one useful application that tech start-ups have formed. Banks have been able to deter criminal actions, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars and preserving the economy. Other technology start-ups that are relevant include those that are developing cloud computing and other remote communication and sharing platforms. Because of these innovations, professionals are able to communicate with one another in real time, independently of their location. As a result, collaborations between companies in different locations has become more effective because information that they intend to share and discuss can be done with a click of a button. Furthermore, many of these applications have built in translators that assist these individuals with language needs.
Overall, technology is evolving at a rapid pace, which is made possible in part due to lean methodologies. It is expected that lean methodologies will allow the technological world to evolve at an exponential rate because lean methodologies are used to manufacture new technologies more efficiently, and these technologies could continue the cycle to promote the use of lean methodologies in other industries. A majority of businesses in the modern world are dependent on technology for practices and therefore can benefit from the use of lean methods. Even not for profit or government organizations would benefit from the incorporation of these methods. It is important to consider that modern practices are shifting towards efficiency and it is helpful for the modern worker to comprehend associated implications.
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Frederick Winslow Taylor (2013). The Principles of Scientific Management. London: Forgotten Books.
Jeffrey Liker (2003), Operations: Why lean programs fail, [Internet] Available from: http://www.bus-ex.com/article/operations-why-lean-programs-fail, [Accessed 9 September 2015]
Richard Kallage (2006), Lean implementation failures, [Internet] Available from: http://www.thefabricator.com/article/shopmanagement/lean-implementation-failures, [Accessed 9 September 2015]
Samuel Wood (2014), Lean Manufacturing: Keep Moving Forward | A Brief History | Part 1, [Internet] Available from: http://www.rootstock.com/erp-blog/lean-manufacturing-keep-moving-forward-a-brief-history-part-1/, [Accessed 9 September 2015]
Steve Denning (2012), Why Lean Programs Fail — Where Toyota Succeeds: A New Culture of Learning, [Internet] Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/02/05/why-lean-programs-fail-where-toyota-succeeds-a-new-culture-of-learning/, [Accessed 9 September 2015]
Time is precious
don’t waste it!