Top Challenges for Effective Lean Six Sigma and PEX Implementation
While many major businesses in the Philippines are becoming aware of the resource saving principles of lean six sigma and process excellence (LSS and PEX), there remains a number of concerns regarding their effective implementation. In order to identify these issues we consulted some of South East Asia’s foremost industry experts to share their unique insights, implementation difficulties and top tips for LSS and PEX project success.
Assistant Vice President - Process Excellence
Wells Fargo Philippines Solutions
If a culture of continuous improvement (CI) is not present in a company, it tends to be due to one of two scenarios. One is that the organisation is still young and therefore education and awareness are both required to propagate the CI culture, or alternatively the organisation is already mature and feels that it has already done everything possible to remain efficient; therefore engagement has fallen through the cracks. Either scenario represents a barrier to adopting a true culture of continuous improvement.
Another major obstacle towards implementation is a lack of solid stakeholder buy-in. Process Excellence should be viewed as an experience and a company way of life fully endorsed and supported by management – not a passing fad to be whimsically included in your organisational goals.
LSS and PEX projects can also struggle if their handlers are unable to relate the project’s improvements to bottom line. Often the projected annualised savings are properly quantified in $ value but still there are times that these numbers seem like they don’t impact the P&L thus partners can take the view that the project looks like "fluff".
Finally, some PEX professionals are well-schooled on the theory side but are lacking in deployment experience. They may be versed in the principles and technical jargon of LSS but will fail to communicate how the partners they support – whether in operations or technology – can make practical use of the tools and methods taught by PEX.
Additionally, some PEX professionals lack strong deployment experience to be able to relate to business.
Service Delivery Director
TransUnion Credit Bureau
The following are the most frequently repeated objections and concerns I have received whenever I start any project or deployment of LSS or PEX:
- "It will take too long to implement."
- "I don’t have the resources to do it."
- "It’s too complicated."
What the authors of these concerns don’t often realise is that LSS can make things simpler while in turn improving their business processes by making them faster and more efficient. Another major roadblock is a lack of buy-in from the organisation’s owners and top tier management. This is often because they believe that their operational processes work, so why would they need to invest in new and potentially costly PEX projects in order to change it?
In terms of actual implementation, the most common concerns are:
- A lack of precise data or form of measurement to track progress.
- No baseline to effectively measure ultimate improvements created by the project.
- Over analysing implementation methodology and execution of project priorities.
Six Sigma Black Belt/Site Champion
ON Semiconductor Philippines Inc.
There is no doubt about it, Six Sigma really works. Motorola, Honeywell and GE all documented breakthrough improvements in quality and profitability when they pioneered to implement Six Sigma in the mid-80’s. Decades after, many more corporations have benefited and continue to benefit from it. However, like many high-profile programs, the deployment model must be correct and relevant to be truly successful.
In the implementation of LSS, the uncompromising formula for success is an unwavering desire and commitment by the top management to make it work. This requirement holds true regardless of the type of business or institutions in question. Anything short of this basic requirement would throw the program deployment into a complex web of compromises. If the implementation has to continually compete with other initiatives to secure the company’s resources (e.g. employees’ time, equipment, materials, etc.), then it is highly likely to fail or achieve only partial success.
When strong top management commitment is visibly demonstrated, everything else will fall into the right order such as:
- Improvement initiatives are linked with customer needs and departmental KPIs
- Project sponsorship is consistent and unshaken
- Improvement activities are actively undertaken
- Performance measures drive rewards and recognition and employees are eventually transformed into change agents.
Following this, the guaranteed outcomes then include a culture change that perpetually drives breakthrough improvements in quality, cost and delivery.
VP & GM Services Business APAC; Global Customer Assurance
Director Packaging Printing Solutions, Kodak Singapore
In order to achieve longer term sustenance of the benefits of LSS and PEX in an organisation, it is essential to:
- Embed principles of LSS in the culture of the company, instead of simply keeping its principles restricted to a group of LSS experts. It is necessary to make it second nature to each employee to have an eye for non-value added work around them and address it quickly.
- De-mystify LSS concept and jargons – make it simple to understand the intended benefits and keep the company outlook regarding LSS and PEX positive in nature. This will help embed its principles into each and every employee.
- Create simple recognition for encouraging steps in the right direction at smallest level – again this is an invaluable aid in embedding LSS and PEX principles into an organisation’s culture and ultimately driving positive change.
Note: All views in this article are those of the interviewees themselves and are not representative of their company.