Recap of WebsterRogers’ May 1st manufacturing presentation on continuous improvement methods
LaVonne J. Derksen, CPA
Tax Supervisior



Three very popular approaches to continuous improvement used in manufacturing (which can be used in conjunction with one another) are as follows:
• Lean
• Six Sigma
• Theory of Constraints

What are the methods?

  1. LEAN
    Lean focuses on speed and cycle time reduction by removing waste, which is also called non-value-added activities.
    Six Sigma focuses primarily on reducing variation in the process and the product.
    Theory of Constraints focuses on increasing through-put for the business and flowing/synchronizing material through the plant.

Where should you start?
Generally speaking, I would begin by taking a theory of constraints approach to determine where the constraint is in the business, to decide where to start, and avoid sub-optimization. Once you identify where to focus your efforts, you can decide which tools or methods to use from this point.
Typically the first step is to use the Lean methodology to eliminate waste and go after the low-hanging fruit. Once the process has been “leaned”-out, you would consider the Six Sigma process.

Which process fits best with different types of companies?
Lean is excellent for any type of company. It is traditionally a bottom-up approach, which means implementing it requires culture change and buy-in from all levels of the organization. Theory of Constraints scheduling (Drum Buffer Rope) works well in smaller organizations and companies with a high mix of products, or with a capital equipment constraint. Theory of Constraints can be executed by a few top-level employees. Six Sigma typically is better for larger organizations with more robust engineering departments, and that are further down their continuous improvement journey. The Six Sigma process is much more regimented and is a top-down approach.

If you are interested in learning more about these processes, or have questions, contact:
Tim Sinclair, Industry Consulting Director