About the author: Andy Trainer works for Silicon Beach Training, leading providers of resources and courses in business skills including Six Sigma, Lean and project management techniques like PRINCE2.
Here at Silicon Beach Training we regularly run Six Sigma courses for all levels as well as a range of Lean courses. Over the years we have noticed that certain tools are more popular than others, and that our delegates enjoy using our custom diagrams and examples!
In this post I’m going to share 3 of my favourite Lean tools and provide you with exercises to try them yourself.
1. SIPOC Diagram
We ask our Black Belt delegates to bring their own SIPOC diagram to the course so they can work on an example appropriate to their role.
SIPOC stands for “Supplier – Input – Process – Output – Customer” and is a tool used towards the beginning of a Six Sigma project for examining existing processes.
SIPOC diagrams are useful for clearly defining the elements and requirements of a process.
The SIPOC diagram is relatively straightforward and can be used by anybody to break down a process. It is best compiled in a group, filling the box under each heading as much as possible.
Here is an example SIPOC diagram for making coffee:
Exercise: Choose a business process and run through the steps to create your own SIPOC diagram.
To create a SIPOC diagram you must first define the process in a sub-diagram (as above). This should be kept simple with no more than 5 steps and a simple description for each.
The next step is to fill out the inputs and then work out who supplies those inputs.
Inputs can be anything from physical items to data and tools, and you should have a supplier for every input.
After establishing the inputs, define the outputs of the process, along with the customers who will receive the outputs.
2. Customer Requirements Tree
The Customer Requirements Tree (also known as the Critical to Quality Tree) is a Lean tool that allows you to break down hard to measure customer needs into easy to measure requirements.
The final stage of the tree involves defining upper and lower limits for requirements, which are easier to measure and maintain.
As with the SIPOC diagram we are using coffee as an example for our customer requirements tree:
Exercise: Choose an important customer requirements and run it through the Customer Requirements Tree.
Begin with a very basic customer requirement such as “I want a coffee that is good”. As a business you must define what the customer means by “good”. A customer requirements tree is a good way to do this.
Start by establishing the drivers – what the customer might use to decide on what makes a good coffee. Then define an upper and lower limit for each driver – these are your critical to quality requirements.
Once completed you will have a better idea of what your customer wants, and will be able to measure your product or service so that it meets the customer requirements.
3. The 7 Wastes
When thinking Lean, you should always be thinking about waste.
The tools above are for defining your processes and customer requirements. This tool will help you actively decide on your business wastes so that you can reduce them.
Each business potentially has 7 Deadly Wastes according to Lean thinking.
The 7 wastes are:
• Transportation of product
• Motion of people
These can be applied to specific processes or to the business as a whole (more likely if you are an SME).
Exercise: Pick a business process and run through the 7 wastes. Fill in as much information next to each waste.
Once you have completed the table, you can run through your wastes and work out which are the priorities to reduce or eliminate.