Building a culture of continuous improvement requires an establishment of fundamental knowledge among those in the quality control department. Speaking intelligently on the subject assumes your team knows the main players credited with founding Lean and Six Sigma methodologies.
Looking into the midst of antiquity there were many notable contributors that should be mentioned with Jean Baptiste de Gribeauval being one of the firsts to write on the subject of standardizing the production process. Gribeauval established a process that reduced the variations encountered during the production and fielding of artillery in the eighteenth century and gave France the edge in combat during that era, contributing to Napoleon’s rise.
Years after that Eli Whitney hit the scene with his introduction of interchangeable parts. This greatly increased the rate and accuracy of rifle production in the fledgling United States. This is arguably the 0 point for antagonists of manufacturing advances.
Eli Whitney’s invention changed the American workforce forever, moving them out of the craft shops and onto the assembly line where unskilled laborers could out produce the best craftsmen of the time. Frederick Winslow Taylor recognized this growing distaste for factory life among those on the assembly lines and rather than looking at the mechanics of work he considered the human aspect.
Taylor began applying the scientific method managing the attitudes and needs of employees. This innovation in thinking changed the fundamentals of management and led to improved conditions for the workers.
The stage was set and Henry Ford used the fertile ground provided by his predecessors to further revolutionized assembly lines using conveyer belts, interchangeable parts, and separation of labor he was able to produce a car every 24 seconds.
Ford’s desire to reduce waste and monetize every bit of the process led him to such great extents that he personally grew the field straw and other materials for his “plastic” car. It was his desire to reduce waste and implement 3 equal shifts that led to his adoption of the 8-hour day, which has become a worldwide standard.
While Henry Ford was innovating the Western World, Sakichi Toyoda was shaping the East. Sakichi Toyoda initially started in the textile industry, creating an automatic weaving machine that would stop itself when a problem occurred, saving valuable material and time. Building upon this concept Sakichi developed the first tools the novice Lean manager will recognize – Jidoka and the 5 “Why’s”.
The rebuilding of Japan after WWII is where Lean officially began with the greats influencing each other, creating a synergy the world had not seen until that point. Toyoda was still a loom manufacturing company that was delving into the auto manufacturing business and considering changing to the namesake Toyota we know today.
In the west a man by the name of William Deming was unsuccessfully pitching his concepts to American manufacturers. Deming answered when the call went out asking innovators to support Japans rebuild and his ideas were warmly accepted and became part of the systems there.
It is interesting to consider that his overlooked ideas played a significant part in Japans factories overcoming those of his home country. Sakichi’s son, Kiichiro Toyoda, saved the young Toyota Motor Co. from the gallows and then departed, paving the way for Eiji Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno to develop the Toyota Production System, and Just-in-time manufacturing.
While Deming was lecturing and moving throughout Japan supporting the rebuild, Taiichi Ohno was developing Toyota into a manufacturing giant. Given free reign by Eiji Toyoda, Taiichi developed the Kanban or supermarket method of manufacturing where assembly line workers were able get what they needed when they needed it.
This significantly reduced wasted materials and time, which improved the quality, speed, and consistency of manufacturing.
In the United States manufacturers were taking a less Lean approach and a more statistical approach based upon Deming’s instructor, Walter A. Shewhart’s control charts. In 1939 Shewhart wrote a book, Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control, that won him wide spread recognition.
Shewhart displayed through his works that gathering data over time and formulating it into measureable charts would cause areas of slack and poor quality to become easily recognized and thus removed or improved. His Plan Do Study Act became the foundation upon which DMAIC was built.
By the 1950’s another one of Shewhart’s pupils had raised in notoriety, Joseph Juran was about to change how Japan looked at managing quality. While Deming was focused on the statistics of manufacturing, Juran was working in the Winslow Taylor mindset, considering the human factor that had once again become an overlooked pick of the picture.
A famous quote in Kaoru Ishikawa’s book What is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way reports the outcome of a Juran seminar in Japan changed the atmosphere surrounding Quality Control as a tool of management.
It was the combination of Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, Robert Deming, and Joseph Juran that led to the creation of Total Quality Management concept of operations and accounts for a mass of the tools used in Lean today.
Ishikawa built upon Deming’s Plan Do Check Act and used 6 steps – determine goals and targets, determine methods of reaching those goals, engage in education and training, implement the work, check the effects of implementation, and take appropriate action.
While Lean was congealing, still waiting for John Krafcik to coin the term, a competing system of manufacturing was growing in popularity throughout the phone and computer manufacturing companies. This method combined statistical methods with engineering principles to manage quality.
Genichi Taguchi wrote extensively on Design of Experiments even writing 2 books with the name. Based upon Taguchi’s methods, manufactures were able to reduce defects by recognizing and fixing problems with the actual design of the product. Aiming at the elimination of product deficiencies before they occurred, Philip B. Crosby created a “Zero Defects” method of management that aimed at prevention of errors and influenced the growth of this ideology.
By the 1980’s there were several different consultancies with varying methods of quality management based upon the successes realized during the rise of Japan’s manufacturing industry. A Motorola employee by the name of Bill Smith became obsessed with the idea of eliminating defects through statistical controls.
He worked through the various ideals and found the most successful and widely applicable approaches each offered. Bringing them all together Smith pitched a tool he called Six Sigma as the end all method of improving quality and thus profitability.
While Bill Smith might have been the father of Six Sigma the lead architect of the new method was Mikel Harry with CEO Robert Galvin giving these two creators the support and go-ahead needed for the full adoption of Six Sigma. Through Smith’s methods Motorola began making leaps and bounds. Finally going public with the methodology in 1987.
As independent systems, both Lean and Six Sigma were reinventing the ways and means of manufacturing throughout the globe but it wasn’t until then CEO of GE Jack Welch brought these two tools together that it became common place to consider Lean and Six Sigma almost interchangeable, pulling tools from each one according to the needs of that specific process.