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Every company claims to be constantly improving their business or process, but not as many grasp the core idea of continuous improvement and live it daily. This is evident when one analyzes companies competing on the same market, providing quite the same products, yet having totally different results. Improvement is often misunderstood as doing things differently, which is a huge mistake.
Taiichi Ohno was known as the father of the Toyota Production System, helping Toyota to become the best automaker in the world. In the ‘80s, another engineer and scientist working at Motorola, Bill Smith, had just started a revolutionary culture change at his company. At that time, Motorola was struggling to compete against its rivals, which delivered better products with lower prices. A simple tool wouldn’t help them to succeed. They needed a change in their business strategy.
Bob Galvin, who had just stepped down as CEO of the company in 1986, was so amazed by Smith’s belief in Six Sigma that he made it a strong component of Motorola’s culture.
Since then, Six Sigma has gone through several changes including the substitution of its primary method MAIC (measure, analyze, improve, control) for DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control). Most recently, it has added the Lean manufacturing practice and philosophy, giving birth to the Lean Six Sigma strategy.
In both cases, the success of the change in business strategy and culture was due to a topdown initiative, and this is a point we should not overlook. I have no doubts that if you just use the tools or methods that are part of Six Sigma or Lean manufacturing, you will get satisfactory outcomes. However, spectacular results will be determined by the deep commitment of the top management.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.