Lean Manufacturing Blog by Jay Arthur

Improvement Insights Blog

Latest "Manufacturing" Posts

Lean Insights from “The Founder” Movie

Early in the movie, the McDonald’s brothers describe how they came up with the concept for speedy service. It’s Lean.

They had too many menu items, so they decide to simplify down to burgers, fries and soft drinks. (Think Lean inventory.)

They go to a tennis court and use chalk to lay out a possible floor plan to deliver service fast. One brother stands on a ladder watching while the employees pantomime cooking burgers, fries and soft drinks.

They go through several iterations to converge on their final design. (Think value stream mapping and spaghetti diagramming.)
I think they might have done it faster with cardboard boxes, but I wasn’t there.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Healthcare, Lean, Manufacturing, Service.

The Great Training Robbery

October 2016 HBR article, Why Leadership Training Fails-and What to Do About It, calls the $160 Billion spent on training in the U.S. the Great Training Robbery. The authors say: “Learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things.”

Unfortunately, this is true of most Six Sigma training courses. If you don’t apply what you’ve learned immediately to reducing delay, defects and deviation, the learning is lost in 72 hours.

That’s why my Lean Six Sigma workshops focus on solving real problems using existing data. Once people connect the methods and tools to results, it’s hard to go backward.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Healthcare, Lean, Manufacturing, Service, Six Sigma.

Why Six Sigma Fails

Over the last 25 years, I’ve gotten to see Six Sigma failures and successes. But in spite of all of the belts trained and investments made, why isn’t product and service quality any better? Why is there so much hassle? Why aren’t more customer experiences hassle-free? I’ve developed a mental list of the most common types of failures. Here’s my fishbone diagram for Six Sigma failures. I’d encourage you to develop your own.


80% of the businesses in the U.S. are service businesses, yet Six Sigma training is extensively focused on the manufacturing factory floor. It takes too long to teach people everything they might need to know to solve all of the problems they might ever encounter.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Healthcare, Manufacturing, QI Macros, Service, Six Sigma.

Cp Cpk Formulas and the Mistakes in Homemade Templates

Creating homemade Cp and Cpk templates often results in incorrect values. There are many, many mistakes you might make without realizing. Here are a few examples.

A customer sent me their home grown template for calculating Cp and Cpk and wondered why the QI Macros got such radically different values. It was easy to see from their data that they were using standard deviation, not Sigma estimator (Rbar/d2) to calculate Cp and Cpk. Use Stdev to calculate Pp and Ppk, not Cp and Cpk:


They had run the QI Macros histogram on two columns of data, one measured at 0 degrees and one measured at 90 degrees.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Manufacturing, QI Macros, Six Sigma, Statistics.

Most Valuable Career Skills

This month’s issue of Money Magazine discusses the 21 Most Valuable Career Skills. At the top of the list, statistical analysis increasing pay by 6.1%. Right behind statistical analysis is Data Mining at 5.1%. It’s incredibly easy to learn these two skills using QI Macros and Six Sigma.

Also on the list, Customer Service Metrics (4.3%). I have found that the written comments in customer service systems can be easily analyzed using the QI Macros Word Count tool to identify the most common type of call or complaint. Then simple root cause analysis can reduce or eliminate those calls.

Business analysis (3.8%) is easy with QI Macros Control Chart Dashboards.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Healthcare, Lean, Manufacturing, QI Macros, Service, Six Sigma.

ASQ 2016 Quality Tool Usage in Poster Presentations

At this years American Society for Quality World Conference in Milwaukee, winning teams improvement projects were displayed in posters in the exhibit hall. As I did at IHI in December, I took a stroke tally of the types of tools used. Like IHI, the vast majority of tools were line and bar charts, which are the dumbest charts on the planet. Only a few teams out of 36 used control charts, Pareto charts, histograms or fishbones.

Shouldn’t quality improvement stories should be told with tools of quality, not simple line and bar charts? Shouldn’t we be using charts that went to college and took statistics?

Posted by Jay Arthur in Healthcare, Manufacturing, QI Macros, Service, Six Sigma.

Lean Transformation using Agile

The May 2016 Harvard Business Review has an article about how Agile methodologies are transforming management.

As an IT guy, Agile is Lean applied to software development. I wrote a book about a similar methodology called Rapid Evolutionary Development back in 1989. Both are about rapid iteration to converge on a deliverable solution when “the problem is complex, solutions are initially unknown and product requirements will most likely change.”

In many ways, Agile is similar to the Lean Startup methodology: Build, Measure, Learn. We also find it in the OODA Loop (observe, orient, decide, act) developed by fighter pilot John Boyd.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Healthcare, Improvement Insights, Lean, Manufacturing, Service.

I’m Just Taking a Six Sigma Class

About a third of people who download a 30-day trial of the QI Macros tell us they are “just taking a class” and don’t need to purchase.

My question is, why are you taking the class if you don’t intend to use what you’ve learned?

From a purely Lean perspective, unused training is waste:

  • Waste of the company’s money
  • Waste of the student’s time
  • Waste of the instructor’s time


Posted by Jay Arthur in Healthcare, Lean, Manufacturing, QI Macros, Service, Six Sigma.

Do All That You Can To Raise Productivity

In this interesting video of How the Economic Machine Works Ray Dalio describes some key principles of economic growth. He has three rules for economic improvement. Rule Three is Do All That You Can To Raise Productivity.

Perhaps the most powerful tools for productivity improvement are Lean Value Stream Mapping and Spaghetti Diagramming. The 15-2-20 Rule says that for every 15 minutes of unnecessary delay removed from a process, a business can double productivity and increase profits by 20 percent.

All you need are sticky notes, a flip chart and an hour or two to identify and remove unnecessary delays and movement from any business process.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Lean, Manufacturing, Service.

Three Simple Rules for Lean Organization

In The Organized Mind, author Daniel J. Levitin describes three rules for general organization:

  1. A mislabeled item or location is worse than an unlabeled item.
  2. If there is an existing standard, use it. Recycling bins, for example, are blue.
  3. Don’t keep what you can’t use. Discard it.

Posted by Jay Arthur in Jay Arthur Blog, Lean, Manufacturing, Service.