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    Lean Means Sustainability – Step 4 – Improve

    By Claus Schafhalter | June 21, 2010

    DMAIC Improve

    In ear­lier posts I wrote about “Define”, “Mea­sure” and “Analyze” as part of Lean Six Sigma’s DMAIC cycle. The example I used in these previous posts showed that our office is not energy efficient, and we also analyzed where and why. Remember, the most important results of the Analysis phase are well determined problem causes.

    Within the Improve phase, creativity techniques are used to find and evaluate ideas to address the problems.  Let’s assume one of the issues we want to tackle is the waste of energy due to offices that are heated or cooled, even when they are not occupied. Ideas to improve might be installation of occupancy sensors (motion sensors) that turn off heating or A/C when no one is there.  Or maybe a connection to the light switch – no light, then no heating or cooling. A different approach could be to control temperature based on daytime, weekend and holidays. And there maybe many more ways to reduce energy (more efficient heating / cooling system, better insulation, etc.).

    Once we have collected ideas, we need to evaluate these ideas against benefits, cost, risk, time to implement, and other criteria suitable for our situation. We select the best improvement ideas, and – using plain old project management tools – implement the improvements.

    Some advice: Especially if your organization is new to structured improvement processes, it is better to concentrate on solutions that can be implemented fast using small (or no) investment money. These solutions should show positive results very soon, and therefore motivate employees to go along, prepare for future changes, and convince management that the solutions are worth while.

    Lean Six Sigma improvements should be seen as part of a targeted continuous improvement process, and the really successful organizations are in for the long haul. They set an overall goal, and break this goal down into smaller targets to be accomplished along the way.

    But how do we know if our improvement efforts are successful? Lean Six Sigma has the answer in Step 5 – Control, which I will describe in a following post.

    Claus Schafhalter, Management Consultant @ Sunogos

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