One of the most common complaints aimed at Six Sigma consultants when working outside of a manufacturing environment is “this Six Sigma is all well and good but it only applies to manufacturing” well there’s a good answer to that RUBBBISH!!

Business, whether its manufacturing or service related, all provide some form of product to their customers – and they ALL have certain things in common

Service is just like Manufacturing

By their vary nature business turns raw material into product – now in a traditional manufacturing environment this is easy – take some raw material some machines some people and some instructions and you’ll get product – for service it’s pretty much the same albeit with the raw material being it’s workforce and the skills they have – this is still “processed” into an end product for the customer – in a nutshell there are four major similarities between manufacturing and service business.

1. They all attract cost
2. They all encounter delays or lead times
3. Defects / errors occur in all businesses
4. Variation exists both in process and the quality of the finished product

Think about it for a minute – and take a look at the four golden rules above – these apply to making an aeroplane, looking after patients in a hospital, serving food in a fast food outlet, raising purchase orders in an office – These challenges are universal and are not unique to manufacturing and importantly they all impact the customer!

Smart organizations have already realized this and these days lean and Six Sigma style improvement programs are in a vast array of businesses and industry sectors (want further proof – google six sigma case studies and see what you find)

Take a look at our 4 golden rules of business the good news is that lean and six sigma has been designed to solve these problems. Many practitioners might tailor certain tools to whichever industry they are working in but the fundamental toolset remains the same – DMAIC, value add analysts, error proofing are all universally applicable.

So the next time someone says that Six Sigma or lean doesn’t apply – ask them to take the test and ask them if:

a) Do they have costs
b) Do they incur delays
c) Do they always produce 100% quality product
d) Are all the products the same when complete

Chances are you’ll find that they answer to most (if not all) is yes – meaning that Six Sigma or lean can be applied and deliver tangible benefits.

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