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18 Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 57, Nos.

1/2/3, 2012

When Lean and Six Sigma converge: a case study of

a successful implementation of Lean Six Sigma at an
aerospace company

Asli Yagmur Akbulut-Bailey* and

Jaideep Motwani
Department of Management,
Seidman College of Business,
Grand Valley State University,
Grand Rapids, MI 49504, USA
Fax: (616) 331-7445
*Corresponding author

Everett M. Smedley
Johnson Technology Inc.,
2034 Latimer Dr.,
Muskegon, MI 49442, USA

Abstract: Over the past decade, companies of all sizes have faced tremendous
pressure to improve their manufacturing operations, productivity, and customer
service in order to successfully compete in the global business arena As a
result, companies have experimented with different strategies and techniques.
The techniques that look the most promising appear to be Lean and Six Sigma.
There are very limited studies that empirically document how these two
techniques can be integrated into one strategy and how they can be leveraged to
achieve world-class results. In this paper, by means of a detailed case analysis,
we demonstrate how a major aircraft manufacturing company located in
West Michigan successfully incorporated the LLS concept into its operations.
We discuss the factors that facilitated the success of LLS and provide
suggestions for managers who are considering implementing this improvement

Keywords: Six Sigma; Lean; Lean Six Sigma; case study; continuous
improvement; aerospace industry.

Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Akbulut-Bailey, A.Y.,

Motwani, J. and Smedley, E.M. (2012) When Lean and Six Sigma converge: a
case study of a successful implementation of Lean Six Sigma at an aerospace
company, Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 57, Nos. 1/2/3, pp.1832.

Biographical notes: Asli Yagmur Akbulut-Bailey is an Associate Professor at

the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University. She earned
her PhD and MS in Information Systems and Decision Sciences from Louisiana
State University. She also holds an MBA. Her research interests include
technology management, IS education, and enterprise systems. Her work has

Copyright 2012 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

When Lean and Six Sigma converge 19

appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Communications of the

ACM, Communications of the AIS, Decision Sciences, Journal of Computer
Information Systems, International Journal of Business Information Systems,
International Journal of Electronic Business, International Journal of Services
and Operations Management, Journal of Information Technology Cases
and Applications, Journal of International Technology and Information
Management, Journal of Information Technology Education, and in various
international conferences.

Jaideep Motwani is a Professor and the Chair of the Management Department

at Grand Valley State University. He is also the E. Seidman Endowed Chair of
Management. He received his PhD in Operations Management from University
of North Texas. His research interests include information technology
management, enterprise systems, and quality management. He has published
in a variety of journals including IEEE Transactions on Engineering
Management, Operations Research, Omega, Journal of Operational Research
Society, European Journal of Operational Research, International Journal of
Operations and Production Management, International Journal of Production
Research, and International Journal of Technology Management. He also
serves as a Consultant and Trainer for a number of organisations in the areas of
information technology implementation, project management, and total quality

Everett M. Smedley graduated from Grand Valley State University. He was

involved in the implementation of the LSS initiative at the case study company.

1 Introduction

Over the past decade, companies of all sizes have faced tremendous pressure to improve
their manufacturing operations, productivity, and customer service in order to
successfully compete in the global business arena. As a result, companies have
experimented with different strategies and techniques such as business process
reengineering, lean, Six Sigma, and agility among others. Among these, lean
manufacturing and Six Sigma initiatives have been the most promising. These two
approaches are related, but yet distinct. The focus of lean is to reduce and remove waste
by analysing the value stream and processes. On the other hand, Six Sigma focuses
on reducing and removing variations by applying statistical quality control methods
(Bendell, 2006). According to Arnheiter and Maleyeff (2005), both approaches have
evolved into comprehensive management systems, requiring major changes in
implementing organisations. In the past, companies have used either lean manufacturing
or Six Sigma for purposes of cutting costs, eliminating muda, improving quality and
increasing customer satisfaction (Arnheiter and Maleyeff, 2005; Andersson et al., 2006;
Rajamanoharan and Collier, 2006). Even though both approaches are effective in their
own way, research clearly indicates that organisations implementing these approaches
separately may no longer are able to generate further improvements (Arnheiter and
Maleyeff, 2005). As a result, companies have started to merge these two complementary
practices, resulting in the introduction of the Lean Six Sigma (LLS) concept.
There are very limited studies that empirically document how lean and Six Sigma can
be integrated into one strategy and how LSSs power can be leveraged to achieve
20 A.Y. Akbulut-Bailey et al.

world-class products and processes. As ORourke (2005) points out, the combination of
these two approaches is a recent continuous improvement deployment and experiences
of companies implementing it represent a novel area for researchers. Similarly,
Nonthaleerak and Hendry (2006) identify empirical research in this topic as an important
area for further research to clarify the issues identified in conceptual papers. As such, it is
necessary to provide examples of companies that have successfully merged these two
approaches. In this paper, by means of a detailed case analysis, we demonstrate how a
major aircraft parts manufacturing company located in West Michigan successfully
incorporated the LSS concept into its operations. We discuss the factors that facilitated
the success of LSS and provide suggestions for managers who are considering
implementing this improvement strategy. The remainder of the paper is organised as
follows. First, we provide an overview of lean, Six Sigma, and LSS approaches, and
introduce our theoretical framework. Next, we provide a detailed analysis of how LSS
was implemented at our case company. Lastly, we provide concluding remarks and
insights on Six Sigma implementations.

2 Literature review

In order to clearly understand what LSS is all about, we first have to look at the lean and
Six Sigma concepts. In this section, we provide an overview of the lean, Six Sigma
concepts followed by an introduction to LSS. We then introduce our theoretical model,
which guided our investigation of the LSS implementation at the case study company.

2.1 Overview of lean concept

Even though the lean concept was introduced by Toyota in the 1950s as a part of the
Toyota Production System (TPS), it did not become famous until Womack and Joness
best-seller book The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production
was published in 1990 (Andersson et al., 2006). The lean concept can be defined as a
dynamic process of change, driven by a set of principles and best practices aimed at
continuous improvement (Womack et al., 1990). It is a systematic approach of
identifying and eliminating non-value adding activities with a focus on flowing the
product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection (NIST, 2000). Over time, the
lean concept evolved and extended its meaning from lean production to a whole
enterprise model, and finally even to an extended lean enterprise model (Ricondo and
Viles, 2005).
There are five fundamental steps involved in applying the lean concept. These steps
are: value identification, value stream analysis, flow, pull, and perfection (Nave, 2002;
Ricondo and Viles, 2005; Tracy and Knight, 2008).

value identification: Lean concept focuses on identifying what customers perceive as

value in products and services

value stream analysis: in the lean approach, once the concept of value is clarified,
the organisation identifies its value stream for products and services and focuses on
eliminating any non-value adding activities and processes
When Lean and Six Sigma converge 21

flow: the flow step focuses on making sure that the products and services flow
continuously without any interruptions across the value stream
pull: in the lean concept products or services are produced only after the customer
places an order
perfection: in the lean concept, the company strives for perfection and as a part of
the continuous improvement process; the company focuses on regularly eliminating
all non value adding activities.

2.2 Overview of Six Sigma concept

The Six Sigma approach was initially developed in Motorola and greatly refined during
its application in GE. The enormous savings reported by GE fuelled interest in Six Sigma
in late 1990s (Krishna et al., 2008). Six Sigma refers to the capability of a process
to deliver units within the set quality limits (Klefsjo et al., 2006). For a company to be
classified as a Six Sigma company, it should not have more than 3.4 defects per million
opportunities in any process, product, or service (Rajamanoharan and Collier, 2006). If a
company focuses on achieving Six Sigma, it tries to systematically eliminate the defects
in a process to be able to get as close to perfection as possible. As such, over time, six-
sigma has evolved into a business process change (BPC) initiative, which combines
statistical control tools and total quality management with an emphasis on customer
satisfaction (Arnheiter and Maleyeff, 2005; Rajamanoharan and Collier, 2006).
There are two major methodologies used in Six Sigma. Six Sigma DMAIC is a
process that defines, measures, analyses, improves, and controls existing processes,
whereas Six Sigma DMADV, defines, measures, analyses, designs, and verifies new
processes or products that are trying to achieve Six Sigma quality (Andersson et al.,
2006; Pande et al., 2000). DMAIC phases include the following:
Define: This phase defines the process or product that needs improvement. Critical
customer requirements are identified and a map of the processes that should be
improved is created.
Measure: This phase involves selecting product characteristics, mapping respective
processes, making necessary measurements, and recording the results of the process.
Analyse: In this phase, an action plan is created to close the gap between how
things currently work and how the organisation would like them to work in order to
meet the goals for a particular product or service.
Improve: This phase involves improving processes/product performance
characteristics for achieving desired results and goals.
Control: This phase requires the process conditions to be properly documented and
monitored through statistical process control methods.

2.3 Overview of LSS

LSS can be defined as the combination of the best features of lean and Six Sigma in
the pursuit of sustained improvement (Carreira and Trudell, 2006). It is a business
improvement methodology, which focuses on maximising value by achieving a faster rate
22 A.Y. Akbulut-Bailey et al.

of improvement in customer satisfaction, cost, quality, process speed, and invested

capital (Arnheiter and Maleyeff, 2005; Berryman, 2002). Believing in the synergetic
effect of converging lean and Six Sigma, several leading organisations including Xerox
Corporation, GE, Johnson and Johnson and Dell have successfully implemented the LSS
approach in their organisations (Brett and Queen, 2005). Table 1 depicts the principles of
Lean, Six Sigma and LSS.

Table 1 Overview of Lean, Six-Sigma and LSS

Approach Lean Six Sigma LSS

Objectives Provide high value Product and process Reduce
to the customer by improvement, Variation
reducing waste minimisation of
variation Speed up
Reduce waste
Principles Use the best Keep the number of Use the best
practices and defects below 3.4 per practices of
processes to improve million opportunities Six Sigma and
efficiency, reduce Lean
costs and speed up
the process Increase
market share
of the
View of Non-value adding Variation Variation
waste activities
Methodology Identify value Define Tools used in
Six Sigma and
Define value stream Measure Lean
Determine flow Analyse
Define pull Improve
Improve process Control
Tools and Value stream Statistical process Tools used in
Techniques mapping, work cell control charts Six Sigma and
design, 5S, mistake (histograms, normal Lean
proofing, set-up distribution graphs,
reduction, takt flowcharts, etc.) and
modelling, visual quality management
controls, and other tools (activity network
TPS tools diagrams, affinity
diagrams, etc.)
KPI Value provided to Number of defects Customer
the customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction Market share
Source: Modified from Bhuiyan et al. (2006)
When Lean and Six Sigma converge 23

In order to become a successful LSS organisation, an organisation should bring together

the following lean and Six Sigma principles (Arnheiter and Maleyeff, 2005):
the organisation must focus on maximising the value-added content in all operations
and processes (lean principle)
the top management must implement a decision-making process that bases every
decision on its impact on the customers (lean principle)
the organisation must constantly evaluate all of its incentive systems to ensure that
they result in global optimisation (lean principle)
the organisation must utilise data-driven methodologies to ensure that all the changes
are made based on scientific studies rather than making ad hoc decisions (Six Sigma
the organisation must utilise methodologies to minimise variations in quality
characteristics (Six Sigma principle)
the organisation must implement a company wide and highly structured education
and training programme (Six Sigma principle).

2.4 Theoretical framework

Since LSS implementation is changing the business process of a company, we felt that
the BPC theory would be useful in investigating the LSS implementation at our case
study company and explaining the outcomes (Motwani et al., 2004; Luo and Tung, 1999).
This framework has been successfully utilised to investigate the implementation of
different initiatives within organisations including process change, enterprise resource
planning and more recently Six Sigma initiatives (Rajamanoharan and Collier, 2006).
According to Kettinger and Grover (1995), any significant BPC requires a strategic
initiative where top managers act as leaders in defining and communicating a vision of
change; an organisational environment willingness to learn; culture readiness; balanced
network relationships; technology leveragability and knowledge sharing; prescribed
process management and change management practices. Process and change management
practices, along with the change environment, contribute to a better business processes
and help in securing improved quality of work life, both of which are requisite for
customer success and ultimately, in achieving measurable and sustainable competitive
performance gains (Motwani et al., 2004; Drago and Geisler,1997).

3 Methodology

Given the objectives of the study, we decided to use the case study approach to collect
and analyse the case data. Information was collected through interviews, personal
observations, and archival sources. Interviews were conducted with executives,
management and hourly workers who were familiar with the implementation of LSS
process. Once the material was analysed and documented, the factual part of the case
study was reviewed by the major contributors in the company. This review was for
validating data collection and as a courtesy to those who participated in the research.
24 A.Y. Akbulut-Bailey et al.

4 Case analysis

4.1 History of case study company

Johnson Technology Inc., was established in 1963 under the name of Johnson Mold Inc.
The Company changed its name to Johnson Technology Inc., in the 1980s after it became
an aerospace company. The company was bought and sold six times between 1983 and
1997. In 1997, it became a wholly-owned subsidiary of GE. At that time, the Company
employed about 150 associates. Currently, the company is still owned by GE, and their
associates have grown to 400 hourly and 100 salaried employees. The company is
headquartered in West Michigan, USA and its line of business is manufacturing aircraft
engines and parts including aircraft heat exchangers, water separators, oxygen equipment,
environment controllers, and regulators, cooling turbines, and fans, and aircraft
emergency, and power systems.
In early 1990s, the company realised that it was time to change their competitive
position in the market. As a result, upper management decided to implement a
comprehensive approach to incorporate lean manufacturing. They decided to focus on
reducing costs to increase the bottom line which was the cash inflow. A cellular
manufacturing process was already in place, but the Companys hunger to increase their
market share drove them to seek out a better process. As a result, management decided to
establish an initial project team to examine the practices at different companies around
the country that were practicing lean manufacturing. Once the team gathered information
on other companies implementations, they returned to Johnson Technology. They
analysed the data and set up a plan to implement it. They put groups together by cells and
teams and started down the path to lean manufacturing. When the company was
purchased by GE in 1997, they received a small dose of lean and a large dose of
Six Sigma. This is when they decided to marry lean and Six Sigma together which started
them on their journey to the next level of production.

4.2 Constructs: definition and analysis

This section discusses each construct in the research model and its application at the case
study company.

4.2.1 Strategic initiatives

Strategic change including process change typically begins with strategic initiatives from
the top management team as a part of the companys strategic plan (Motwani et al. 2004;
Kotter, 1995). This change might be desirable to address a problem area or to take
advantage of a business opportunity (Motwani et al., 2004; Earl, 1994). Moreover,
strategic change, and process change, is often incremental, informal, emergent, and is
based on learning through small gains (Motwani et al., 2004; Mintzberg and Waters,
1985) versus being revolutionary and radical.
The initiative to implement LSS principles at Johnson Technology Inc., came from
the upper management as a part of the strategic plan to gain competitive advantage in the
aerospace industry. As such, the management team was strongly committed to the
implementation. They were fully aware of the long-term commitment and resources
needed. The management decided to take a step-by-step approach to this implementation
When Lean and Six Sigma converge 25

as they believed that focusing on continuous improvement, while taking full advantage of
all of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma practices would enable them achieve greater

4.2.2 Learning capacity

Increased efficiency can come from learning by doing (Motwani et al., 2004; Arrow,
1962) and accumulation of knowledge through cross-functional interfaces (Motwani
et al., 2004; Adler, 1990). Learning can also be brought about by scanning external
information (Motwani et al., 2004; Guha et al., 1997). This can come from organisational
employees who constantly review the environment for new developments and
opportunities (technology gatekeepers), consultants who span the boundary between the
environment and the organisation (boundary spanners), and from customers.
Johnson Technology created a learning environment bases on responding to process
change and through the experiences they learned from other companies. One of the
implementation leaders that was interviewed mentioned that the companys approach was
to have several associates travel to other companies, which have already applied lean
thinking, and accumulate data on how these companies implemented lean. They would
analyse the data and reshape it so it would fit Johnsons needs and culture. They would
train several associates in lean principles who would in turn train others. In order
to successfully train all employees, the Company implemented a vigorous training
programme which was updated periodically. Self-training and improvement were also
encouraged, throughout the business, with several shop incorporated initiatives, such as
job titles, job positions, line transfers, shift preferences, and wage increases. Training
records were set up for all associates and they were encouraged to review them to make
sure information is updated and correct. All associates were encouraged to be familiar
with LSS practices. Every manager was devoted to lean thinking and was at least green
belt qualified in Six Sigma. An open door suggestion policy was implemented and shop
improvement through input was encouraged. Customers suggestion and satisfaction was
given top priority and were the main drivers for continuous training and improvement at
Johnson Technology.

4.2.3 Cultural readiness

Organisational culture is an important factor that determines the success of any initiatives
in an organisation. Organisations that exhibit a culture that is open to change embrace
change and the accompanied transformations more easily. Such a culture facilitates
the integration of individual learning with organisational learning by influencing the
organisations ability to learn, share information, and make decisions. Top management
leadership, support or change agents, open communication, and information sharing, as
well as cross-functional training and personnel movement within the organisation can
promote a common culture and innovative behaviour in organisations (Motwani et al.,
2004; Guha et al., 1997).
As mentioned earlier, Johnson Technologys initiative to become an LSS organisation
came from upper management. Being aware of the cultural and structural changes that
would be required along the way, top management made sure that they incorporated the
necessary tools to prepare the organisation for the change. Several teams were set up
to ensure successful implementation of LSS. These teams took the information they
26 A.Y. Akbulut-Bailey et al.

obtained in their studies of other companies and mapped out a plan that included the
employees input along with a shop wide learning programme. This plan included a
system to monitor their material and information flow and provide the associates in the
company with the necessary support to understand and to except LSS and change.
According to Joyce Carlyle-Swartz, manufacturing engineer on the lean team, the way
they tackled this issue was:
to get the employees participation in the decision making process. We had
several tools available to assist associates in their job during the transition
process. The associates took these tools applied them to their own processes
and gave us inputs on how to improve them. When they realized the
improvements came from their inputs and ideas, they were more than willing to
help. Associates like to see their suggestion and ideas taken seriously, which in
turn creates cooperation. Change became easier as time went by.
With the data collected and the associates on board, the Company was able to implement
lean, monitor flow, pin point problems and fix them. The next step was to train associates
in other areas of the company and move them to different lines and departments so they
could share their knowledge and experience in lean implementation. When the company
was acquired by GE, change came again in the form of Six Sigma. By this time, the
associates were already acceptable of change and openly accepted Six Sigma as another
way to improve their job performance. With this Johnson Technology married up lean
and Six Sigma and was soon on its way to the next level of production.

4.2.4 Information technology leveragability and knowledge-sharing capacity

In BPC, IT can play a dominant role or it can act as an enabler. Projects in which IT plays
a dominant role tend to fail to capture the business and human dimensions of processes
and are likely to struggle or even fail (Motwani et al., 2004; Markus and Keil, 1994).
Therefore, a case is often made for the socio-technical design approach that suggests a
mutual, bi-directional relationship between IT and the organisation (Motwani et al., 2004;
Mumford, 1994). Such an approach recommends synergy between the business, human
and IT dimensions of an organisation and could be promoted through cross-functional
Johnson Technology utilised IT as an enabler in the change process. The Company
particularly felt that visual controls were a key element in lean manufacturing. Andon
lights, hour-by-hour sheets, shop travellers, standard work combination sheets were just a
few of visual controls they utilised. They considered visual controls as a communication
device that allowed them to monitor process, keep track of items, and check the status of
work in progress. With this information they could identify problems, monitor work
performance, and make any improvements that were necessary. When, first implementing
visual controls there was some resistance from associates. They felt using visual controls
would slow them down and affect their productivity. Once the visual controls were
incorporated into their daily work processes the associates soon realised the great value
these tools brought to their processes.
Johnson Technology continues to develop new visual controls to assist in improving
production and quality. They are currently implementing a system for tracking parts in
process, which is called paperless in process electronic router (PIER) system. This new
system will be replacing their current shop traveller, which is used to track and monitor a
parts life in the production system. A shop traveller is several papers stapled together
When Lean and Six Sigma converge 27

with the steps needed to produce each product, which is signed off by the associate that
completed that step. The PIER system is just what it means paperless. Each part is
scanned into the computer upon completion of each operation. This system will not only
save money in paper, but also greatly increase accountability of parts manufacturing.
For example, if someone enters the serial number of a part they will immediately find
out the last step completed, who completed it, and where it is located. This is a great
enhancement to their lean manufacturing process.

4.2.5 Network relationships

Under most circumstances cooperative, interpersonal and group behaviour results in
superior performance (Motwani et al., 2004; Johnson and Johnson, 1989). In terms of
interorganisational processes, research indicates the benefits of partnering with external
suppliers (Motwani et al., 2004; Crosby, 1994). Organisations that can manage these
aspects of competition and cooperation continuously can benefit from employee
incentives and controls, as well as instil change more effectively (Motwani et al., 2004;
Guha et al., 1997).
Johnson Technology worked very closely with their suppliers. The company
informed their suppliers of what their needs were during this transformation process. If
the suppliers had trouble meeting their needs they would invite them to Johnson
Technology to clearly understand the changes introduced by LSS. The company also
encouraged the suppliers interested in going lean and did whatever was necessary to help
them. Representatives from the lean team would visit the supplier and assisting them with
their implementation. Soon they started reaping the rewards as a synergy was created
between Johnson Technology and the suppliers. Several of them were key players in
assisting Johnson in implementing LSS.

4.2.6 Change management practice

Change management is structured approach to managing change in an organisation in an
attempt to effectively balance forces in favour of a change over forces of resistance
(Motwani et al., 2004; Stebel, 1992). Organisations, groups, or individuals tend to resist
changes that they perceive to be threatened by (Motwani et al., 2004; Guha et al., 1997).
As such, top managements vision for change and commitment to change are extremely
important to be able to launch a successful change programme.
The company followed a structured plan built on the Toyota processing system and
their own experiences they gained from other companies. Management was committed
to making LSS a top priority in the company. Having an insight on the road ahead,
from experience of other companies, management was not surprised when problems
occurred. They met these challenges with great determination to prevail. Conquering
these challenges lead the way to large scale changes in the company. Management was
dedicated to teaching every associate how lean manufacturing and Six Sigma would
improve the company. They turned every problem they faced into a learning experience
and an opportunity to improve their processes. The company initiated shop walk a
rounds, meaning that the management periodically toured the company, on different
shifts, to talk to associates. Associates were encouraged to ask questions, give
suggestions, voice their opinions, or any other concerns they might have. Through this
28 A.Y. Akbulut-Bailey et al.

practice, they were able to create a large amount of trust between the management and

4.2.7 Process management practice

Process management refers to a set of concepts and practices that combines
methodological approaches with human resource management for better stewardship
of business processes (Motwani et al., 2004; Guha et al., 1997). Successful process
management uses process measurement (use of process metrics, process information
capture, improvement feedback loop, and process audit), tools and techniques (e.g.,
quality control tools, data flow diagrams, CASE tools, and simulation) and
documentation (e.g., process flow chart analysis, fishbone and root cause analysis).
Utilising team-based structures both for the implementing the project and for designing
the new processes (Motwani et al., 2004; Guha et al., 1997) are also important in
increasing the success of process change.
The case study company implemented formal techniques and process metrics
designed for process measurement. They used these to increase their production levels.
These tools and metrics included: one piece flow, standard work/small lot production,
Kanban (with a full pull system), and jidoka.
One piece flow: The Company used this strategy to balance operation lines according
to observed times, while rearranging workstations so that only one part is worked on
at each operation. The Company utilised a U shaped layout in their flow line.
Standard work: The Company utilised this strategy that involves establishing a
standard work sequence, measuring the cycle time and calculating tact time for the
work sequence. The Company then compared cycle time against tact time and using
this data to set up a standard work process.
Kanban: The Company uses a full pull system. Parts are pulled and sent to customers
according to their needs. This creates a need for more parts to be manufactured.
Details for parts are pulled and used, which causes the details to be replenished.
Jidoka: The Company uses several fixtures which are designed to prevent defective
parts from being loaded and used. They use several visual aids such as, downtime
sheets, Andon lights, and flags to make sure that the state of production is visible to
Johnson Technology also incorporated Six Sigma DAMIC methodology to improve their
Define: The Company defined process improvement goals that are were consistent
with customer demands and company strategy.
Measure: The Company measured current processes, while collecting applicable
information for future comparison.
Analyse: The Company analysed and verified relationship and causality of factors
pertinent to situation.
Improve: The Company improved or optimised the processes based upon
information obtained while using techniques such as design of experiments.
When Lean and Six Sigma converge 29

Control: The Company used controls to continuously ensure that any variances will
be detected and corrected before they cause any defects. They performed pilot runs
to establish process capability, and to ensure a smooth transition to production, while
continuously measuring the processes and implementing any control mechanisms

4.3 Drawbacks, road bumps and rewards

According to Tom Jasick, Director of Manufacturing and Lean Leader, the main
drawback to LSS was the initial out flow of capital. The company had to purchase
several pieces of equipment to make the change. According to several managers,
another obstacle, they felt, was cultural change. People in general are resistant to change
and the associates at Johnson Technology were no different. The solution to the problem
according to Jasick was to get the associates involved with the process and
decision-making. Jasick said:
We gave them the tools they needed and trained them on how to use them.
Once they started using the tools they realized that their jobs were getting
easier and a lot of the stress was gone. The continued use of LSS eliminated
waste and removed problems, which is the essence of lean Six Sigma.
Associates go home feeling good about themselves and their work. I truly
believe thats what everyone wants, is to go home knowing they did a good

With any process change there is a learning curve and a significant amount of training
that must be completed. During the learning curve, the business experienced some loss in
production, and increased waste, but once a company got over the learning curve, the
rewards were worth waiting for. Once LSS was implemented, the rewards are many:
waste reduction, production cost reduction, decreased manufacturing cycle times, reduced
man hours per part while maintaining or increasing production, inventory reduction while
increasing customer service levels, increases in current facility capacities, higher quality,
higher profits, higher system flexibility in reacting to changes in requirements, more
strategic focus as well as higher flexibility in responding to customer needs.

4.4 Lessons learned: suggestions on implementing and maintaining lean

According to the literature, a successful implementation of LSS requires planning, effort,
flexibility, and patience. Just applying what is learned from other companies does not
guarantee success. Based upon the information obtained from interviews with major
players in the implementation of LSS in the case company, we have listed several reasons
why the implementation was successful. These can be used by other companies planning
to implement LSS in their companies. They are:

Get all the employees involved in, all aspects of the implementation.

Patience, implementing LSS can take time, give it the time it needs.

Maximise value added activities by defining what customers want and will pay for.
30 A.Y. Akbulut-Bailey et al.

Pulling the entire company together with one vision is a key to success on any
Visual controls are a tool for communication and should be utilised throughout the
Encourage LSS thinking in everything employees do. Always eliminate waste,
invent new and better work procedures, be creative, and always make quality
Implementation of 5s is a good place to start. Johnson Technology believes adding
safety to 5s keeps associates focused on safety. All associates should strive to be safe
in all they do.
Training should be top priority. Train management personal on lean thinking and get
them Six Sigma qualified. But do not stop there. Periodically send them to other
companies and seminars to increase their knowledge and become LSS experts.
Pin point problem areas and fix them, find out what works well and standardise it,
continuously seek out new ways to improve production and quality.
Clearly communicate your employees that applying best practices is everyones
Once you start the journey never look back, always look forward. LSS is the future
and in order to achieve its full potential, you must dedicate yourself to its principles
and continues improvement.

5 Conclusions

It has been 12 years since the decision to implement lean manufacturing came from upper
management. During the 12 years, Johnson Technology implemented Six Sigma as well
to improve quality. This marrying of lean and Six Sigma set them on their journey to the
next level of production, LSS. Since then, they have experienced decreased inventory,
increased production, improved quality, increased customer satisfaction and market
share. Since the implementation, their sales went from 30 million dollars per year to
205 million. They employed about 500 associates from 1999 to 2000 and their sales were
around 9295 million. In 2007, they still employ around 500 associates and their sales are
expected to be 205 million, which is a phenomenal increase. This is virtually unheard of
in any industry let alone an aeronautical company after 9/11. This is directly attributed to
decreased inventory and cycle time, increased production, improved quality, and Johnson
Technologys unyielding dedication to LSS and continuous improvement.

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