Kaizen, Six Sigma, Just-in-time manufacturing and many other supply chain strategies that are mentioned when people talk about high productivity and optimizing earnings, have a tendency to be ignored by small business owners and entrepreneurs because sometimes they do not even think they apply to their business activity.
What are these strategies really? Do they only work for famous automobile manufacturers and large online retailers or can they benefit my microbrewery or my home-based jewelry shop? Are they so difficult to implement or can I take lessons from there and see how they apply for my everyday operations?
People who start their own businesses or that manage a small operation are already experts in flexibility and understanding the importance of using all of your resources available to gain the biggest benefits. In most cases, finances are somewhat limited for startups or for home-based business so there is a lot of self-teaching, on-hands involvement of the company’s owner (sometimes the only employee) and also the willingness to take risks in order to get ahead.
These principles are by no means exclusive to large operations and many of their core ideas can be highly beneficial when applied to small operations. The most important thing to keep in mind is to train the ability to identify needs, areas of improvements and shortcomings in the company’s process and especially in its supply chain operations. Only then, you can go ahead and start picking and choosing how the implementation of small changes based on big time strategies can truly benefit your particular case.
Probably one of the most famous words that you hear people mention when we talk about the implementation of strategies that improve manufacturing effectiveness. This association is true since Kaizen has been made famous mostly by Toyota, a company known for its impeccable standards in production and its powerful supply chain. Kaizen is a Japanese word and a philosophy that encourages a never-ending search for continuous improvement. The concept can apply to absolutely every single aspect of a company, and it makes sense because there is no such thing as perfection and absolutely everything can be improved upon.
This means that Kaizen is probably one of the strategies that make the most sense to apply in any business, no matter how small. Think of any aspect of your business, for example, employee satisfaction with the company. It doesn’t matter how small your operation is or how many employees you have. Kaizen can focus on seeing how they feel about what they do and how that factor could be improved upon. Then it outlines a strategy to create a small improvement and finally, it evaluates again, rinses and repeats.
Elements of Kaizen can be grouped under aspects like teamwork, personal discipline, morale, quality and product improvement, but perhaps Kaizen’s most important goal is the elimination of waste.
You can waste time, materials and even opportunity. What can you do to reduce the waste in your operation? Perhaps strategies to procrastinate less and make a better use of time. How about reducing the cost of your operations by investigating new methods or more favorable suppliers? These and many more questions could be answered through Kaizen implementation.
Six Sigma initiatives have saved billions of dollars to large companies all over the world. Can it work for you? The answer is an absolute yes.
Six sigma focuses on perfection, or better yet, near perfect quality control. How perfect? The number six comes from reaching six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit in any process. This measure can apply to anything from manufacturing to in-house operations and from product to service. The purpose of Six Sigma is to implement a measure-based strategy that quantifies performance and evaluates improvement in a mathematical way. Six Sigma strategies work by the means projects that are set in placed and follows in order to gain results. In small companies, the implementation of this projects should err on the side of cautions, since smaller operations may not be able to afford spending resources the same way large companies are. However, being methodical and tailoring the process to your operation is a great way to begin an analysis that will help you identify which type of projects may work best in your case.
Another great strategy that sometimes small business use without even knowing already, is Just-in-time manufacturing. Identifying the experience is the first step towards truly taking advantage of it and making it work for you. JIT is a strategy that focuses on increasing efficiency and reducing waste by only receiving goods as they are needed for the production process.
As you can see, this may already be the case for your business, but taking it to another level can truly help you out. Think about reducing overstock and not just receiving in fewer quantities, but also producing just as much as necessary in order to have fewer resources caught up in inventory.
For more interesting reads about all things logistics, check out our articles at David Kiger’s WordPress.
* Featured Image courtesy of UN Women at Flickr.com