by Keith Loria
, Reporter | March 04, 2009
"It evolved into a central architecture for training, tools and methods that are implemented and driven locally," Johnson says. "We never associated Lean Sigma exclusively with manufacturing. Our point of view is that these approaches apply to all of our business processes."
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Johnson says that Medtronic Xomed offers many case studies where they have dramatically reduced process variability, accelerated flows, and improved the value provided to customers.
"In general terms, we have received approximately $250 million in bottom-line benefits from Lean Sigma projects during the past five years," says Johnson. "More importantly, we have evidence that we are improving our ability to serve our customers, providing a more rewarding work environment, and gaining some competitive advantages."
Johnson cites one product line where they were able to cut the entire cost structure in half. He cites another where they reduced lead-times by 75%.
In 2002, two years before being acquired by the IDEX Health & Science Group, Sapphire Engineering, which develops and designs medical devices for DNA synthesizing, started looking into lean manufacturing and the process of Value Stream Mapping.
"What we saw immediately was the lean tool set was extremely powerful to the degree that it would have significant cultural impacts on our organization," says Bradley O'Brien, Value Stream Manager of IDEX Health & Science LLC, home of Sapphire Engineering Products. "We struggled with accepting that initially as an organization accepting, not knowing what lean was, but obviously they understood that it was going to find and eliminate waste and reduce some work content. But ultimately, the goal of this organization was continued growth and once they realized the idea wasn't to eliminate jobs but to take on greater market share, while making their jobs easier, people began to really become enthusiastic about the process and that was the turning point for us."
By mid-2006 the company started to pick up steam on the implementation for more product lines and the refinements for the existing value streams that were put in place.
"By doing value stream exercises, we were able to eliminate redundancies. What lean taught us was that it's like links in a chain. If you do a tune up on step three, that doesn't necessarily mean you are going to get any more throughput out the back side because steps 4, 5 or 6 might not be optimized, so basically what you've done is move the bottleneck," O'Brien says. "Waste we found when looking at it from a sequence standpoint would be overproduction, waiting, excessive motion, defects and redundant processing steps. I know we had one particular product line where we would inspect components at the end of one process, then again at the beginning of the next process and there was a large amount of time involved and no value added in doing it twice."