Lean/Quality Management System
Elijah Ray
4 Posts
I am in a senior leadership role in Third Party Logistics. Our core competence is in warehousing and value added services.
I am trying to get clarity on an issue in order to give my company solid guidance. I was heavy into quality in the nineties during the TQM era. I became a Six Sigma Black Belt and then shifted my career in a different direction. Then Lean comes along.

I now own quality from a leadership perspective in my company. The question I have as I think about our over all quality system is how does lean fit? We are engaged in lean and it is a big part of our strategy. However, is it bigger or should we think about it more strategic than we do our overall  Quality Management System? We tend to think of Lean as our quality system. I have my thoughts and strong convictions but I would like to hear from other experts.

8 Replies
Trish Borzon
687 Posts
Hi Elijah Ray‍ - thanks for joining us on myASQ! I'm tagging a couple of members of the community to help answer your question. 

Could you please provide some feedback - Duke Okes‍ ‍ , David Harry‍ , Lindsay Lapatinsky‍ , Lance Coleman‍ , Chad Smith‍ , Joseph Basala‍ 
thank you all! 
Elijah Ray
4 Posts
Thanks so much Trish!! I appreciate help from this community!!
Duke Okes
146 Posts
It depends on what you define as lean.  If it's as most US companies do it's about doing kaizen blitzes, visual management, kanban and some other tools/techniques, then I would say it is not a quality system.  If it is TPS as defined by Toyota then it would be larger than a QMS, since it's a strategic and operations philosophy the permeates everything.

Same problem with six sigma.  In many companies it's basically just project-by-project improvement, not an overall philosophy of how to design and produce highly reliable products (which means highly reliable processes).

So lean and QMS would cohabitate if lean is just a set of improvement techniques.  QMS would supplement lean if it is TPS.
Sometimes companies will deploy Lean and Six Sigma initiatives at a more tactical or at a more strategic level in order to meet their needs and align with their philosophy, but both initiatives serve a different purpose than a QMS. I would describe these as more complimentary then  necessarily one  being higher or lower than the other.
Elijah Ray
4 Posts

This makes sense to me. We are using all of the lean tools and lean as a business philosophy, ie TPS. I think we are more using the tools in most operations to improve our overall business processes.

Thanks a million for your response.

Elijah Ray
Elijah Ray
4 Posts

Thanks for your insights here. So would you say that Lean or Six Sigma tools can help improve elements of your quality system?

Elijah Ray

As I mentioned Lean and Six Sigma are very complimentary and so are the tools contained within each of these initiatives. Improvement and corrective action are a part of a QMS.  Some examples of where tools apply could be:

* SIPOCs could be used to understand linkages between different business functions.
*  Flowcharts/process maps for helping to create QMS work instructions.
* Using tools like A3s, 5 why's, & Fishbone diagrams for corrective actions.
* Control plans are useful for QC documentation.
* Project charters and RAILs for needed improvement identified through Management Review meetings. 
Hello Elijah,

I would start by understanding what metrics are important to your organization. I am slowly introducing new metrics that are derived out of the Baldrige Criteria as well as the APICS SCOR model specifically for the supply chain. 


I think strategically speaking, determine where you are and where you want to go.  From there, if you do experience a gap between today and the future, how do you plan to minimize that gap? 
How standardized are your practices today? Can you easily identify when there is an issue in your system? 
Have you conducted any type of 360 feedback system?  What do your customers say they wish you did better?  How can your customers change their ways to save you money that you can pass back to them?  How can you initiate programs to reduce waste to reduce operating expenses?

It is expected that fees/surcharges may increase in 2021, especially for FTL/LTL charges.  What actions can you take today to get ahead of those risks?  Has your team conducted a SWOT analysis recently? If so, can Lean or Six Sigma help with any strategy to mitigate any threats or resolve any weaknesses. 

I think Lean is a great tool that can be used for a majority of logistic related concerns because there are so many variables in how materials can go from point A to point B. Mapping out processes and identifying areas of waste or high costs is a decent start.  If you can't eliminate high-costs, then perhaps negotiate lower expenses to mitigate some costs. 

If you don't have a waste-free process, then focus on lean.  Once you have a process leaned out as much as possible, then monitor those KPIs for any trends.  I monitor spend analysis and use that information to renegotiate for those areas that equal 80% of my spending. 

For warehouse & distribution: How much unused space do you have? Are there any bottlenecks in your operations? 

Lean planning is important to your operations but also to the operations left & right of your organization. Do you hold your suppliers to any Lean standards to reduce expenses along the supply chain as an entirety? What about your customers? What practices can you help them adopt to reduce their expenses?

Sorry for the rambling. This is an area that I find interesting and am playing with some similar challenges.

The last thing I would add is whatever approach you use - please consider incorporating a change management aspect to the program. It could be Kotter's 8-steps, McKinsey's 7-S or Prosci's ADKAR method.  Depending on how involved your current Lean program is, then one issue may be influencing a culture change which is a very complicated strategical problem to face head-on.

Best of luck,