28thSeptember 2015

The issue of productivity is rarely discussed and yet, in the UK, we find ourselves time impoverished; working harder and longer to achieve a similar level of output our EU counter parts meaning that we are working harder and longer and achieving a similar level of output per capita. Despite this, productivity principles have barely adjusted over the last 30 years, do we need to rethink the wheel?

By applying the right project management methodologies the appropriate environments, whether they be process driven, creative or somewhere in-between, the UK has the potential to cut waste, improve quality and ensure productivity is optimised…

In and of themselves, continuous improvement methodologies can be hazardous. If irrelevant to the nature of output required by the process, methodologies for streamlining processes, cutting waste and improving 'quality' may in fact achieve the opposite.

Lean, Six Sigma and Kaizen all have production at heart, treating products and services as inherently futureproofed with little regard for externalities such as disruptive technology trends. In fact, we have seen Japan suffer in recent times, falling behind in the consumer electronics market due to an inability to transition and respond to changing market demands… but production was efficient, so there is always that… In the US; 3M, Motorola and GE, some of the most significant and iconic six sigma companies, have struggled to innovate in-line with competitors.

So how is the UK to answer its most significant challenge and yet remain innovative, flexible and lead? The answer is of course that one size does not fit all, a methodology such as Lean Six Sigma must be tailored and concentrated to specific output needs of the particular business function.

An interesting case study would be that of autonomous vehicles, our future method of transport enabled by billions of sensors and managed by vast, fragmented volumes of data.

Within design and research, Lean Six Sigma must be relaxed in order to allow for creativity… an output particularly hard to quantify and thus define where waste lies. Successful creative processes may be dismissed as ineffective, costly and wasteful when looking at the process in isolation without understanding the value behind them. Equally, autonomous vehicles have been a concept to some extent since the 1920's, in a constant state of experimentation and trial and error development we expect we will finally witness mass production 100 years later…

Equally, what will likely define the success [and adoption] of automotive autonomy is the success of the process improvement within this space. Tesla Motors are leading the charge on autonomous vehicles and yet their biggest hurdle is their lack of expertise in mass producing cars. Manufacturing on mass is where Lean Six Sigma will rule superior.

Knowing exactly to what extent to deploy improvement process requires in-depth knowledge, understanding and experience and will be overlooked at organisational peril. Businesses must act now to ensure they remain competitive in terms of innovation and efficiency in equal measure.

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