Some have the perception that tools such as Design for Manufacturability, lean and Six Sigma are mutually exclusive. Others think that they are all synonymous buzzwords. The truth, in fact, is that each one is unique, and together they can make for a very powerful combination. This article will give you a practical example of the application of these tools in combination.

Let’s take an equipment manufacturer, XYZ. This company is developing a new, revolutionary product that it will house in a new factory. The product is completing the research and development stage of XYZ’s New Product Introduction process. The design team is at the point at which they must develop design concepts.

It is at this stage that they apply Design for Manufacturability to their process. They begin with a design concept that represents a design that they would normally develop. (This can usually be created rather quickly and based upon a previous design.) Then, a team takes over. Using a system for evaluating this design, the team creates a baseline process for assembling this product with the initial design. The baseline gives them the number of steps and an estimate of the time to assemble. The team then brainstorms ideas to apply to the design that would reduce the design complexity (number of manufacturing steps). The ideas are then evaluated and categorized; the team develops design concepts. The team then develops an action plan in which individuals from the team are to investigate and implement the design concepts. Product “should-costs” are developed based on the designs. They will likely show 30 to 40 percent reductions in overall product cost. XYZ is now confident that they have a low-cost manufacturing option that will give them the best chance for error-free manufacturing.

At this stage, XYZ decides to apply lean thinking to their factory. Using the manufacturing process from the DFM workshop as a baseline, they use kaizen blitz events to develop cells and an overall factory flow. They begin with a takt time based on the marketing forecast and a five-days-per-week, three-shifts-per-day operation. Cells and workstations are designed. The team develops plans for 5-S and maintenance, pull system, layout, inventory management, setup and lot size, etc. XYZ now has plans for a lean factory, which become inputs to the factory design.

XYZ is ready to apply the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology. Using the manufacturing processes designed, Six Sigma black belts lead teams to define performance metrics based on critical-to-quality characteristics. The CTQs were defined by the design team in conjunction with XYZ’s customers. They develop methods for measurement at this point. Using FMEA (failure modes and effects analysis), they develop a control plan. When manufacturing actually begins, they apply their control plan. It is now that they can begin analysis of actual production data and adjust their control plans and measurement methods accordingly.

The above is simply one way to apply Six Sigma, lean and design for manufacturability. It is certainly not the only way to do this; in reality, there would often be more iterations of each methodology with more overlap. My hope is that this article enhances your understanding of the tools and methodologies and allows you to develop your own plans for implementing each of them as appropriate for your organization.

About the author:
Darren Dolcemascolo is an internationally recognized lecturer, author and consultant. As senior partner and co-founder of EMS Consulting Group, he specializes in productivity and quality improvement through lean manufacturing. Dolcemascolo has written the book Improving the Extended Value Stream: Lean for the Entire Supply Chain, published by Productivity Press in 2006. To learn more and to sign up for the free Learning to Lean e-newsletter, visit