Q&A with Dan L. Shunk

Dan L. Shunk, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at Arizona State University. He will be giving his keynote presentation at the IIE Engineering Lean & Six Sigma Conference Wednesday, Sept. 25. 

What is the most pervasive issue or challenge surrounding lean and Six Sigma implementations?

Lean and Six Sigma are straightforward concepts: First, you earn the right to eliminate the waste, and second, for the remaining value-added activities, you reduce the variability. Most operations teams understand these concepts. Some of the issues we face are:

  • How do we make this sustainable? A kaizen blitz works, but the waste tends to creep back in. What we have learned is that we must be strategic in our selection of strategic core processes and attack the red flags that warrant strategic value. What is needed is a strategic view of lean sigma.
  • How do we create synergy between the lean and Six Sigma teams? Six Sigma has a problem-solving approach founded by Mikel Harry called "DMAIC." Lean has a suite of tools that complement the earning of the right to eliminate waste. What is needed is a comprehensive method to do this.

What do you plan to discuss in your keynote presentation?

My messages will be simple and directed at the operations teams at for-profit and not-for-profit, product and service-based industries. Message No. 1 will show the audience how to elevate lean sigma to a very strategic level by gaining senior leadership insight and prioritization. We will be introducing the VSAT – Value-based Strategic Assessment Tool – that we have used in manufacturing, service and education to strategically focus the effort. Message No. 2 will introduce an expanded methodological approach found in Mikel Harry’s original text called “RDdmaicSI.” This adds a “front-end” strategic recognition and strategic definition phase to the overall program and a “back-end” standardization and integration method to make this happen across the enterprise in a logical manner.

What would you like attendees to take away from your presentation?

My desired workshop outcomes are for the attendees to take away how to elevate lean sigma to a strategic level, how to prioritize the strategic core processes, how to effectively map these processes, and then how to attack the opportunities in a rigorous, complementary manner – first earning the right to eliminate the waste then reducing the variability of these value-add activities that remain. When they leave, attendees should be thinking 50 percent reduction in time to perform a process. Fifty percent sounds like a huge target, but we are hitting this consistently in our efforts.

For more information about Dan L. Shunk and the other IIE Engineering Lean & Six Sigma Conference keynote speakers, go to the Keynote Speakers page at www.iienet.org/leansixsigma.