Every manufacturing facility is different, but all manufacturers share a common goal: making their finished product faster and better. Across industries — from aerospace to pharmaceuticals — the more efficient your manufacturing processes, the better your profitability.

Of course, that goes without saying. The real question is how to achieve those efficiencies.

When you realize your facility isn’t performing optimally, it’s tempting to jump in and begin defining project requirements immediately. Adding square footage or a new production line may seem like the obvious solution. In fact, there may be a more efficient option. Rightsizing your facility, teaching workers new skills or introducing automation are just a few of the possibilities. 

With so many opportunities for streamlining your operations, it can be difficult to know where to start. A Lean Six Sigma assessment addresses this challenge by analyzing your current state, evaluating a variety of solutions and creating a plan to move your facility forward.

Start with the Big Questions

An effective lean assessment begins by looking toward the end goal. When working with a Lean Six Sigma specialist, you’ll start by carefully defining your business objectives, whether that includes improving product quality, reducing inventory or any number of other goals. You’ll also consider how your business or product might change in the coming years and explore how this will affect potential optimizations.

Gather Detailed Data

Next, your lean assessment specialist will collect detailed information on all of your operational processes. A wide range of metrics, including on-time delivery, process cycle time and defect rate, will be used to define the current operational efficiency of your facility. 

Assess, Then Design

Through comprehensive analysis of your data and business objectives, the lean assessment process will uncover the most effective strategies for optimizing your operations. Some of these may be unexpected, while others may create new synergies throughout your business. Automation, in particular, requires careful consideration in order to generate an adequate return on investment.  

Whether you’re addressing operational challenges in production, logistics, operations or any other area of your business, it’s important to remember that manufacturing processes make money, not buildings. Rather than calling in the experts after deciding you need to build an additional 20,000 square feet, it’s far more efficient to begin with a lean assessment.

By applying lean methodologies throughout the design process, you can identify the best solutions for your current needs and achieve favorable operational and financial results in the long-term.


Learn more about the lean assessment process and when it pays to automate.

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Chris Williams is a lean manufacturing and industrial engineering manager at Burns & McDonnell. He has broad-based knowledge of Lean Six Sigma processes and techniques and is a certified Master Black Belt. In his current role, Chris leads continuous improvement projects for a variety of clients across a wide range of industries, including ammunition, armaments, aerospace, consumer products, oil and gas equipment, and medical devices.