While most business professionals are familiar with the term, “product” is a critical aspect of Six Sigma and lean methodology. The focus of any business, from an operational and strategic standpoint, is to create and deliver a product that is valued.
Overview: What does “product” refer to in LSS?
A product is an object, result, or service that comes out of a process. It can be tangible (like an automobile), intangible (like a flight reservation), or a mix of the two. Products are classified by their characteristics, including homogeneity and durability. In other words, if several products have identical form and function, they are thought of as being homogeneous. If one cannot be replaced with another identical product, it is thought of as durable. The term “product” has slightly different meanings depending on either the Six Sigma process you are working on, or the department in your company responsible for the output.
So what is a product in LSS? It can be any action or output that serves some purpose–anything that creates value for an organization or customer.
LSS practitioners use this definition of product because it’s so broad; they can apply its principles to any aspect of their business that they want to improve upon or streamline, whether it’s a physical product, a physical process (for example, serving customers at a car dealership), or even an intangible service (like online customer service).
3 Drawbacks to LSS products
When talking about the LSS “product,” there are three associated drawbacks.
1. Sometimes it can be tough for LSS practitioners and those who are new to it to really wrap their heads around how the concept of “product” applies to more than just physical items.
It can take time for them to fully understand how LSS’s principles can be applied to everything from a service to a process, but once they make that leap it becomes much easier for them to apply what they have learned in a meaningful way.
2. It is not uncommon for practitioners and those new to LSS to feel like there is no real definition of what a “product” is, which can lead them down the wrong path.
During this phase, they may find that they are trying too hard because they feel overwhelmed by the feeling of never being able to finish what they set out to accomplish. Conversely, there may be a feeling of trying too little at times because they don’t really grasp the meaning of “product.”
3. Many times an organization will want to apply LSS as a whole instead of focusing on one issue at a time.
This can lead to trouble. Practitioners may not be able to get past certain issues because they simply don’t know how or where to start, and as a result will find there are too many ideas and not enough focus.
Why is “product” important to understand in LSS?
In the world of LSS, “product” is a term that’s used to describe whatever it is that your business creates or provides, whether that’s a service or a tangible good. In other words, a product is what you sell to your customers.
The word “product” is used throughout LSS’s vocabulary because it’s important to understand what exactly it is that you’re providing and how different factors affect it: how long it takes to create a product, how much money goes into producing one, what the quality of each product is like, etc.
LSS focuses on improving processes in order to optimize operations and become more profitable. You can’t improve processes without understanding what those processes are actually producing.
An industry example of product
When a product is made using LSS, there are goals that are set for it, and measurements that are taken at each stage of the project. These measurements can be used to determine whether a change in the process is needed to improve its success rates.
For example, if a manufacturer wants to create more efficient cars, they may make use of LSS to examine how every aspect of their manufacturing process works, from ordering individual parts to assembling those parts into cars. A first step in this process might be creating measurement systems at each stage (i.e., measuring how long it takes for an order placed with a supplier to arrive). Once they have collected data on their current process, they can use that data to see where changes need to be made (i.e., through finding out that their orders take too long to arrive). From there, they can institute changes based on that information and measure the impact of those changes.
3 Best practices when thinking about LSS and “product”
The best businesses are those that make sure their products satisfy customers and generate revenue. There are three best practices to keep in mind when you’re considering how you want to think about your business through LSS lenses.
1. Make sure your product answers a clear question for your customer.
For example: Do you own a restaurant? Then what’s your product? Is it food? No; food is a component of your product—it’s not the whole solution. Your customers have a question they’re seeking an answer to when they come to your restaurant—they want to know if they can get quality food, fast, and at a decent price in their area. Your whole business model needs to be centered around answering that question and fulfilling that need. That’s your product.
2. Remember that the customer is always right.
Don’t waste time trying to convince them they’re wrong or unwelcome when they have feedback for you about how you can improve.
3. Keep up with industry trends.
This ensures your products are staying relevant and helpful for customers’ needs and wishes.
3 Frequently asked questions (FAQs) when it comes to LSS and products
Product is a term used in many different contexts and can mean many different things. Here are three frequently asked questions about the LSS definition of product.
What does “product” mean?
The LSS definition of “product” is the set of services or goods created by your business to achieve your business’ goals. It’s not just a single item or service, but a set of them. Additionally, it includes the processes that are involved in creating and delivering those services or goods to your customers.
When do you use this definition?
This definition is integral to using Six Sigma methods at any stage in your process, including Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC). You can use this definition to understand what you’re trying to improve on and how to go about making those improvements.
Why do you need this definition?
Although there are other definitions of products that are used by other organizations or businesses, by using this particular definition for products, you’ll be able to identify opportunities for improvement within your own processes much more easily than you would otherwise. As such, it makes sense to use this definition instead of others when working with Six Sigma methods.
Product must be clearly defined
At the beginning of this article, we asked the question: what is “product” in LSS terms? And we’ve learned it can be a difficult question to answer as there is so much room for interpretation. But one thing is certain: LSS consultants who work with clients on the implementation of Six Sigma within an organization must clearly define the meaning of the term “product” for their clients and, above all else, strive to avoid confusion in relation to its role in the DMAIC methodology.