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Twelfth Day of Lean Six Sigma

This is the final piece in a content series, “The 12 Days of Lean Six Sigma,” about applying the tools and techniques of Lean Six Sigma to the holiday season. You can read the eleventh piece here. Start with Day One here.

With online shopping and the holiday season starting earlier than ever, retailers need to keep pace with customer demand. Using the following Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques, retailers can stay competitive and bring value to the consumer throughout the year.

1. Understanding Customers

Understanding the customer is critical to providing what they are seeking for themselves and others. While many Lean and Six Sigma tools focus on customer needs, one example is the Kano Model. This tool classifies product or service attributes according to basic needs, performance and excitement. That last category is an important one as retailers consider holiday products, promotions and services that will lead to memory-making, Instagrammable moments for consumers.

2. Enhanced Products

Santa’s not the only one who can take advantage of DMADV. The DMADV Six Sigma framework can be used by retailers to ensure that everything from a new product line to the gift return process meets and exceeds customer needs.

3. Improving Customer Service

While Lean and Lean Six Sigma have many tools applicable to improving customer service, one method is to conduct a root cause analysis to determine the underlying sources and patterns of common customer complaints. The Five Whys, a fishbone diagram, a failure mode and effects analysis, a fault tree analysis, and other tools can help determine the issue, whether it’s the zipper of a dress commonly not working, or a toy train delivered with missing parts.

4. Speedy Checkout

The ability to check out of a retail store quickly is critical to consumers with lengthy shopping lists. Lean visual tools such as flowcharts, spaghetti maps and value stream mapping can help store owners streamline the steps needed to get customers out the door with everything they need.

5. Unifying Cross-Functional Teams

With special holiday marketing promotions, salespeople on the floor, inventory management and customer service, there are a lot of cross-functional teams making the holidays happen in a retail environment. To make sure everyone is on the same page, use a Balanced Scorecard. This tool can help connect overall plans and goals with the day-to-day work needed to get those accomplished.

6. Inventory Efficiency

What’s better: having too much inventory or not enough? Probably neither, especially with tight budgets and demanding customers. Using the 8 Wastes of Lean can not only help with eliminating excess inventory but also with keeping track of everything you need.

7. Quality Control

Imagine children comparing their gifts by the fire. Both get the same gaming system, but one’s malfunctioning. Ensuring production quality is critical for retail companies and supply chains. Using tools such as quality control charts can standardize production.

8. Cut Wastes

Using one of the 5 principles of Lean, Pull, retailers can cut down on inventory and eliminate unneeded work. In this system, production is not started until a customer places an order, so retailers can only produce what customers actually order.

9. Stay Organized

The 5S method isn’t only to be used for gift wrapping at home. Sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain can also be used for gift wrapping, display counters, storerooms and any other area that requires efficient work in a retail environment.

10. Identify Variability

Another typical component of Lean is identifying and reducing variability to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. From sales forecasting to inventory management, the retail industry is full of variation. Poka-yoke, visual controls and other Lean tools can be used to decrease disparities.

11. Focus on Standardization

After identifying variability comes focusing on standardization. Standardized work is another critical tenet of Lean and can be implemented using a Kaizen event. This will help lead to high performance for the holiday season.

12. Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement

While implementing these Lean and Lean Six Sigma concepts and tools for the holiday season will help retailers maintain a competitive edge and satisfy their customers, implementing Lean Six Sigma methodology shouldn’t be a done deal once the new year comes around. Creating a culture of continuous improvement can help the organization deliver holiday standards, year-round.

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