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Journal of the Operational Research Society (2012) 63, 339353 2012 Operational Research Society Ltd.

Ltd. All rights reserved. 0160-5682/12


www.palgrave-journals.com/jors/

Implementation of Lean Six Sigma in small- and


medium-sized manufacturing enterprises in the
Netherlands
1m 2 3 4
W Timans , J Antony , K Ahaus and R van Solingen
1 2
Stenden University of Applied Science, Emmen, The Netherlands; Strathclyde University,
3 4
Glasgow, Scotland; University of Groningen, The Netherlands; and Delft University of Technology,
The Netherlands
In this paper we provide an exploration and analysis of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) implementation in Dutch
manufacturing/engineering small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Critical success factors
(CSFs) and impeding factors are identied and analysed. Exploratory empirical evidence about LSS
implementation in Dutch SMEs was collected from a survey study on Dutch SMEs. Statistical testing
was applied to validate the ranking of the CSFs. To deepen insight in how organizations translate CSFs
into practice and cope with impeding factors, additional in-depth qualitative information was gathered
from six case studies. Linking to customer, vision and plan statement, communication and management
involvement and participation are the highest ranked CSFs. Internal resistance, the availability of
resources, changing business focus and lack of leadership are the strongest impeding factors. The case
studies conrmed the importance of the CSFs and revealed three new CSFs: personal LSS-experience of
Top management, development of the project leaders soft skills and supply chain focus. SMEs in the
Netherlands make no distinct separation between lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, but rather apply
both approaches intertwined.
Journal of the Operational Research Society (2012) 63, 339353. doi:10.1057/jors.2011.47
Published online 18 May 2011

Keywords: Lean Six Sigma; manufacturing/engineering SME; critical success factors; impeding factors

1. Introduction experts a debate has been going on during a long time on


Application of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) for deploying the question whether both programmes should be merged
continuous improvement is increasing largely in the last towards one improvement methodology or not.
decade and seems to have become the de-facto approach Snee (2010) argues that discussions on which approach
for industry. LSS represents the merger of two well known should be used when tend to be unproductive. Taking
improvement programmes that both have a long history: improvement as the main issue he argues that the bodies of
Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. The origin of lean knowledge of both Lean and Six Sigma are needed to solve
manufacturing is located in Japan, where elements of lean the problems encountered by organizations, and that the
manufacturing were applied from around 1950 (Womack question is how to use the integrated approach. Therefore
and Jones, 2003). Lean manufacturing became popular we will use the term LSS in this paper as the name for the
after the publication of the books The Toyota Production improvement programme that is subject of our study.
System (Ohno, 1988) and A Study of the Toyota Production This study is part of a larger study aimed at the develop-
System (Shingo, 1989). Six Sigma, on the other hand, ment of an LSS programme specially t for manufacturing
started at Motorola in the USA in the 1980s. Interest in Six small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Most well
Sigma increased rapidly after General Electric adopted Six known LSS programmes come from larger companies like
Sigma as their leading quality improvement programme Motorola, General Electric, Honeywell and many others.
(Eckes, 2000; Henderson and Evans, 2000). The term LSS On the implementation of LSS-programmes in SMEs
has been introduced around 2000 (George, 2002). Between much less has been written in literature. On our journey
towards our nal goal we rst want to make a picture
mCorrespondence: W Timans, Mechanical Engineering, Stenden Uni- of the current situation regarding LSS-implementation
versity of Applied Science, P.O. Box 2080, Emmen 7801 CB, The in manufacturing SMEs in the Netherlands. Our focus on
Netherlands. SMEs is connected to the notion that SMEs are vital
E-mails: jwj.timans@home.nl; werner.timans@stenden.com contributors to economic development. According to the
340 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 63, No. 3

denition adopted by the EU Commission, SME organiza- mentation. To gather additional in-depth information on
tions are enterprises with fewer than 250 employees, with CSFs and impeding factors, exploratory case studies were
additional conditions, for example on maximal annual carried out in six companies that have implemented LSS
turnover and balance sheet total.1 methods with different levels of experience and that work
The well-known examples of company-wide implemen- in different manufacturing areas. As far as we know an
tation of LSS programmes largely come from large empirical study focussing on CSFs and impeding factors
organizations. There is (still) only limited insight into connected to LSS implementation in SMEs combining a
successful implementations of LSS in SMEs. In this paper survey with case studies has not been carried out before.
we aim to present an overall picture of the implementation This paper proceeds in four sections. The second section
of LSS in Dutch manufacturing SMEs and to explore the contains a review of the literature relevant to our research.
critical success factors (CSFs) for implementation of LSS The third section presents our research design, describing
in a manufacturing SME context. From the picture arising the research methodology and data collection methods. In
we want to point out which factors are perceived to be the fourth section our questionnaire-based research and
CSFs and which are impeding factors for the implementa- our case study research are discussed. The fth section is
tion of LSS programmes in SMEs. By rst focusing on the dedicated to a discussion and conclusions, ending with an
status quo in the Netherlands we aim to infer from outline to further study.
experiences in the past what is really key and why.
To reach our objectives we address the following 2. Literature review
research questions:
Given our intention to describe the current overall picture
K RQ1: What is the current status of implementation of the implementation of LSS in manufacturing SMEs in
of LSS in manufacturing/engineering SMEs in the the Netherlands and to identify the important CSFs, our
Netherlands? literature study focuses on implementation studies regard-
K RQ2: What factors are to be perceived as CSFs and ing LSS. In our search for SME deployment of LSS we
impeding factors in LSS implementation, from a decided to include implementation studies on ( just) Six
manufacturing SME perspective? How are these CSFs Sigma as well, because we know from our experience that
and impeding factors ranked by management? in these studies often lean manufacturing methods are
K RQ3: How are CSFs translated into practice and how included in the tools that are presented as Six Sigma tools.
do SME organizations cope with the impeding factors in This again illustrates that industry does not make the
day to day practice? same strong distinctions between Lean manufacturing, Six
Sigma and LSS that often occur in the more theoretical
According to Rockart (1979), CSFs are those factors that debates. To illustrate the current state of this debate on the
are critical to the success of any organization, in the sense integration of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma we also
that if the objectives associated with the factors are not added a few recent studies that focus on the integration of
achieved, the organization will fail. Following this deni- both programmes.
tion of CSFs in the context of LSS implementation, this Achanga et al (2006) carried out research on CSFs for
means that if the conditions associated with the factors are lean implementation. Case study research was carried out
not met, durable LSS implementation has little chance of within 10 UK manufacturing SMEs. The results were
becoming reality. analysed and validated through workshops, case studies
Data were collected in two ways. First, questionnaires and Delphi techniques. Strong leadership, excellent project
were distributed to 1500 Dutch manufacturing/engineering management, nancial capabilities, organizational culture,
SMEs, with questions on relevant aspects of LSS imple- and skills and expertise are classied as the most pertinent
issues critical to the successful adoption of lean manufac-
1In the study Small and medium enterprises across the globe turing within SMEs.
(Ayyagari et al, 2007) the classication SME250 is used for the share Earlier studies on the implementation of Six Sigma
of the SME sector in the total formal labour force in manufacturing (including lean aspects) in manufacturing SMEs were
when 250 employees are taken as the cut-off for the denition of an carried out in the UK (Antony et al, 2005, 2008; Kumar,
SME. For a company to be classied under the SME250 classication, 2007). The studies of Antony et al (2005, 2008) present a
the SME sector cut-off could range from 200 to 300 employees. The
literature review based on the experiences of academics
Ayyagari study reports that in the countries of the European Union
more than 50% of the employees in manufacturing companies are and practitioners, followed by the results of a survey in UK
working in SMEs. In Mediterranean countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal) manufacturing SMEs, based on data collected using
the share of SME employment is even close to 80%. The share of SMEs questionnaires. The ndings show that Six Sigma was not
with respect to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lowest in Sweden generally popular among SMEs. Management involvement
(39%) and highest in Portugal (67%). The GDP data are not limited to and participation, linking the programme to customers and
manufacturing, but at least the data indicate that SMEs of all the
economic sectors contribute strongly to the national GDP. linking to the business strategy are the highest ranked
W Timans et alImplementation of Lean Six Sigma in the Netherlands 341

critical factors for the successful deployment of LSS in in the USA. Their results indicate that the lean manufactur-
SMEs. The study of Kumar (2007) on CSFs and hurdles ing performance levels of organizations that also implemen-
to implementation was carried out in a single UK SME ted Six Sigma exceed the performance levels of organizations
company in the electronic industry. Qualitative data were that have implemented lean manufacturing alone.
collected using questionnaires and semi-structured inter- A literature study on the integration of Lean and Six
views. The ndings revealed that management involvement Sigma has been carried out by Pepper and Spedding (2010).
and commitment are critical to successful implementation. They conclude that there are a number of encouraging
Poor training and resource availability were identied as articles discussing the use of an amalgamated approach,
the two highest ranked impeding factors encountered but a closer integration towards a unied methodology
during the deployment of the programme. must be achieved, with scientic underpinning to provide a
In Taiwan an empirical study on the implementation sound theoretical foundation. The study of De Koning
status of Six Sigma was carried out by Yang et al (2008). In (2007) is specically focussing on the scientic grounding
this study 52 companies participated, 44 of them were large of LSS as an integrated programme, merging the Six Sigma
enterprises. Findings show a mixed appreciation by the and Lean toolboxes, and clarifying concepts and classica-
respondents of the performance of their organizations tions. Schroeder et al (2008) used the grounded theory
concerning the success levels of their companys Six Sigma approach and literature study to propose an initial
implementation. Conclusions of this study are that to reach denition and theory of Six Sigma. The authors argue
dramatic benets from the implementation organizations that Six Sigma is different from prior approaches to quality
must enhance the implementation of CSFs and utilize more management in providing an organizational structure not
advanced statistical tools. previously seen. Although this study is focussed on Six
In Thailand Nonthaleerak and Hendry (2008) carried Sigma, the conclusions could be valuable for the theoretical
out exploratory case study research in nine companies grounding of LSS as well.
including manufacturing, sales and service companies. This Snee (2010) discusses the advances of LSS in the last 10
study aimed at exploring CSFs and areas of weakness in 15 years and trends that suggest how the methodology
Six Sigma implementation and at examining implementa- needs to evolve. LSS is regarded as a holistic improvement
tion differences between manufacturing and services. The methodology addressing the ow of information and
case study evidence conrmed and gave further details on materials through processes as well as the enhancement
some of the CSFs previously identied by other authors of value-adding process-steps to create the product for the
(Antony et al, 2005; Kumar, 2007), in particular on the customer. In his view this will naturally lead to making
effectiveness of six sigma training programmes and on improvement a business process similar to any other
the nature of management involvement. The involvement important business process.
of managers in setting targets in both nancial and non- There seems to be a fair agreement on CSFs presented in
nancial terms and tying managers performance to the the implementation studies. In our study we start using the
success of projects were reported as examples of manage- 13 formulated CSFs of Kumar (2007) and Antony et al
ment involvement. A pattern of full-time or part-time (2005, 2008) as a starting point. On these 13 CSFs there
Black Belts (BBs) reporting structure to Project Champion seems to be fair agreement in our eld. With regard to the
and the inclusion of a dedicated team of technical support debate on the merger of Lean and Six Sigma we feel
were identied as new CSFs. The study revealed two areas strengthened by the literature, in particular by Snee (2010),
of weakness in Six Sigma implementation related to the use that the combined approach of LSS is to prefer to keeping
of the DMAIC methodology (dene, measure, analyse, both approaches tied to separate programmes.
improve and control), especially with respect to the dene
and control phases. First, project targets tend to be focused
3. Research design
mainly on solving existing problems, and less focused on
strategic opportunities (for instance in projects focusing on The stages of our study are presented in Figure 1.
new product development). Second, it is hard to organize First, a short questionnaire was used to collect data on
effective control and assurance of the realized improve- LSS implementation issues from Dutch manufacturing
ments. The authors conclude that part-time BBs are the SMEs. This one-page questionnaire was merely used to
best option for smaller companies and that the nature of select the SMEs familiar with lean manufacturing or Six
the reporting structure is seen to be key, with best practice Sigma (or both). The questions concerned the products
involving direct reporting to the project champion. manufactured, number of employees, quality management
On aspects of the combination of Lean and Six Sigma, we programmes applied and since when (lean manufacturing,
selected a few studies to illustrate the current situation Six Sigma, ISO 9000, EFQM or other), and which tools
regarding the debate on the question whether integration of and techniques are applied. The questionnaire was sent in
both programmes would be wise. Shah et al (2008) carried October 2008 to about 1500 manufacturing SMEs in the
out research on the implementation of Lean and Six Sigma Netherlands, selected from a database of the Dutch
342 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 63, No. 3

sponses may be related to different backgrounds and


1. Distribution of a short questionnaire to 1500
different levels of experience.
manufacturing/engineering SMEs in the Netherlands.
Given the need to gather in-depth, rich data on CSFs
and impeding factors and their impact on the deployment
2. Analysing the response; selection of 106 SMEs of LSS, case study research was carried out to supply
familiar with LSS; distribution of a second additional information. Yin (2003) distinguishes three
comprehensive questionnaire to these SMEs. different types of case studies used for research purposes:
exploratory, descriptive and explanatory. In our study the
3. Analysing the response to the second case studies should deliver additional information useful
questionnaire from 52 companies; selecting for further exploration. Candidates for case studies were
companies for case studies.
selected from the companies that had responded to the
second questionnaire. Special attention was given to
4. Carrying out six case studies in selected companies differences in manufacturing areas and levels of experience
in order to gather in-depth information on CSFs and with LSS. Multiple cases enable broader exploration of
impeding factors and their impact on LSS deployment.
research questions and theoretical elaboration (Yin, 2003;
Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007). We selected six compa-
5. Analysing the case study-results, cross verifying nies that complied with the inclusion criteria. The size of
them with the survey-results (triangulation) and these companies varies from about 50 to 250 employees.
formulate final conclusions.
The companies are active in different industrial sectors and
Figure 1 Stages of our study. their LSS experience varies from 1 to 6 years. The data
were collected through semi-structured interviews, using an
open-ended interview protocol (available on request), with
Chamber of Commerce. From the responses to the rst managers (plant manager, quality manager, production
questionnaire (198 responses were received) we selected manager) and with LSS experts (Belt functions).
candidates who were invited to ll in a more comprehensive The interview topics were as follows:
web-based second questionnaire. The criteria for selecting
candidates to invite to respond to the second questionnaire K Reasons why the organization became interested in and
were twofold. The rst criterion was that the respondents to started with LSS.
the rst questionnaire should have stated that they had K The scale and scope of the current LSS efforts, the
implemented Six Sigma and/or lean manufacturing. The number of employees involved, examples of projects
number and complexity of tools and techniques selected in carried out, which processes are involved and project
the selection table of the rst questionnaire served as a results, Lean-oriented versus Six Sigma-oriented ap-
second selection criterion, to gain a rst impression of the proach.
level of maturity of the LSS deployment. K Organizational aspects of the parallel LSS organization
The second questionnaire consisted of four parts. In the (as described by Schroeder et al, 2008).
rst part the respondents were asked to give information K CSFs and impeding factors.
on their companys strategic objectives and main drivers to K Long-term vision of LSS, areas to develop and long-
achieve orders from customers. In the second part term goals.
questions were asked on the knowledge and application
of quality improvement methods and tools and techniques All the interviews were recorded and transcriptions of the
to be used in LSS projects. The third part focused on CSFs interviews were made to facilitate the analysis. Two of the
critical to the implementation of LSS and the fourth part researchers (WT and KA) analysed the materials and
on impeding factors and results achieved related to LSS coded the interviews according to the approach of Strauss
implementation. For this we reused the questionnaire that and Corbin (1998). A within-case analysis was followed by
has been used for research on the implementation of Six a cross-case analysis (low versus high progress) to under-
Sigma in manufacturing SMEs in the UK (Antony et al, stand the differences, to give additional meaning to the
2005, 2008; Kumar, 2007). We translated this questionnaire CSFs and impeding factors and possibly to nd new
into Dutch and adapted it by adding questions on lean factors. The analysis is presented in Section 4.2.
issues to make it applicable for empirical research on the
implementation of LSS.
4. Results and analysis
After the selection of candidates 106 companies were
invited to respond. Questionnaires were completed by 4.1. Response to the questionnaires
companies with different manufacturing/engineering back-
grounds and with different levels of experience in LSS. The 4.1.1. Survey of respondents and company objectives. A
differences in results obtained from questionnaire re- total of 198 companies responded to the rst questionnaire,
W Timans et alImplementation of Lean Six Sigma in the Netherlands 343

35 Table 1 Respondents position


30 Respondents position %
25
percentage

Director 24
20 Quality manager 22
15 Operational manager 13
Belt functions 14
10 Other 27
5
0
<21 21-50 51-100 101-150 151-250 >250
Number of employees
Table 2 Areas of industry

Figure 2 Distribution of numbers of employees of respondents Areas of industry %


to the second questionnaire.
Automotive 11
Electronic instruments 13
Chemical 7
106 of which were invited to ll in the second web-based Packaging 8
questionnaire. Within this group of 106 companies 63 Food 8
stated they had implemented just Lean, one company just Polymer products 8
Six Sigma, and 42 companies stated they implemented both Metal components 8
Building components 6
Lean and Six Sigma.
Industrial equipment 6
The second web-based questionnaire was completed by Other 25
52 companies (response rate 49%). Figure 2 shows the
distribution of the size of these companies by numbers of
employees.
The distribution includes ve companies with more than questions on Six Sigma and therefore did not answer a
250 employees. Our rst selection was based on a range of number of questions.
25300 employees.2

4.1.2. LSS tools and techniques. Integrating various tools


4.1.1.1. Position of the respondents within the compa- and techniques of various origins within a well-dened
ny The respondents position within their company is framework (DMAIC) is typical of LSS. Table 3 shows a
depicted in Table 1. The other category includes people survey of commonly used tools and techniques. The table
from various departments, for instance from logistics, was developed to show information in two areas, usage
nance and operations, procurement, Lean and Six Sigma and usefulness of tools and techniques. The table also
programme management. It was decided by the manage- shows the percentage of respondents who indicated that
ment who would respond to the questionnaire. This may be they were unfamiliar with certain tools and techniques.
the reason why no shop-oor employees were included. The number of respondents differs a little from one tool
to another, but with a small range, from 49 to 52 respon-
dents. The respondents were asked to rate the application
4.1.1.2. Areas of industry Companies from a wide variety
(ie usage) on a Likert scale of 15. In this scale 1
of industries have contributed to this study. The areas of
indicates never been used, 2 used only once, 3 used
industry are depicted in Table 2.
rarely, 4 used frequently and 5 used continuously.
The respondents were also asked to rate the usefulness of
4.1.1.3. Status of LSS and other quality initiatives The tools and techniques. In the usefulness scale 1 means
majority of the respondents completed the questionnaire in not useful, 2 slightly useful, 3 more useful, 4 very
such a way that all four parts of the questionnaire were useful and 5 extremely useful. In Table 3 the average
covered, indicating that these companies were involved in Likert ratings of usage and usefulness are listed. The most
LSS improvement programmes. Some respondents with frequently responded ratings have been added to give a
more experience with lean manufacturing than with Six better impression of the distribution of the ratings.
Sigma had some difculties in responding to specic
2The Familiarity with tools and techniques shows much diversity.
reason for choosing an upper limit of 300 employees was that we
Within the group of statistical tools and techniques the
expected that the real number of employees would in general be
somewhat lower, because of the rather pessimistic economic situation at familiarity is very diverse. Unfamiliarity (%) in general
the time of the study. As a consequence a small number of companies shows larger percentages for more sophisticated statistical
might not comply completely with the formal criteria for SMEs. tools and techniques. Some of the non-statistical tools and
344
Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 63, No. 3
Table 3 Tools and techniques (ranked on usage mean)

Tools and techniques Usage mean Most frequent Usefulness mean Most frequent Unfamiliar
rating rating rating rating (%)

5S methods 3.96 5 4.18 5 8


Brainstorming 3.72 4 4.02 4 0
PDCA (plan, do, check, act) 3.70 4 4.04 4 6
Histogram 3.56 4 3.70 4 15
VSM (value stream mapping) 3.53 4 3.84 5 23
Pareto diagram 3.49 4 3.96 4 and 5 8
Process owchart/mapping 3.47 4 3.83 4 6
SIPOC (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, customers) 3.45 4 3.59 4 54
Cause and effect analysis 3.40 4 3.69 4 19
Process mapping 3.36 4 3.57 4 15
Project charter 3.36 4 3.59 4 40
Failure mode and effect analysis 3.31 4 3.53 4 and 5 27
Quality costing analysis 3.21 4 3.65 4 15
Cause and effect diagram 3.15 3 3.70 4 23
Run charts 3.13 3 3.41 4 52
Kanban 3.11 5 3.42 4 12
SPC control charts (statistical process control) 3.03 1 and 5 3.70 5 46
Quick changeover, SMED (single minute exchange of die) 3.00 3 4.06 4 27
Poka-yoke 2.95 3 3.71 4 23
Kaizen events 2.88 2 3.48 4 17
Tally charts 2.83 4 3.26 4 10
Benchmarking 2.83 2 3.07 4 8
ANOVA 2.79 4 3.27 4 56
Balanced scorecard 2.79 2 3.28 3 21
Measurement system analysis 2.76 4 3.13 3 44
Scatter diagram 2.53 2 2.97 2 33
Regression analysis 2.48 3 3.03 3 and 4 46
design of experiments (DoE) 2.44 1 3.03 4 46
Matrix diagram 2.43 3 2.79 3 42
Relations diagrams 2.29 2 2.65 3 56
Quality function deployment 2.29 1 2.59 4 56
Hypothesis testing 2.28 1 2.67 2 46
Afnity diagrams 2.21 1 and 2 2.80 2 69
Taguchi methods 2.09 1 and 2 2.50 1 60
Process capability analysis 2.07 4 3.21 4 31
PERT chart (programme evaluation and review technique) 2.00 1 2.29 1 71
Force eld analysis 1.69 2 2.33 3 65
W Timans et alImplementation of Lean Six Sigma in the Netherlands 345

techniques are very unfamiliar (afnity diagram, PERT nevertheless may yet be an important CSF. It is merely due
chart, force eld analysis). Lean manufacturing tools (5S to the lack of consistency of the items applied in the
methods, VSM, quick changeover and Kanban) are rather questionnaire that we were not able to prove the validity of
familiar, with 5S methods being the most familiar. this CSF. See Table 4 for the 12 remaining CSFs and their
ratings and the Cronbachs alpha values on importance.
Usage and usefulness show rather modest mean ratings. All the CSFs are considered to be important, since all the
Looking at mean ratings alone might give the impression importance estimates are above 3. The signicance of the
that most tools and techniques might not be used frequently differences between ratings was tested statistically. Because
(below 4 on the Likert scale), but 19 out of the 37 tools of the discrete and non-normal character of the score
and techniques have 4 or 5 as the most frequently scored distributions the non-parametric MannWhitney test
rating. The majority of the distributions of the scores are method was applied for testing. The test results show that
skewed to the left. Regarding usefulness these obser- differences in ratings of X0.3 are signicant at the 95%
vations are even more pronounced with 27 out of the level. A few of the differences of 0.2 are signicant at the
37 items having 4 or 5 as their most frequently scored 90% level, which is for instance a valid conclusion for the
ratings. signicance of the difference between the mean importance
Some salient effects should be mentioned. SPC control ratings of linking to customer and vision and plan statement.
charts show a very peculiar distribution with 1 and 5 as the Most of the practice averages are below 3, which means
most frequent scores. This effect could be caused by the that for most practices the levels are below moderate. The
differences in types of manufacturing SMEs, some of them linking to customer average is between moderate and high.
being process industries or manufacturers of products in Linking the programme to suppliers and education and
large series and some of them delivering unique custom- training show the lowest rankings.
built products. Regarding usefulness a salient aspect is that
design of experiment (DoE) is regarded as useful (mean
4.1.3.1. Barriers to the deployment of LSS
rating 3.21 and 4 as the most frequently scored rating). The
4.1.3.1.1. Impeding factors in implementation
most frequent usage rating is 1, so DoE methods are hardly
The respondents were asked to identify the top three
used now but are nevertheless judged to be important.
factors impeding the implementation of the programme.
The results are shown in Figure 3. Internal resistance,
availability of resources, changing business focus and lack of
4.1.3. CSFs for implementation. In the questionnaire
leadership were the most frequently mentioned impeding
questions were asked on 13 CSFs. These CSFs were
factors. Other factors showed lower but nevertheless
identied from existing literature (Antony et al, 2005;
substantial frequencies.
Kumar, 2007). Every factor was divided by a number of
We recall that every respondent could identify up to
subfactors (items). The respondents were asked to rate the
three impeding factors. Analysis of the data made clear
importance of each item of the CSFs, with 1 correspond-
that internal resistance was mentioned by 54% of the
ing to not important at all, 2 to slightly important, 3 to
respondents, availability of resources by 46%, changing
important, 4 to quite important and 5 to very
business focus by 43% and lack of leadership by 39%.
important. Next to this question the respondents were
asked to rate the actual practice within their company on
a similar scale with 1 corresponding to very low, 2 to 4.1.4. Performance
low, 3 to moderate, 4 to high and 5 to very high.
The items should all contribute to the rating of the CSF 4.1.4.1. Organizational performance measures To measure
as a whole and therefore their ratings should be correlated performance we used performance measures based on the
with one another. A useful coefcient for assessing internal literature and the evaluation criteria of major international
consistency is Cronbachs alpha (Nunnally and Bernstein, quality awards: the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality
1994). George and Mallery (2003) provide the follow- Award, the Australian Quality Award and the European
ing rules of thumb for Cronbachs alpha values: 40.9 Quality Award (Garvin, 1991; Australian Manufacturing
excellent, 40.8 good, 40.7 acceptable, 40.6 questionable, Council, 1994; Terziovski et al, 1997). To assess the benets
40.5 poor and o0.5 unacceptable. Out of the 13 of the implementation of LSS two types of measures of
Cronbachs alpha values of the importance rating 11 were organizational performance were used. The rst group of
larger than 0.7, with eight values of at least 0.9. The CSF measures consists of performance indicators that can be
cultural change had an alpha value of 0.6 and the CSF assessed by making use of the available business data. These
linking to employees had an alpha value of 0.4. Removing hard performance measures concerning the benets of the
sub-items from the set of sub-items did not improve the programme were assessed by the respondents using a scale
alpha coefcient. Therefore we excluded linking to employ- of 15. The meaning of the scale was explained for every
ees from our list of CSFs. Linking LSS to employees item separately. For instance for Productivity 1 is
346 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 63, No. 3

Table 4 CSFs and mean ratings of importance and practice (ranked on importance)

Critical success factor Importance Practice

Mean rating Cronbachs alpha Mean rating

1. Linking to customer 4.1 0.98 3.6


2. Vision and plan statement 3.9 0.96 3.2
3. Communication 3.8 0.97 3.0
4. Management involvement and participation 3.8 0.94 3.0
5. Linking to business strategy 3.8 0.75 3.0
6. Understanding of Lean Six Sigma 3.7 0.93 2.9
7. Project management skills 3.7 0.90 2.8
8. Organizational infrastructure 3.6 0.70 2.9
9. Project prioritization and selection 3.5 0.88 2.9
10. Cultural change 3.3 0.61 2.7
11. Education and training 3.3 0.70 2.6
12. Linking to suppliers 3.3 0.88 2.3

Stock reduction 2.7


1.3
Productivity 3.6
0.6
Defect reduction 2.3
0.8
Warranty claim cost 4.3
0.5
Cost of quality 3.9
0.4
Delivery on time 4.1
0.7
Sales improvement 1.9
0.9
Profit improvement 2.3
1.0
0.0 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0
Mean Standard deviation

Figure 3 Factors impeding implementation. Figure 4 Mean scores and standard deviations of hard
measures of organizational performance.

3.7
connected to decreasing, 3 to moderate improvement Work environment
0.1
and 5 to major signicant progress. For Delivery on time Learning 3.2
0.2
1 is connected to o50% of the deliveries, 3 to 8190%, 3.2
Job involvement
and 5 to 496%. Figure 4 provides a survey of the mean 0.4
ratings and standard deviations. Organizational commitment 3.5
0.5
Implementation of LSS was regarded as having a Customer satisfaction 3.1
0.3
positive effect on the reduction of warranty claim costs,
Employee satisfaction 3.2
time delivery, the reduction of quality costs and produc- 0.2
tivity. Their mean scores are clearly above 3 with rela- 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4
tively low standard deviations. The differences between the Mean Standard deviation
ratings were tested using the non-parametric Mann Figure 5 Mean scores and standard deviations of soft measures
Whitney test method. DifferencesX0.3 are signicant at of organizational performance.
the 95% level.
The second group of indicators is a group of organiza-
tional soft performance measures for which it is less rating of the effect of the programme on each of the
possible to assess them by using reliable business data. Six performance measures. The standard deviation reects
performance measures were applied, which are presented in the spread in the item mean ratings. To test the internal
Figure 5. To assess each of these performance measures the consistency Cronbachs alpha values were calculated for
respondents had to assess a number of sub-items on a each performance measure. All the Cronbachs alpha values
Likert scale from 1 to 5, with 1 corresponding to strongly showed satisfactory levels (above 0.7). MannWhitney
disagree, 3 to neutral and 5 to strongly agree. The tests on the differences of the mean scores revealed that
average of the mean ratings of the items provides the mean differences X0.4 are signicant at the 95% level.
W Timans et alImplementation of Lean Six Sigma in the Netherlands 347

All the mean ratings are above 3, which means that the case study interviews and searched for typical quotes
the majority of the respondents rate the effect of the and comments, which could be linked to the 12 CSFs
programme on all the soft performance measures as above summarized in Table 4 and to the impeding factors of
average, with work environment showing the highest rating Figure 3. Afterwards agreement on a nal list of text
with the smallest standard deviation. The sub-items of phrases about CSFs and impeding factors was achieved in
work environment do not refer to the physical work a consensus meeting. We present the results of this process
environment but to the well-being of employees, by asking in the next part of this section, restricting ourselves to the
questions about for instance the feeling of being valued and really salient quotes and comments recorded in the
supported. The fact that the work environment is rated interviews.
at the top level in this set of soft performance measures
provides support for the notion that LSS programmes
affect the organizational culture, next to the well-known 4.2.2.1. Quotes and comments related to CSFs On linking
cost-related operational performance issues. the programme to the customer. One of the companies
(Compmat) deliberately involved engineers of the customer
in the project team to help solve one of their structural
4.2. Case study research recurring problems concerning materials delivered to the
With our case study research we wanted to gain insight into customer. Two organizations (Aerosys and its subcontrac-
CSFs and impeding factors. Therefore, we decided to tor Machcomp) realized together that they needed a joint
compare the case study organizations with different levels of project to streamline the complete supply chain instead of
LSS implementation on different aspects of LSS imple- focusing only on their own contribution.
mentation. In this section we will rst describe the six case
study organizations and then go deeper into how LSS is On vision plan statement. The plant manager of one of the
implemented, zooming in on CSFs and impeding factors. organizations (Blowmould) had a compelling vision. His
picture begins with DMAIC projects; later on the focus
also includes lean manufacturing and in the future the
4.2.1. The case study companies. The response to the focus will shift to DfSS projects to drive innovation. In this
second questionnaire served as a basis for selection of way Six Sigma is linked to innovation.
companies for case studies. The original list of candidates
consisted of 10 companies, but unfortunately some On linking to business strategy. In our questionnaire sub-
companies were reluctant to cooperate, mainly because questions under linking to business strategy concerned the
of the difcult economic situation within the time frame nancial judgement of project results, a project focus on
planned for carrying out the case studies. Table 5 presents improvements and the application of both nancial and
a description of the six manufacturing case study non-nancial indicators to measure improvement. Links to
companies, giving an impression of the company prole, these sub-items came up in the interviews. In all the case
the reasons why the company entered and the way they study companies nancial indicators are applied. Using
went along with LSS (strategic link), and elements of the non-nancial performance indicators additional to nan-
organizational structure with regard to LSS. Each cial targets came up very explicitly in our interviews with
company was labelled using an imaginary name to assure two companies (Blowmould, Aerosys).
anonymity. All the companies are registered as companies
within the range of SMEs, all but one of the companies On understanding of LSS. One manager (from Compmat)
are part of a larger organization. All of these companies stated: for complex quality problems with many para-
are managed as separate units with their own specic meters having inuence on the process Lean does not
markets and nancial targets. Five companies are settled work, then you need a big gun like Six Sigma. Therefore
in the Netherlands; one is settled in Flanders (Belgium). the combination of Lean and Six Sigma is a very power-
ful one, indicating that Six Sigma is regarded as the
best way to tackle complex quality problems. The same
4.2.2. How the organizations apply LSS, zooming in on manager is fascinated by the application of VSM com-
CSFs and impeding factors. As explained earlier our case bined with nancial information. Visualizing a sequence of
study research was carried out to gather more detailed processes through VSM makes clear what can be done to
information, additional to the information available from improve things and it also facilitates communication with
the questionnaire. This additional information is pre- management.
dominantly relevant for answering RQ3 on the transla- Blowmould is the most experienced case study company
tion of CSFs into practice and on how organizations cope with regard to LSS. Blowmould already had a very solid
with impeding factors. To nd relevant information two continuous improvement programme, which was integrated
authors individually went through the transcriptions of all into LSS. A wide range of tools is applied in multiple project
348 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 63, No. 3

Table 5 Description of the case study companies

Company Characterization

Company prole Strategic link Structure

Imould Supplier of plastic products, mainly Invited to take part in LSS projects The steering group is leading the
automotive; about 250 employees. by an important automotive development with full participation
Specialist in injection moulding, both customer and by a material supplier. of the management team. Two Black
engineering and production. The The company entered LSS in 2004. Belts (BBs) have been trained; the
company has been a family-owned Management is convinced of its quality manager has been trained
company for a long time and is now competitive advantage. On the as a champion. In all the primary
part of an international organization. basis of experience in rst projects process departments GB experience
Primary technical and logistical the company has decided to set up (Green Belt) is available. Top
processes are involved in the LSS its own LSS programme, adjusted management is responsible, but the
programme. Sometimes also external to the size of the company. quality manager is the informal
partners are involved in LSS leader.
projects. No distinction is made
between lean and Six Sigma projects.

Chemic Chemical process industry, The company entered LSS in 2005 Project selection and review are
production of emulsions in 34 with a new multinational owner. performed two to four times per
grades, mainly binders for paints Projects are selected on the basis of year. Selection of projects is well
and several kinds of adhesives; about saving costs and creating revenue by organized, following a stage gate
110 employees. Yearly 2030 projects raising productivity or creating new process. This site has two certied
are running, about 50% lean and business. Management is convinced BBs and 17 GBs have been trained;
50% Six Sigma. Involvement of of its competitive advantage. seven of them are certied.
primary technical processes, mainly Operators are trained on the job by
internal, sometimes with the taking part in projects; a training
involvement of other companies and certication system exists. The
belonging to the same international project runtime varies from 1 day to
organization. several months.

Compmat Specialist in thermoplastic reinforced An existing quality problem A steering group, consisting of the
composite materials; about 100 was tackled in cooperation with production manager, controller,
employees; supplier to the aircraft a customer with LSS experience, GBs, is responsible for project
and defence industry. Research starting in 2008. Low experience, selection. Three GBs have been
and development is very important; pilot projects are carried out. educated in cooperation with an
the company focuses on improving Management regards LSS external customer. GBs are available
production control and organization. implementation as crucial to part-time to manage projects.
One Six Sigma project is running retaining competitive advantage. Operators learn through
in cooperation with an important Six Sigma is regarded as suitable participating in projects. No
customer and several lean-oriented for tackling complex problems, formal champions/sponsors. LSS
projects with various time frames inuenced by multiple process organization is in a pilot phase.
are carried out. Involvement of parameters, needing specialists
technical, logistical and purchasing expertise for problem solving.
processes.

Aerosys Aerospace industry, the main In 2006 the company became part Pilot LSS organization. The
products being subsystems of space of a large European organization. quality department is planned to
launching vehicles and solar array From then on LSS development be the centre for management of
systems; about 200 employees. accelerated. Projects are selected improvement projects. Project
Production is carried out in to realize savings by streamlining selection has to be authorized by
cooperation with a number of processes and eliminating waste. top management. One certied BB
qualied subcontractors. First pilot Production and quality management is available; another BB is trained.
projects focused on streamlining and are convinced that the LSS Corporate policy is to formalize
optimizing logistics and information programme provides the best way only the BB-level function. Other
interchange. Lean and Six Sigma are to retain competitive advantage. belt levels are to be trained on the
expected to integrate in a natural job by the BB team leader. No
way. Lean tools are very important formal GB level. No strong visible
in the rst pilot projects. top management LSS leadership.
W Timans et alImplementation of Lean Six Sigma in the Netherlands 349

Table 5 Continued

Company Characterization

Company prole Strategic link Structure

Machcomp Independent specialist in the Realizing the cost savings necessary LSS implementation is delegated
development, manufacturing and to stay in competition needed a new to the quality department. The
assembly of custom-made machinery approach. LSS was believed to offer department manager is a GB,
and build-to-print components. The promising opportunities. The certied by a large manufacturer
number of employees is about 50. company entered LSS in 2005 with of commercial jetliners and defence
The markets are the international the help of an important customer. aircraft systems. Projects are carried
aerospace, aircraft and defence out with various time frames from 1
industry and other high-end week to several months. All projects
mechanical engineering industries. follow DMAIC project phases.
Involvement of technical and
logistical processes, internal and
external. Lean-oriented projects
are dominant.

Blowmould Manufacturer of automotive fuel Long history of quality improvement Leading role of plant management,
tank systems with about 200 in an automotive context. LSS special LSS coordinating function,
employees. The main technology is organization development clear procedures for project selection
plastic blow moulding. Reducing accelerated after becoming part of a and reviewing, supported by a
variability and waste elimination major USA-based industrial management system on the
have received the upmost attention organization in 2003. LSS projects corporate level. In this plant 30 GBs
until now; grow innovation is are selected on site. Yearly plans are and four BBs (variation- or lean-
regarded as having huge potential reviewed by the European oriented) are available. All managing
for improvement in the future. headquarters. functions are GB trained. No other
Implementation of total productive formal belt functions have been
maintenance has received special established.
attention through a development A BB and GB training and
programme with a time frame of a certication system is available,
few years. Involvement of primary stimulated by a bonus system.
technical and logistical processes in Projects vary in time frame from
the LSS programme; the 1-day improvement projects
participation of ofce processes is to large projects running over several
at a beginning stage. months.

types with different application areas and project durations. group has been installed (Imould, Compmat), but there is
Project types range from very short on the job projects to no strong leadership. In Aerosys the quality depart-
large Six Sigma BB projects taking several months. In short ment takes initiatives; within the quality department a
quality-related projects team members follow nine steps to new function has been instituted for the management of
complete the project. This routine of problem statement, improvement projects and for the coordination of new
describing the current status, looking for root causes, project proposals coming up. Only the BB level is
validating root causes, searching for solutions, validating recognized in Aerosys. More mature LSS organization
them, implementation and follow-up is implemented in all structures are present in Chemic and in Blowmould, the
project formats from small to very large. Of course the range most visible being in Blowmould. A special LSS coordinat-
and complexity of tools and techniques applied in projects ing function has been instituted in Blowmould. BBs work
differ from one project type to another. on projects for at least 60% of their working time. Green
Belts (GBs) work on projects as part of their normal
On project management skills. Dedicated software-sup- job. No formal Yellow Belt level has been instituted,
ported systems are applied (Chemic, and even more in but management is very eager to involve operators in LSS
Blowmould) to document projects. For each project projects.
information is available about the standard project
contract, project review and DMAIC structure. On project prioritization and selection. In four companies
project prioritization and selection are the task of a
On organizational infrastructure. In three companies LSS management steering group. This steering group prioritizes
deployment is at a beginning stage. A management steering improvement projects and selects projects that can be
350 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 63, No. 3

started, assigns members to project teams and monitors granted. For reaching certication within a limited
project progress without applying clear formal tollgates time frame of 1215 months a bonus is granted. Other
between the phases of the running project (Imould, Belt levels, for instance Yellow Belts, have not been
Compmat, Aerosys, Machcomp). In Chemic project formally implemented in the case study companies, but the
prioritization and selection are more sophisticated and management of one of them (Blowmould) would welcome
are carried out in stages. The managing director states the implementation.
stakeholders ll the pipeline by brainstorming. First they
come up with ideas, these ideas are developed to a certain 4.2.2.2. Quotes and comments related to impeding
degree to get an impression of the cost-benet relations, factors On internal resistance. There is a certain resistance
then the projects are prioritized using a Cause & Effect with regard to the use of the internal software-supported
matrix. Then we proceed with the most valuable ones to system for project documentation that must be used by
the next stage, in which concepts are developed for them. project teams. What people dont like is the administrative
Focus is laid upon costs, benets and feasibility of success. part of Six Sigma. The project structure needs administra-
Then in a next round of prioritization we concentrate on tion in all parts of the projects, something that engineers
the projects that add the most value, since the resources and hands-on people dont like to do (Chemic).
lack to do all of them. Operators are sometimes reluctant to cooperate with
Approved projects have direct consequences for the next lean manufacturing efforts. Operators who have worked in
years budget (Blowmould). The predicted nancial benets the company for many years are stimulated to change their
are translated into budget reductions for the next budget working routines, which is sometimes experienced as
year after project closure. This is performed to emphasize threatening (Compmat).
the importance of predicting feasible project targets.
An increasing interest in projects focusing on lean On availability of resources. Having enough time available
manufacturing issues was observed in all the companies. to participate in projects is felt to be a problem
In a few companies a current state map as part of VSM is (Compmat), which is recognized by management: a Black
used to select projects (Compmat, Machcomp). Belt of the customer was involved and we had to join the
team with a few engineers of our company. We learned
On cultural change. Signs of cultural change should be from that project that we really must detach these engineers
visible and tangible in the company. Especially 5S projects for at least two days per week from their normal work.
are supposed to have a positive cultural impact, as one The rst trained BB of Aerosys, the leader of the rst
manager stated: 5S should be xed in their genes large-scale BB project, also refers to the time available for
(Compmat). One of the interviewees in Blowmould refers carrying out projects: BBs should have a signicant part of
to classications of levels of development of LSS: ad hoc, working time available for projects, more than 50%, it
tool-driven, system-driven and cultural-embedded. His should be their main task.
modest appreciation of the level of LSS development in
Blowmould is on the system-driven level, with perhaps On lack of leadership. A manager of Imould stated:
some elements that could be associated with the cultural- management is said to be convinced of working in the
embedded level. right direction, but there is some difference between
commitment being in their genes and just being suppor-
On education and training. In Table 5 information is tive. A GB-trained engineer (from Compmat) is worried
presented about the numbers of Green and BB functions in about LSS leadership: there certainly is management focus
the different case study companies. In Chemic GB training on LSS deployment, but it is rather weak. Middle
takes two weeks and BB training takes two additional management is doing well, but up to top management
weeks. The training is very intense: 1012 h daily. The you feel focus fading. One of the interviewees of Aerosys
expected nancial benets (in Chemic) generated by a BB puts it this way: We are not yet an organization that really
amount to 1 million dollars per year. The training in tries to develop itself to an organization with a clear
Aerosys consists of four blocks of 1 week each, and continuous improvement driven focus, real commitment is
candidates must be assigned to a project that has to go poor. You dont feel a rm steering effort from the
through an approval procedure before the training starts. management team.
Training is combined with coaching during the time the
candidate is leading the project. In Blowmould GBs are On competing projects. From Aerosys: other running pro-
trained and certied within the local site. The BB training jects, direct related to customer-orders, always get priority.
takes 5 weeks and the BB exam consists of 100 questions in We also traced a salient quote that is not directly related
different categories that must be answered within 4 h. Next to the impeding factors of Figure 3, but certainly refers
to passing this exam candidates have to carry out two to a disturbing effect on LSS implementation: It is too
projects and train GB candidates before certication is much the project-leaders party was heard from
W Timans et alImplementation of Lean Six Sigma in the Netherlands 351

management (of Compmat), referring to a project leader 5. Discussion


who is very enthusiastic about LSS himself, but whos On RQ1: What is the current status of implementation of
steering effort felt by team members could even be too LSS in manufacturing/engineering SMEs in the Netherlands.
strong. With respect to the current status of LSS in the
Some of the CSFs and impeding factors of Table 2 Netherlands we experienced that out of the 106 companies
and Figure 3 did not come up explicitly in our invited to respond to the second questionnaire, 63 of them
interviews. Explicit quotes on CSF management involve- were predominantly lean-oriented, 42 focused on Lean and
ment and participation did not come up in our inter- Six Sigma and one on Six Sigma alone. This means that
views, yet the case studies show much diversity in the 59% of the respondents was predominantly lean-oriented.
involvement of management in LSS deployment. At The second questionnaire was completed by 52 companies,
Blowmould the local management is very much involved 42% of them applying both Lean and Six Sigma to a
by taking major initiatives with regard to policy deploy- certain extent. From the analysis of tools and techniques
ment and organizational deployment measures. In other applied (see Table 3) we infer that the typical lean tools
companies top management is very positive about LSS (from 5S to Kaizen events) are on average more familiar
deployment, but does not show strong leadership in than the more sophisticated statistical tools (like DoE,
deployment. MSA, ANOVA, hypothesis testing, regression analysis).
However, the usage and usefulness ratings of more
Changing business focus was an impeding factor that did advanced tools show salient differences, which is for
not spontaneously come up in our interviews. It simply was instance the case for DoE. There seems to be a high
not an impeding factor felt by any of the six case study potential in the application of more sophisticated tools and
companies. a need for education in the backgrounds and application-
Comparing our survey study results on CSFs and elds of these tools.
impeding factors with our case study results we conclude With regard to the management of LSS-implementation
that the survey study and the case studies did not provide it is clear that most Dutch companies are in a beginning
contradictory information. Our case study research was stage of deployment. Many companies are more or less in a
carried out to deepen insight in what is really important to pilot phase, trying to gain experience from pilot-projects,
make LSS-implementation successful. New CSFs and often stimulated by large companies to which they supply
impeding factors could emerge. Analysing the interview products. Typical the responsibility for LSS-deployment is
transcriptions we found arguments to identify three new delegated to an enthusiastic manager and only moderate
CSFs. The rst new CSF we call personal LSS-experience leadership is shown by Top management. However, the
of Top management. In Blowmould the plant manager was general feeling about LSS is positive. The majority of the
previously the companys quality manager. The plant survey respondents (85%) appreciate of the achievements
managers experience in the eld of quality management, with regard to the implementation of LSS from reason-
including LSS experience, was recognized by the inter- able to high. On the nal question of the questionnaire
viewed managers as very favourable for LSS deployment. on future expectations 77% of the respondents answered
Another new CSF we derive from weaknesses in project- that the importance of LSS-implementation is expected to
leader attitude. Especially in Compmat one project leader increase in the future.
was said to be making it his party, reecting a certain
impatience to accelerate projects. This attitude could
impede LSS deployment, and motivates us to introduce On RQ2: What are the CSFs and impeding factors in LSS
development of project leaders soft skills as a second new implementation, especially for manufacturing SMEs? How
CSF. A third new CSF, called supply chain focus, is related are these CSFs and impeding factors ranked by manage-
to projects directly connected to the world outside the ment?
company, with involvement of cooperating organizations From both our survey study and our case study research
in a supply chain. Saving costs on a certain sub-process practically all 12 CSFs seem to be important. In Table 4 all
may jeopardize the performance of other processes in the the importance ratings are above 3, and in the results of
supply chain. Improving processes involving more compa- our case study research the importance of the CSFs is
nies needs coordination on a higher level of project- and underlined. Linking to customer, vision and plan statement,
production-management. communication and management involvement and participa-
Finally we want to point out that in all case study tion are the highest ranked CSFs. In addition to the 12
companies lean-oriented projects as well as projects CSFs a few new CSFs have been identied, personal LSS-
focussed on improvement of process steps are carried experience of Top management, development of the project
out. Except for one company (Aerosys) under the umbrella leaders soft skills and supply chain focus. The differences
of LSS different project-structures are applied for projects between the importance- and practice-ratings show that on
with a wide variety in project-length. all CSFs there is room for improvement, but the highest
352 Journal of the Operational Research Society Vol. 63, No. 3

ranked CSFs all have practice ratings of at least 3, which Coping with impeding factors such as internal resistance,
indicates a moderate level. the availability of resources and lack of leadership is
The ranking of impeding factors from our questionnaire- connected with the quality of leadership and communica-
based results is represented in Figure 3. In our case study tion. The case study organizations show different quality
research the impeding factors internal resistance, avail- levels with respect to these issues. Good quality on these
ability of resources and lack of leadership came up too, but issues is connected to creating condence and trust among
changing business focus did not. Competing projects came employees in taking part in challenging improvement
up in our case study interviews as an impeding factor, projects. High-quality HRM and education and training
competing projects not being restricted to other LSS- in developing soft skills as well as in the application of tools
projects but also including normal job obligations. and techniques are necessary to develop the organization
towards full LSS implementation.
On RQ3: How are these CSFs translated into practice and The questionnaire used in our research has been derived
how do organizations cope with the impeding factors? from the questionnaire used in the studies of Kumar (2007)
The six case study companies all have in common their and Antony et al (2005, 2008). Comparing the ndings
combined appreciation of lean manufacturing and Six from these UK studies with our ndings is nevertheless
Sigma. Also, there seems to be a trend towards an increasing difcult. When comparing our results with those of Kumar
focus on lean manufacturing projects. From the survey (2007) we have to realize that the two studies used different
results and from the case study interviews we infer that the research designs. Our data were collected from several
direct visible impact of lean manufacturing project results companies, whereas Kumars study was carried out within
is very attractive to all levels of employees, from managers one single company, collecting data using a questionnaire
to employees working on the shop oor. The results of for that was completed by 55 employees of that company. The
instance 5S projects or projects focusing on shortening study of Antony et al (2008) used data from 16 SMEs in
the time to switch over to other products are visible and the UK, but in this study only importance ratings were
easily understandable for everyone. Six Sigma BB- and presented. With regard to impeding factors, availability of
GB-projects are regarded overall as more appropriate for resources and lack of leadership were among the most
tackling more complex quality problems, which need to be frequently mentioned impeding factors in all three studies.
solved by teams using more sophisticated tools and tech- Internal resistance to change was the most frequently
niques. Our case studies support the feeling that both mentioned factor in our study (see Figure 3). In the UK
approaches tend to be merged. The typical Six Sigma studies this factor was not among the most frequently
DMAIC structure is also applied in projects on lean mentioned impeding factors, but neither was it negligible.
manufacturing subjects; the typical lean manufacturing Change in business focus was ranked low in all the studies.
VSM-method is sometimes used for project identication A salient difference is the rating of poor project selection in
and selection in typical Six Sigma projects. This is in line the Kumar study. In the Kumar study poor project selection
with earlier ndings on the assignment of tools and tech- was ranked lowest of all the impeding factors. In our study
niques as a result of a Delphi study (Timans et al, 2009). this factor was ranked in fth place in the ranking of the 11
From our case study research we highlight the most impeding factors. The low ranking of this CSF in the study
salient results with regard to translating CSFs into of Kumar may be explained by the fact that Kumars study
practical LSS deployment measures in the manufacturing was carried out within one single company. Summarizing
SME context. Understanding of LSS by management is based on this comparison of both countries there seems to
very important. If management is convinced of LSS being be no clear evidence for major differences in which factors
important for creating competitive advantage then man- are critical to the success of deployment of LSS.
agement should be trained at the champion level. Project A recent study with focus on a comparison of Six Sigma
team leaders should at least have completed GB-level implementation differences between organizations in the
education, and preferably BB-level. We infer from our case Netherlands, the UK and the USA was carried out by Van
study research that in the SME context project team Iwaarden et al (2008). Although the title of this paper
leaders should have at least 40% of their working time only refers to Six Sigma, the results show that reducing
available for projects. Companies should design a system waste (the primary focus of lean) is one of the three most
for project prioritization and selection, also containing important reasons that motivate organizations to introduce
standards for different projects with different time frames, Six Sigma, indicating that Lean and Six Sigma in fact
from very short projects (15 days) to long-lasting projects develop towards an integrated approach. One of the
(maximum 0.5 years). DMAIC or a similar structure, conclusions of the authors is that the respondents from
adjusted to the type of project, should be part of these the three countries show little variation in their perceptions
standards. For larger GB or BB projects the predicted about the meaning of Six Sigma. As such it seems plausible
nancial project results should have consequences for next to conclude that national and cultural factors are not
years budget. dominant in the application of LSS.
W Timans et alImplementation of Lean Six Sigma in the Netherlands 353

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