Remember back to the first day you were handed a bike in a box and told to build it. The process most likely took you two hours to build a bike. You were probably told ” you are too slow, you need to cut your time in half” You worked hard to streamline the process and achieved that goal.
Now here is the funny thing, if you got all the mechanic around the country together and analyzed what they did to cut their time in half, you would find hundreds of solutions to the same procedures. Some organized paperwork flow, some how they sped up opening a box , removed packing materials, and sorting parts. Some identified how to adjust something faster. Some organized tools more effectively. Some found how to stop losing tools. Some found how to blend similar procedures togethers, Some figured out how to reduce mental and physical fatigue. Some invented a new tool, or brought in a new tool from a different industry. Few of them put all of these things and more ideas together to build a bike consistently, and effectively, and safely, without cutting corners, in 12 minutes.
Six Sigma is focused on improving things for the customer and works like this: Get a bunch of Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) Mechanics, managers, etc. together to brainstorm and find as many ideas without anyone else saying a word about the idea. No positive or negative words are said about improvement ideas. The ideas are later measured for effectiveness. The best ideas are test run, debugged, and then written down as they are implemented. Then find new ideas and repeat.
When you have a brain pool of 500 trainers across the country working on a process for 10 years, then you can see how a process can become faster, safer, less fatiguing, and consistent. There is a lot more to this process, I just boiled it down to the basic ideas for you to get a grasp. In a nut shell, there is a lot more to learn out there than we can ever create on our own.
After I worked in local shops for years, I became a worker and later a trainer for a national assembly corp. I took non bike folks and taught them how to consistently build a bike in 15 minutes, with practice they could build a great bike in 12 minutes. Just by looking at a bike I could tell if they had followed all the procedures or if they needed coaching, or if they needed to be let go.
When I started in the bike industry I NEVER IN MY WILDEST DREAMS did I ever think I could build a bike in 12 minutes! I knew how hard I had worked as an individual to cut my build time to one hour. 12 minutes was not even possible inside my head. I was very impressed with the organization of the process of assembly. Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma processes are amazing, and fun to be part of the process.
It eventually came to me, Why stop making the process better? It is a great process how can it be used in a bike shop to do even better work. If you think about this, “Assembly: does One size fit all?” Do some people want to pay for headsets and BB faced, or spokes correctly and evenly tensioned, or better quality greases, or frame alignment, Etc. ? Then you can also wondering how can I do all this extra work and still make money. First you learn how to do a perfect 12 minute build. Then you add Facing and advanced wheel work in the pre-assembly phase, (when you are stripping the bike of packing materials and organizing everything out on the bench) You learn methods to combine dish, round, correct tension, balanced tension and true, into one effective, efficient process. All of this additional work can add 20 minutes at first and 15 with practice.
Now you can build a higher quality bike than any competitor in a half hour and sell additional labor and parts, at the same time. Lean Process and Six Sigma processes are important in every type of business. You do not need to reinvent the Lean Six Sigma bicycle assembly and repair processes, You just need to learn how to do it. When you master the process then you can add to it and make it even better. That is the last part of Six Sigma, Continuous improvement
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