This book is authored by Bob Sproull and published by Routledge / Productivity Press.  Any time we hear the word ‘secret’ we get excited.  After all, how many secrets can be left when it comes to process improvement using Lean Six Sigma?  We review a lot of book on continuous improvement here at the Management and Strategy Institute, so finding something new to write about can be a challenge.  Fortunately, this book presents some common six sigma approaches in a new way.  We found the book both informative and easy to read.  The author writes in a novel format, making the book less mechanical and labored to read.  In this review we’ll dig into some of the chapters and help you determine if this book should be sitting in your personal library of books.

The secrets to Maximizing Profitability

In the books introduction, the author spells out exactly what the book is about.  He writes “This book lays out the real secret to maximizing your company’s profitability. While many companies have implemented improvement initiatives like Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing, there is a missing link which when discovered and implemented, will take these same companies to profit levels not seen before. This missing link is the Theory of Constraints (TOC) and when it’s combined with Lean and Six Sigma, amazing things will be sure to follow.”  If you’re familiar with Six Sigma projects you may be thinking – Wait a minute, TOC is already a part of Lean Six Sigma implementation.  Yes, that’s true.  Training and certification organizations like MSI teach TOC, and it’s covered in just about every book.  The Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Handbook has an entire section in Chapter 9 dedicated to it.  The difference is that this entire book, all 300 pages of content, focuses almost entirely on the subject of TOC and how to use it.  In fact, this book goes more indepth into Theory of Constraints then any book we’ve previously read on the subject.

Chapter 1, The Company Profile

If you’re familiar with MSI Six Sigma book reviews you know we rarely review chapter 1 of a book.  The first chapter of almost every book is dedicated to basic introduction to theory and process improvement.  This book is different however and warranted a look.  As we mentioned previously, this book is written like a novel.  I’d almost prefer to call it a case study since it looks at a fictitious company called Tires For All and provided an in-depth explanation of the company and it’s struggles.  If you decide to pick up this book, it’s important that you don’t skip this chapter.  Unlike other books, chapter 1 sets up a story which is carried throughout the book.

Chapter 4, Focus and Leverage

This is the point in the book where Tires For All has hired a consultant to come through the facility and identify areas of improvement.  Mark, the company general manager, decided to walk through his facility and look at things like the level of work-in-process (WIP) inventory, rework levels, and, of course, the scrap levels that currently existed. As he walked through his plant, he was pleased with the rework and scrap levels, but the WIP levels did not look good.  What mark was doing is a form of Gemba walk.  Walking through the facility to identify issues on the plant floor.  While he wasn’t specifically looking at a problem area (the real reason for a Gemba), he was looking at the operations from floor-level.  Mark then meets with a consultant (Bob Nelson) and they walk through the facility.  The consultant is using this opportunity to learn about the business and take notes.  The consultants company uses a process called the Ultimate Improvement Cycle (UIC) and states “Although we absolutely believe in Lean and Six Sigma, it is our belief that both can be significantly enhanced by integrating them with the Theory of Constraints.

Chapter 6, The New Improvement Journey

This chapter starts by covering a topic that many Six Sigma books skip, the companies cost accounting system.  Every company wants change to make them more efficient, then they push back when you highlight a specific change.  “We can’t change that” is a common phrase you’ll hear when implementing process improvement.  This section highlights some of the fear and uncertainty that comes with change.  The author (through storytelling) presents an alternate form of accounting he calls Throughput Accounting (TA).  This section of the book includes many graphs to help illustrate the concepts the author explains including a piping diagram with new constraints, manufacturing process with cycle times, process with Work-In-Progress in it, and basic elements of cost accounting.

Other chapters that we read and strongly recommend are:

Chapter 8 – TOC’s Parts Replenishment Solution

Chapter 9 – Planning and Scheduling

Chapter 10 – Combining TOC, Lean, and Six Sigma

Chapter 11, The Deliverables of the Ultimate Improvement Cycle

Chapter 13 – The Goal Tree Improvement Initiative

Chapter 19 – The Ultimate Improvement Cycle

This book can help you with the following certification / training programs:

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