If Six Sigma can help corporations earn record profits while eliminating waste, can it also help families clean the house and keep track of supplies?
The answer is yes and yes.
But just like the workplace, it takes focus and effort to implement process improvement. The payoff, though, can have a much bigger impact on a person’s life. There’s nothing like reaching for a roll of toilet paper and knowing it will always be there.
So how can you apply Six Sigma to your household? The following lists some common defect-ridden areas Six Sigma can help address. Every household is different. Each has efficiency problems in its own way. But this is a good place to start thinking about how to approach this issue.
5S in Six Sigma
Before getting into specific examples of household chores Six Sigma can address, it’s important to understand the 5S methodology in Six Sigma that leads to a clean and orderly workplace. Keep these in mind as the overall guiding principle for organizing the household.
- Sort – Put things in order. Throw out what is not needed
- Straighten – Arrange things in way they can be easily reached
- Shine – Keep things clean and orderly
- Standardize – Make cleaning and maintaining an orderly arrangement a perpetual routine
- Sustain – Commit to maintaining this standard of cleanliness and order
This applies to everything involved in household chores.
Another Six Sigma methodology to keep in mind is DMAIC. This sets up a systematic approach to each issue that needs to be addressed. The acronym stands for:
- Define – Define the problem
- Measure – Collect information on how the current process works and identify defects in the process
- Analyze – Determine the root cause of the defect
- Improve – Make improvements to the process to eliminate defects
- Control – Continue to make improvements to eliminate defects, measure outcomes, and adjust as needed
Here are four household areas where that methodology could truly apply.
A common defect is the need to wash the white clothes while you still have clean color clothes. Or vice versa. Because many people wait until the laundry bin is completely full, they typically end up in frustrating situations where they have plenty of clean shirts but no clean socks. Or underwear. This is not efficient.
Instead, consider separating clothes by color or however you separate them as you go. That way, when one bin of dirty clothes fills up, just wash it. That keeps the “getting dressed in the morning” operation successful and efficient.
Another is tracking laundry supplies. If there is a person reading this who has never experienced having detergent but no dryer sheets, or vice versa, then it’s a person who hasn’t overseen a laundry operation for long. Become more efficient by adopting the Six Sigma approach of anticipating the need for supplies by going over past data.
In another words, figure out when you need to buy laundry supplies before you need to buy laundry supplies.
It saves on transportation costs, as well, as there are less cases of having to make an extra run to the store.
Supplies and Routine Chores
This approach to managing inventory and transportation costs with laundry supplies also applies to every household item that needs to be purchased regularly. And, it can apply to every chore that needs to be done routinely.
The idea of looking over how long the kitchen sink soap lasts, or how long it takes before you need to wash your car, seems like a daunting task. But if you truly long for a more manageable household schedule, it’s well worth the effort.
It can help save you from that moment when you need toilet paper but there is no toilet paper. Or having to pick up your mother-in-law at the airport in a dirty car because you didn’t make time to take it to the car wash.
Taking a few days to go over past data can lead to major insights. How long does the shampoo typically last? How about toilet paper? Hand soap? How often do you need to vacuum and mop? Mow the lawn? Wash the car?
These routine items and chores are not going away. They are best managed with a good DMAIC roadmap.
If you are having to take a few extra steps to reach from the dishwasher to where your cups and plates are stored, it could be time to reconsider the arrangement of your kitchen. Extra motion is one of the major areas of waste that Lean Six Sigma addresses. Set up the kitchen so that the items used with the stove are near the stove, and so forth. Save yourself steps and stop wasting motion.
The issue with transportation is that there’s often too much of it. Organizing your supply list for common household items and groceries should eliminate the need to make extra trips. But the next step involves communication.
Everyone in the house needs to let it be known in advance when they will need a ride to a destination or when they are going out to run an errand. With this advanced knowledge, families can figure out in advance how to best coordinate transportation.
For example, can Dad combine dropping off his daughter at softball practice with making a trip to Home Depot? Can the run to the grocery store be combined with having to pick up the dry cleaning? And so forth.
Without a plan made in advance, transportation ends up a haphazard affair, which leads to wasted fuel and time.
That’s just four examples of how Six Sigma methodology can help in household chores. The main idea is to take some time and focus on these issues. It can help eliminate the “defects” that lead to frustration and wasted time around the house.
If Six Sigma is worth doing at work, why not try it at home?