How Lean Six Sigma Reduces Costs & Increases Efficiency

by Michael Glavin on October 16, 2014

Lean Six SigmaLean Six Sigma is a management strategy that leaped into the forefront of business thinking when legendary executive Jack Welch applied it at General Electric in 1995 — and now more companies are adopting its principles to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

At its core, Lean Six Sigma exists to improve the performance of business processes by identifying and removing the causes of waste and minimizing variation. I can’t think of a single business that wouldn’t benefit from those things.

Start Early for Maximum Impact

The key to getting the most out of Lean Six Sigma is adopting its strategies early in the design process. By subjecting plans to its rigorous analysis on the front end, Lean Six Sigma can save clients millions of dollars. How? By trimming the size of proposed buildings, reducing labor costs and producing consistently excellent products.

Lean Six Sigma is a mindset to be interwoven through the design process. It includes a series of tools that can help you step back from the emotion of planning and deal with hard data.

Let’s say an organization is in the early stages of designing a project. Often, individual departments and internal groups come to the table with their own agendas and ideas. To get past parochial attitudes, the Lean Six Sigma process asks people to examine their priorities for a project and weigh the comparative value of each idea. It pulls individual emotions out and gets people on the same playing field. Most importantly, it helps identify the best decisions.

A Proactive Approach

Unlike ineffective reactive processes, Six Sigma is a proactive approach streamlined for success. By carefully analyzing, measuring and aligning each step of the design plan to determine maximum efficiency, Six Sigma starts the project off right.

When traditional reactive systems are used, the only way to catch design problems is after the project’s completion — when the damage has already been done. But these continuous, proactive procedures help safeguard again costly surprise repairs in the future.

Creating a Value Stream

The “Lean” side of the Lean Six Sigma analysis uses value stream mapping to determine the best planning course from beginning to end — and back. The result is a value stream that aligns the right people with the right process, providing value to the customer.

By applying the principles of Lean Six Sigma, companies and organizations save substantial time — and money. The rigorous Lean Six Sigma evaluation process is focused on bottom-line results and satisfying customers — and who wouldn’t want that?

Clients can expect a 20 percent to 50 percent improvement in such key measurements as cycle time, quality, inventory turnover and delivery speed, with even greater improvements possible in some situations.

Finding a way to make it work and work repeatedly is the surefire way to improve overall quality and save on the cost of labor. That’s the Lean Six Sigma way.

If you’d like to learn more about using Lean Six Sigma for your organization, we should chat. Feel free to connect with me and/or one of my colleagues on LinkedIn.

Michael Glavin

Jeff Green

Chris Williams

Michael Glavin is a Lean Six Sigma practitioner at Burns & McDonnell who specializes in master planning, lean manufacturing and optimization for customer demand. He has spent more than 25 years working with commercial and defense companies driving continuous improvements throughout their organizations. Want to learn more about what Lean Six Sigma can do for your organization? Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.


Webinar: Master Planning Today for Payback Tomorrow

by Jon Schwartz on September 19, 2014

Webinar: Master Planning Today for Payback TomorrowUtility master plans are one of the most critical tools for campus infrastructure systems. Without a master plan in place, campus systems are flying blind, reacting to increased demands on the utility systems as they come. Each rushed decision impacts the next and creates cascading effects. The good news: With a little upfront planning today, utility master plans can help campuses achieve big paybacks tomorrow — and can update systems to run more efficiently and cleanly.

What Is a Master Plan and Why Do I Need One?

Simply put, a utility master plan (UMP) is a comprehensive study of existing utility and energy services that then analyzes forward to set the future infrastructure roadmap for a campus. It’s developed to help campuses plan for long-term expansion and development. With a plan in place, campus utility groups can be confident in their strategies to manage expanding utility systems, infrastructure, growth and energy.

The importance of UMPs continues to grow as campuses evolve and pressure mounts to cut costs, reduce environmental impact and improve resiliency. Proactive development of a plan will put any campus on a long-term path to creating an effective utility program. By planning early, individual end-users and system owners can realize the benefits of system capacity, efficiency, reliability and environmental impacts, among other factors.

Positioning Your Campus for Future Success

When done correctly, a master plan can position a campus for success. For example, master plans developed in response to weather disasters have helped campuses prepare for major resiliency improvements and hardening. Master plans such as the ones at Ohio State, Purdue and Harvard include combined heat and power (CHP) systems for economic and environmental benefits along with major reliability improvements. Many master plans focus on costs and can save millions of dollars annually and over the entire life cycle of a utility system. With a thoughtful process in place, master plans can also significantly reduce emissions, which is the often the single largest area of opportunity for campus systems.

If the topic of utility master planning interests you, make plans to join me for a free webinar on at 1 p.m. Central time Wednesday, October 1. My colleague Blake Ellis and I will be presenting a comprehensive overview of utility master planning, including why and when you need one, how to conduct a study, and the challenges and issues that come with starting and/or implementing one. We’ll also share some of our own case studies and examples.

If you’re involved in a campus installation or are considering bringing your isolated building systems together, I hope you’ll join us. You can register through the link below.

Registration: Master Planning for Today for Payback Tomorrow


Jon Schwartz is a manager in Burns & McDonnell’s OnSite Energy & Power team. He has more than 20 years of diversified experience leading campus utility system studies and design projects. Want to learn more? Shoot Jon an email or connect with him on LinkedIn.


NOvA Project Studies: The Mysteries of the Universe

September 18, 2014

Scientists and engineers from around the world are involved in a groundbreaking project designed to unravel some of the mysteries of our universe. It’s called NOvA, and it’s a collaboration among about 170 scientists from 34 institutions around the globe. They are creating an experiment to detect and analyze one of the most abundant, yet […]

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Key Takeaways from the 136th NGAUS Conference

September 12, 2014

Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago for the 136th Annual National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) Conference. It’s the must-attend event for anyone who works in the defense industry, particularly with national security and disaster response. I’ve found this conference to be the best opportunity for exchanging information with our citizen soldiers and […]

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LEED Leads to Big Energy Savings for Military Buildings

September 8, 2014

The topic of energy savings for the military isn’t new, but in light of recent budget cuts for the U.S. Army, there’s a renewed focus on lowering operations costs for new and existing National Guard facilities. Top it off with a government mandate to design all new National Guard buildings to meet Leadership in Energy […]

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Urban Neighborhood Initiative Tackles Childhood Illiteracy in Kansas City

September 4, 2014

All across America, children from low-income communities are entering kindergarten without the basic early literary skills necessary for lifelong success. Unfortunately, the Kansas City area is no exception. Of the 15,000-plus children in the Kansas City Missouri School District, only 19% of third graders are considered proficient in reading. The Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI) is […]

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