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Why does Lean six sigma not work for MRO component shops?

I have regularly visited MRO components shops for work, and it struck me how modern, high tech shops are struggling to fit their complex and variable processes into uniform procedures and – above all – yearn for long term solutions. Principles like the world-renowned Lean Six Sigma are forcefully being implemented to help the shop with these complex technical improvement projects. As you are probably well aware, Lean Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. Lean Six Sigma strategies seek to improve the quality of the output of a process by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.

MRO shop maintenance is not your average industry

Sounds like a dream, right? Well, not in the aviation business I work in. I personally choose to avoid its systematics. MRO Shops are one of the many places that do not benefit from the clean-cut Lean Six Sigma approach. Lean Six Sigma works best in industries that tend to have as little as possible variation in its processes. Problem number one? I find that everyday maintenance tasks in MRO Shops are not at all straight forward. You can almost hear me say, the MRO Shops processes are almost too dynamic. I found out on firsthand experience that Lean Six Sigma projects face all the usual shortcomings of major corporate initiatives. Such as poor project management, scale shift and lack of support from executives. Which brings us to the second reason Lean Six Sigma does not work for MRO shops. The ever luring enemy that is called time. The whole Lean Six Sigma method, it is pretty heavy. Meaning slow. What you need is something that produces results quickly. During the past decade, I have researched and analysed the MRO Shops’ processes and the solution is more obvious then you could ever imagine.

Your team is the key to implement succes

Yet many of the MRO Shops I visited all over the world have trained Green and Black belts to work along with the Quality Department, investing enormous amounts of money in improvement projects that will ultimately not produce the desired result.

And there it is, a vicious circle which will create a lot of costs but no lasting improvements. I call this a waste of money. Enough with the troubles that Lean Six Sigma bring to the industry, I hear you think. What solutions are there to break the vicious circle and effectively save money, reduce turnaround time and help my maintenance team to work more efficiently? What approach to take?

The focus for performance improvements should be on flexibility and the motivation of all those involved to continue to change continuously. This can only be achieved if in all layers of the organization it is clear what concrete results are expected from the team, in order to guarantee the desired results for its stakeholders (customers, authorities, investors and shareholders).


In conclusion

Leave Lean Six Sigma for what it is. The solution lies not in reinventing the wheel, but in our improvement concepts that have proven themselves. Your shop can have a guaranteed Turn Around Time (TAT) reduction of >40%, 100% Customer Satisfaction and <5% Product Defects.

Combined with the practical knowledge and experience of the people of the work floor, you have the right cocktail for successful process improvement results. Myself or the practical experts I work with speak the language of the mechanics. Whenever I visit a MRO component Shop, your employees are my best tool to monitor and analyze the actual situation. It is the technician who use the processes on a daily basis that can tell you precisely what goes wrong. I have yet to find a monitoring tool that can analyze MRO Shop processes as accurately as a seasoned maintenance technician can.

Yes, I truly believe that the key to success lies within your own organization. On the road to improvement, you have to overcome the biggest threshold you will have to deal with during a change project; the acceptance of your staff to do things differently. When you listen to them, empower them in the process improvement realization, then the resistance for accepting change will disappear like a puff of smoke.

Need help?

Work together on improvement processes that have the ability to change processes on a practical level, throughout the entire organization. Take every member of your team, from management to workforce, along in the change.

With the years of experience in MRO shops, I can assist you to work along with your workforce to pick up the right opportunities for improvement and to achieve lasting results.  So please feel free to call or email me with your questions. Telephone +31(0) 20 894 64 90 or email:

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Danny Goergen, owner HACE

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