As Milwaukee's chief executive, Mayor Tom Barrett has made it a priority to ensure that small businesses receive the tools they need to prosper and grow. Small businesses are undoubtedly a central force in our economy's ability to thrive. However, finding resources important to achieving success can be a challenge with the many obstacles that often arise in today's economic climate.
The City of Milwaukee has a variety of resources in its toolbox to promote small business growth and development. They include low-interest loans, workforce resources and special certifications that ensure open and fair competition in City contracting opportunities. In addition to these, other resources are available to small businesses that can aid in their ability to achieve positive outcomes.
As our City government continues in efforts to assist and protect the interest of small businesses, I want to encourage small businesses to implement initiatives such as Lean Six Sigma. Lean Six Sigma's core focus is to achieve cost savings and increase efficiency through process standardization and waste elimination.
Commonly thought of as a practice only adopted by larger firms in the manufacturing industry, Lean Six Sigma has a place in organizations of all sizes and across all industries. That includes governments and small businesses. By implementing Lean Six Sigma, companies are able to increase the value they provide to their customers and stakeholders with fewer resources and at a decreased cost.
The City of Milwaukee has been working to implement lean tools like Lean Six Sigma to achieve operational efficiencies and improve science.
Through an exciting partnership with American Society for Quality, our Health Department has benefited from improved lab processes, leading to a savings of thousands of dollars in lab testing and an improved working environment for lab employees. Having ASQ right here in Milwaukee allows the City to take advantage of all the organization has to offer, including access to its Lean Six Sigma Training.
Another example of a local organization that is successfully using Lean Six Sigma is Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, headquartered here in Milwaukee. Goodwill has embraced a lean culture, implementing enterprise-wide process improvement and lean principles as a strategic priority.
At a recent Lean event, Goodwill was able to make significant process improvements that have allowed them to become more efficient and reallocate time and resources. For example, the Meals on Wheels program acceptance process was improved by eliminating more than 60 percent of the steps involved, freeing the equivalent of nine workweeks and allowing more focus to be devoted to supporting other programs within the organization. More importantly, this meant a decrease in wait time for individuals to receive this service.
By implementing initiatives such as Lean Six Sigma, small businesses can become more efficient and learn techniques to increase the value they provide to their customers with fewer and/or reallocated resources. Ultimately, this means improved performance in the competitive realm, an invaluable asset to small businesses going up against larger players.
Sharon Robinson is director of the City of Milwaukee Department of Administration.