Process Improvement Culture by Six Sigma

Projects

Unique Q Ultima Process Improvement Methodology enables entire organization towards improvements involving each and every employee from machine operator to CEO of the company. In the process saved INR 1000 million in period of 5 years.

The Tyre Company Case

Like any other tyre company issues of scrap, warranty costs, logistics costs, dealer attritions were part of the normal struggle. The Six Sigma initiative, called Quality Journey by them, changed the way things were operated. Apart from substantial reduction in these costs, giving company a competitive edge, the improvements became culture of the organization.

Background

About 2% revenue eroding in warranty costs, huge scraps, high logistic cost (as voluminous product) company was welcoming all kind of improvements. Apart from this, frequent manpower related issues (labour as well as staff attrition) were clearly indicating disengaged manpower. Also, management recognized non-manufacturing functions were retarding growth of the company and also contributing to high cost. In words of CEO, I see gold between every two tyres.

The Methodology

The methodology proposed by the Q Ultima is progressive and does transformation in systematic way such that improvement becomes part of organization culture. We also acknowledge that the improvement is a habit and to change it from insensitive to improvement opportunity to making changes happen is a long journey.

The proven step by step methodology which enabled this tyre company and many others after that is

  1. Kaizen Suggestions Scheme – To enrol entire organization into improvement process, it is important we involve them at least for idea generation. This tyre company launched a systematic kaizen suggestion scheme globally, where everybody and anybody could give ideas for earning points which can be collated into awards. With 0.2 ideas per person annually in first year, company was at 12.5 ideas per person in third year. At this point company decided to focus on quality of ideas as well.
  2. Small Improvement (Just Do It) Projects – To improve the quality of ideas teams were trained on 7QC Tools and QC story. With this initiative the value of implemented ideas was increased compared to just an idea as done in step 1. In words of head of one of the Indian plants, “while launching Small improvement projects, could have been fatal for improvement journey if was done 2 years ago, it is must at this point for continuity”.
  3. The Waves of Data Oriented People (Yellow Belts) – Large number of employees were given training on basic statistical tools to understand data better. The JDI & 7QC projects oriented employees towards data and employees now were required to be trained on analysing data in more conclusive manner and that too fast. Q Ultima trained over 5000 employees of the company in 3 days Six Sigma Yellow Belt Program enabling entire organization in Minitab basic data analysis.
  4. Strategic Linkage – Interestingly, company agreed to include improvement requirements in annual planning & budgeting exercise. Every target was defined with normal progress and stretched for some value with improvement initiatives. This gave rise to list of formidable improvement projects. This was the need of hour and top team decided to launch systematic Six Sigma Program for these projects.
  5. The Project Champions – Functional Heads were trained in basics of Six Sigma and how to lead Six Sigma Projects to achieve difficult goals. They were also trained on how to encourage risk taking and motivate employees who are taking these projects.
  6. The Wave of Data Oriented Projects (Green Belts) – List of improvement projects and motivated yellow belts were identified to be trained in 10 days Six Sigma Green Belt Program. The 10 day class room training was divided into 3 phases (4 days + 3 days + 3 days) of class room training. The pre-requisite to join Phase 1 of Green Belt Training was Yellow Belt Certificate and a improvement project assigned to Belt by the respective Champion. Condition to join Phase 2 & Phase 3 of class room training were definite milestone on improvement projects. It enabled organization to think beyond and achieve more than they will normally do. A distinct competitive edge became visible.
  7. The Leadership Pipeline (Black Belts) – One of the important outcome of Green Belt Projects was evident high potential among some employees. Organization defined a policy to short list employees to be trained as Black Belts based on results achieved, risks taken and team work shown. These employees were planned to be taken to new position as part of organization’s growth plan.

The Learning

The improvements are inevitable, while its speed and outcomes are driven by Leadership and the improvement methodology adopted by the organization. The key learnings throughout the deployment were

  1. Learning 1 – Patience is the key to speed. Wherever Leadership showed maturity of seeing the change and introducing next step at right time the speed of improvement was phenomenal. We were hugely impressed by 3 years of patience by management for motivating employees to give ideas and waiting for strategic linkage before launch of project based Six Sigma Program.
  2. Learning 2 – Visibility of Program to Leadership is key to success as well as failure. This tyre company has shown exemplary leadership styles enabling organization to achieve much more than our anticipation. Top team understood signs of preparedness to launch next step in great details and added to our knowledge base on it. They showed both patience to wait for right moment and promptness to hit when iron was hot. We have other experience where desperation or laggardness of top management resulted into failure.
  3. Learning 3 – Potential Developed by this program is like nuclear Energy. Six Sigma may give immense power to organization to lead in industry in long run. At the same time, if high potential employees are not put to use for organizational growth & efficiency, they may create havoc either within organization or by leaving organization in large numbers. We suggest a well prepared identification and progression plan for high potentials alongside this program for maximum benefits and avoiding unwarranted damages.