Different environments, different projects, different approach, one method. Learn and understand lean six sigma approach on real projects.
this article covers:
- Typical Six Sigma Black Belt
- Tooling amount reduction
- Cost reduction program
- Leveling production
- Addressing downtimes
- New qualification process approval
- Back to lean
- Six Sigma is easy
Hot news, folks. In order to help you as much as I can in your improvement efforts, I have launched non-binding consultation program. I would like to help you with:
- Lean culture implementation in your organization
- Six Sigma projects consultations
- Lean Six Sigma trainings and certifications support
- Project management theory turn into practical usage
- Your career planning
First 30 minutes of consultation for free, every additional 1 hour 10 USD.
Typical Six Sigma Black Belt
Take these examples as a brief overview of how six sigma black belt project can look like .
There are these organizations examples:
- Machining production.
- Supply chain.
- Production planning.
- What would be this list without full time black belt project example, right? So sixth example will be full time black belt project.
Six Sigma Black belt projects, generally said, are little bit more complex. It does not mean, that person must be fully assigned to project role as a full time black belt.
Black belt trained positions can be engineers, supervisors, managers, team leaders, supply chain or Human resources representatives, maintenance technicians, and so on. And projects will be assigned to them, based on this individual person role, and the scope of her or his job.
Believe or not, these are true project examples from my 7 years professional experiences.
Let me know in the comments below, what kind of projects you were solving for audience inspiration.
Green belt / Black belt project selection – calculator
I recommend you testing project idea on project calculator, I have developed based on my training experiences. It will help you to determine, how demanding leading project will be for you.
Selection tool downolad
Production Example – too many tooling in machine stock warehouse
Define: Goal of this project was to optimize tooling inventory from current 100 thousands USD in value to whatever optimum will be. Current state challenge was, that consumption and quantity delivered is not under control.
Measure: There were 3 tooling cabinets in the project scope. Team re-counted tooling to define its value, and came to around 100K USD number. Deeper consumptions review showed, that there are 15% of tools, that are used once a while. These seldom used tools made up to 25K USD of total value. Other tools are used on daily bases, but number of tooling in some cases was for 9 month of average consumption.
note: it is important to use as much as possible data to understand what is happening in current state process.
Analyze: There were set up minimum and maximum volume limits for each tool in the new, future process state. Minimum is 3 weeks of average consumption. Maximum limit for tools was 2 months of average consumption. Limits were clearly visualized with green , orange, and red color. Orange color means that there is requirement of tool re-filling. Red color signalize, that there is critically low number of tools, and production continuity might be in danger.
Imrove: External supplier is responsible for refill. Supplier is visiting facility on weekly bases, review cabinets.
Supplier was trained to understand color signals meaning. Regular cabinets were exchanged by computer controlled cabinets. Tooling supplier leases cabinets to the company. Tools are also owned by tooling company until it is withdrawn by employee. Employee must use his own code to withdraw required tool. Consumption is now under control.
Control: Machine generates receipt of consumed tools once a month. Exact used tools amount is charged to the company afterwards.
3 tooling cabinets were reduced to two, owned by tooling supplier, as mentioned. Inventory related tooling costs were reduced from 100K to almost zero.
Here is a link to download project charter template for your usage, with the brief description of each section. You are free to share and distribute this list.
I do videos, blog posts, and all templates, in my free time. I will appreciate if you can donate me a cup of cofee, for more energy in my creation. (1 dollar counts, too 😉 Click on this link: I would like to support Erik in his effort
A3 report template
Great tool to report out your project progress:
- A3 form Excel template
- Restaurant example – filled A3 report (above used pictures)
To download entire A3 report template –click on the link below
Supply chain – cost reduction program.
Define: Natural supply chain activity is regularly bought material cost reduction. Principle is simple. There is a current product cost, and buyer is trying to negotiate lower price. There are 5 buyers in the team.
Goal of this project was cost savings approach unification, and minimal 10% of cost saving per 5 different types of products, each buyer is responsible for. This will be direct costs reduction, affecting company spends.
Measure: There is not exactly defined process, that every team member could be following. Senior buyer, as a project leader, called kick off meeting. Supply chain manager explained goal, and targeted due date of the project.
Analyze: Team mapped todays situation, each buyer follows. There were found deviations, between approach, and results each buyer has.
note: SIPOC a great tool to understand first level of current process set up challenges.
Imrove: Ideal process was put together. There were identified steps and tasks to reach that ideal. Each task has its owner, and the due date. New process can be in place immediately, and buyers can follow it. Process map was added to the company´s official quality management system.
Control: Personal buyers goals were updated to have cost reduction program as a very high priority. Personal goals are reviewed quarterly. And the cost reduction progress is monitored there. Team have set up regular monthly reviews. Follow up on running projects is done on this meeting, as well as new opportunities reviews.
If you are interested, you can dowload SIPOC on the link below. This is how it looks like:
Production planning – leveling the goods quantity released to production.
Define: High mix of material is daily released to the production. Production is struggling by having waves of similar parts delivered to each station. This is causing, that parts are delivered in batches to final warehouse. It is causing, that parts are not always available at warehouse when requested by customer. Planner is searching for parts in production, and pushing it to finish goods warehouse to have it available.
Measure: Research showed, that parts are released in batches form the beginning. It is also happening, that the same parts are done in the row at some workstations. So batches are doubled.
One of the lean principles is that the best way of delivering parts through production is by leveling it. From the beginning to the end.
Analyze: Team have counted average amount of each part, that is consumed by customers every day. That means, that have to be released to production, done by each workstation, and delivered to the warehouse. This number was multiplied by average discrepancy rate.
Imrove / Control: Production scheduler started to release parts as calculated. Each workstation team was trained to run just specific number of parts every day. It took some time, but parts started be delivered to the warehouse every day.
This book will help you setting up value stream with mix of too many part numbers click this link: https://amzn.to/3EdvCgn
I may receive a commission if you sign up through this link. This is not affecting final product prices.
Maintenance – machines downtimes improvement (top 3 machines).
Define: Machining Company has fleet of different machines to produce different customer requests. Machines are needed to be repaired sometimes. It is causing downtimes in production. Maintenance department started with prevention program. But there is a huge variety of equipment, so where to start? What is the priority?
Measure: Goal of this project is to predict, and to prevent downtimes on all fleet of the machines. Maintenance team started with data collection on interventions. Data are so great, that team have decided to continue monitoring also in the future. Pareto distribution was created from data collected in last 3 months. This project was divided to multiple generations. Top 3 machine downtimes are addressed in the gen 1, next 3 in the gen 2, and so on.
Analyze: Preventive maintenance protocol was reviewed and updated for each machine in cooperation with its supplier. TPM spread sheets were created for daily, weekly, and monthly reviews. Daily and weekly maintenance, called TPM level 1, is a machine operation responsibility. Machines are cleaned, and checked on easily accessible things, like hoses visual control, dials parameters control. Machine smooth run is controlled here too.
Note: Analyze phase has in common almost nothing with heavy statistics. So, do not be afraid of this project phase.
Imrove: Monthly maintenance, called TPM level 2, is maintenance responsibility. It is a special electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic control check.
Part of the project was to review spare parts list. It is for quicker exchanges in the case of downtimes. Contracts with machines suppliers were reviewed too, to have earlier interventions, in the case of urgency.
Control: Each project generation took about 6 months to accomplish. There were identified 3 other project groups, that can work in parallel on machines improvements, after finalizing the pilot project. So, improvements will be implemented faster to the entire machine fleet.
Engineering – new qualification process approval.
Define: There is a PPAP required, when engineering is qualifying new part to production. Current PPAP process is set up to review required technologies, which is good. But practice showed, that there is always something additional missing. Like small components system set up by planning department. Or finish goods warehouse space identification. Supply chain should be involved too. This is causing delays and flow interruption in the production.
Measure: Team mapped current process. There is engineering department, and production involved only. Finance, warehouse, planning, supply chain, production, design, tooling, logistics departments were involved in the process creation.
Team have discussed opportunities and challenges on each step. Pains that production, and other departments have been described under each step. Each pain became a task to be addressed. Departments have identified ideal time, where they must be involved in the qualification process. However PPAP leader will always call kick off meeting.
Analyze: New process map describes all required steps to finalize new products qualification. It is a little bit more complex, but it worth it.
Note: Use common sense when setting new process. And do not forget to think about new indicators, that will tell you how new process is behaving.
Imrove: Each new project will have special folder on the SharePoint, company is using. All documents will be stored there. Engineering will be the department, that will coordinate communication, and required activities to be fully qualified. This new process was immediately implemented to current running qualifications.
Control: Situations, when production was stopped due to insufficient parts approval was reduced to minimum. Production is happier, parts flow more fluent.
Full time Black Belt project – back to lean.
Define: Organization where our six sigma black belt works is 50 years in the business. Lean culture was incorporated to the structure in 1990´s. People were trained in lean six sigma regularly, multiple projects were led by different departments, continuous improvement efforts were daily job.
However, there was a lock down for almost 2 years during the covid-19 pandemic. As a many of consequences, lean principles disappeared. Continuous improvement thinking, and lean approach was almost gone. Production became more chaotic, communication between departments is much more difficult. Struggling was present everywhere.
It was natural, that management decided to launch “back to lean project”.
To buy “Lean Thinking” book by J. Womack and D. Jones click on this affiliate marketing link: https://amzn.to/3d6Frl3
I may receive a commission if you sign up through this link. This is not affecting final product prices.
Measure: Jane, the full time black belt worked with top management to understand their vision. Voice of the business was used, and translated to critical business requirements. 1 day workshop run with facility management showed they struggles, and opportunities that must be addressed.
Jane has created list of activities, that should be run, based on the feedback from top and local management.
Leaders of all departments were involved in addressing these challenges. Each activity was deeply discussed with the team. Solution, and way of addressing particular challenge was described. Owner and due date identified. There were many sub-projects required to be run. Time-line was set up based on task difficulty to each sub-project.
Analyze: Main project goal – “back to lean” became an umbrella project, covering all sub-projects. Black belt lead some projects, but she was involved in all projects as a team member. Jane helped coordinate all activities within sub-projects.
There were quick wins identified. Like new hires, that joined company during covid, training on six sigma yellow belt and CI board.
Imrove: Management was re-trained for the lean too. Leaders, supervisors, team leaders were trained in the second wave.
Lean articles were written to monthly newspaper that organization has. And many other activities, like value stream mapping, Gemba walks, 5S audits, Safety trainings were run in parallel. Everyone in the organization became somehow involved in the lean culture
Control: It took about 6 months to accomplish majority of the tasks. And changes were obvious. Communication have improved, production flow is smoother, continuous ideas raised up by 80%.
Company embeded lean culture once again.
Six sigma is easy
Do not be scared of using these tools wrong way. It can be part of your learning curve, which is ok. Improve your skills by repeating, and using each tool over and over again.
Remember, if you improve process during your first projects by 60%, 40%, or even by 20% it is worth it. You can repeat improving initiative, and improve process next time a litter better. Just keep to have a fun.
Do not forget to visit and subscribe my YouTube channel. I am uploading Six Sigma, Lean and Project oriented videos regurarly. So, stay tuned.
Yours sincerely Erik.