Lean


The role of the contract Lean Six Sigma Black Belt

Black Belt

The Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (BB) is a professional who is well versed in the Lean Six Sigma methodology, who leads improvement projects, typically in a full-time role. A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt possesses a thorough understanding of all approaches and tools within the phases of lean six sigma project. They understand how to perform and interpret Six Sigma tools and how to use standard principles of Lean.

A BB is results driven, trained in advanced project management and statistical analysis tools. He/She is expected to contribute between €250K and €1M to the company’s operating profit each year by undertaking process improvement projects that lead to enhanced customer satisfaction, and lower cost to the company.

Why use contract Black Belt support?

Employing contract BBs has become popular for every employer type, ranging from multinationals to SMEs and even start-ups. One of the reasons why it’s beneficial for companies to employ a BB contractor to work on specific projects, is the specialised expertise that they can bring to that role. They can also adapt quickly to the organisation’s processes and culture, and deliver measured value on a quick return basis.

The contract black belt service compliments existing operational excellence department resources, or can act as a stand-alone professional support to the management team and project teams on site. The advantages to the organisation are many, and include:

  1. Senior project manager with cross-sector experience;
  2. Access to a wide and deep knowledge store of programme management approaches, and lean six sigma data analysis and problem-solving tools;
  3. The support of a professional who is senior enough to influence management thinking, without having the natural hesitation that might inhibit a more junior permanent employee;
  4. Use of support days in line with the organisation’s needs, and
  5. The freedom to wind-up the contract when it best suits the organisation.

Black belt duties

Duties of the black belt will vary from company to company, however will most likely include the following. In consultation with the management team and others:

  • Development and maintenance of the continuous improvement roadmap;
  • Project selection and team selection;
  • Project planning, team mentoring and individual team lead mentoring;
  • Process problem-solving with teams in manufacturing, laboratory, warehouse and office areas;
  • Data analysis and report writing, with recommendations and project plan

Support days & duration

The range of support days varies typically, from 3 days per month to full time 20 days per month.

Funding  

The organisation may be eligible for IDA or Enterprise Ireland lean funding, under the Lean Business Offer suite of programmes. Talk to us about it today.

 

 

 


Measure up or pay up!

History is littered with examples of bad decisions, made on bad measurement data, and their very expensive consequences. In 1999, NASA lost the Mars Orbiter, which was designed to study the Martian climate & atmosphere. It seems the engineering team used English units of measurement, whilst NASA used the metric system. NASA took a $125 million dollar hit on the lost in space Mars Climate Orbiter.

We don’t need to travel to NASA to observe bad decisions made on the basis of poor measurement data. Decisions about process changes and parts’ conformance to specifications are based on measurements or inspection. Measurement itself is a process and like any process it has the potential for variation or error. Variation in the measurement system comes from many sources including people, materials and the environment in which the measurement is taken. Very often our measurements exhibit unacceptable variation and we don’t even know about it.

 

The risk to the organisation is twofold: firstly, a false reject, which cost the organisation money, and secondly and much more seriously a false pass, which may result in a customer complaint, and worst case a product recall and significant damage to the business. Time and again I have witnessed operators rejecting good parts, and they don’t even know it. Also, more unfortunately, I have witnessed customer complaints, when parts are returned from customers for 100% inspection (or worse, scrap!) after the customer has discovered non-compliant parts in the order.

 

How can we assess our measurement system? It’s typically a quick and easy, and very informative exercise to conduct what’s called a ‘Gauge R&R’ exercise. This formal technique assesses how likely the assessor (i.e. the person taking the measurement) is to get the same result, when using the same gauge to measure the same characteristic of the same part, repeatedly. This is known as assessing for repeatability, the first R. Gauge R&R also assesses how likely two or more assessors are to get the same result when using the same gauge to measure the same characteristic of the same part, repeatedly. This is known as assessing for reproducibility, the second R. The exercise provides a data set on the accuracy of your measurement system. Based on the data, you can decide whether or not the measurement system needs to be improved or updated.

 

If you don’t have access to Minitab or JMP, there are many cheap and cheerful Excel add-on packages that can enable you to conduct Gauge R&R exercises. The investment in regular Gauge R&R exercises on key processes measurements more than pays for itself. If you’d like advice on how to go about it, just give me a call on +353 91 870 708.

 

Bernie Rushe,

Principal Consultant, Lean Ireland.


Attracting (and keeping) the right customer – The software industry in Ireland

The major difference between a person with a lean mindset and one who has not, is that the lean head is always asking ‘Who is my customer?’, ‘What does my customer want?’ and ‘Do I know how well I am satisfying my customer?’ If we regard Ireland Inc. as a supplier of resources to potential overseas customers (i.e. the multinationals), there are many bodies corporate who ask those questions on our behalf, in order to attract and retain the right customer. The National Competitiveness Council, the IDA and our educational institutions, are just a few of the agencies who are active in ensuring that Ireland Inc. has the right mix of resources to attract the right customers.

These resources, or wealth enablers, come in a variety of forms and include political systems, tax incentives, regulatory and legal systems, availability of talent and geographic and climatic factors, to name the some of the most influential. They are not wealth generating in themselves, however they create the right environment to attract the right customer, and associated wealth, into the country.

If we take a look at the software sector as an example of ‘the right customer’, many companies have been attracted to set up in Ireland. As of 2018, Amazon, Cisco, EA Games, eBay, Facebook, Google, Groupon, Mastercard, Microsoft, SAP, SmartBox, TripAdvisor, and Yahoo have all established centres here. Outside of the United States, IBM Ireland’s Software Lab is one of its largest research & development labs focusing on cloud, analytics, mobile, social, and security. Ericsson’s operation is Ireland’s largest agile enterprise software development site, creating their next generation Network Management Systems, whilst Intel’s Quark family of processors was developed in Ireland. Even Aon established their Global Innovation Centre in Ireland.

The fastest rise in recent years has been the implementation of cloud and digital services bringing a new wave of software development and analytics. Millions of euros and dollars have been invested and thousands of jobs have and still are being created. (Please don’t anyone mention the disaster that was Apple’s proposed data centre in Athenry, Co. Galway).

But why Ireland? What have been the specific resources we supply to attract such customers and their investment? Well quite simply, Ireland was ranked 1st in the world for attracting and retaining talent in the 2017 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook. Of course, having the highest education participation rate in Europe and the youngest population also helps the country become the fastest-growing tech population in Europe.

We all know of Ireland’s corporate tax rate of 12.5%. What is less well known is that Ireland also has a 25% Research & Development Tax Credit and a 6.25% preferential tax rate on income arising from intellectual property. Not alone that but there are also foreign direct investment benefits for Multinationals when engaging with organisations like IDA Ireland.

Okay so we have the talent, an educated young workforce, attractive tax rates and incentives – but just as importantly is our ease of doing business. Last year (2017) Forbes ranked Ireland as the 4th best country in the world to do business. This is where good lean management and building a strong track record helps businesses excel in the global market. Even the Irish government are planning to increase the number of people working in tech to 3,000 per year through the Tech Life Initiative.

So, although Brexit is bringing a certain amount of uncertainty, it is still a time of positivity as a lot has been achieved since the arrival of IBM in 1956, and if we manage it properly we can expect a lot more growth and development over the coming years.

Not bad for a little country with such a short independent history. With every upside of course comes a downside. Our model is easily copied and competitiveness ebbs and flows. As long as the corporate bodies in whom we trust to manage our competitiveness keep asking ‘Who is my customer?’, ‘What does my customer want?’ and ‘Do I know how well I am satisfying my customer?’ we will continue to thrive.

 

See IDA infographic here


Classroom vs. Online Learning – Which one is better?

As a child I well remember my father declining to tell us the meaning of words when we asked him. He would always say “Look it up in the dictionary”.  A true educator all his life, he knew that we would learn more and retain it better, if we did the research ourselves. In a broader sense, he understood the meaning of education (from the Latin educo ‘I lead out’) and delighted in finding various practical ways to satisfy our childish curiosity – all in the interest of enhancing our learning environment.

Learning is the process through which people acquire knowledge, skills and /or attitudes. New knowledge adds to what we know e.g. knowledge of statistics, knowledge of the six sigma DMAIC problem solving cycle. New skills change what someone can do e.g. computer skills, Minitab skills, or presentation skills. A new attitude means we change previously held beliefs, and typically change how we behave e.g. we gain confidence or we learn to accept a different approach to problem solving. Traditionally our journey to acquiring new knowledge, skills, and attitudes has taken place in the classroom or formal workshops.

In over 18 years spent facilitating formal workshops, I have become fascinated by the variety of learning styles that one can readily observe in the course of a day. Some like learning through debate and discussion, and will interject and ask questions and challenge (all good things) at frequent intervals; some like the interactive group exercises, and others are more comfortable reading through the text book and course notes. A blended learning workshop, customised to suit the client need and address the business problem in hand, is the most effective business learning environment that I know of. That, and the follow-on practical work that puts the theory to the test, and allows for learning on-the-job.

However, workshop-based learning is far from being the only option. Due to geographical distance, family commitments, budget constraints, or all combined, many people seek a more convenient alternative. One of the biggest changes happening in the education system is the steady transition to online tutorials. It was only a matter of time before the demand would grow for the convenience of online learning, especially if it is blended with written course work and occasional group sessions.

In Ireland, IT Sligo, who have over a third of their students now studying online, are at the forefront of this change regarding lean and six sigma learning. They offer a free six-week course in Lean Sigma Quality. Their MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) runs from October to December each year, so there’s still time to register now up until November the 1st.

The course has been running for the past six years and gives an introduction to Lean Sigma Quality, which has revolutionised the global manufacturing and services industries for over two decades. Nowadays, many employers now look for these skills in potential clients and it is a highly sought after practice of tools and techniques that ultimately creates customer satisfaction and a better workflow.

The course covers the following topics…

  • Introduction to Lean and ‘waste’ elimination
  • Lean Tools
  • Error Proofing (poka-yoke)
  • 5S and Visual Factory
  • Introduction to Six Sigma and variation reduction
  • Six Sigma DMAIC problem solving methodology
  • 7 Quality Tools
  • Descriptive Statistics
  • Lean & Six Sigma examples from Manufacturing, Service and Healthcare sectors

 

All online courses are different and if you have never done one before, it might sound a little daunting. Unlike sitting in a classroom where a facilitator can assess your interest from your body language and level of inquistiveness, this isn’t manageable with an online course so self-discipline is key. You need to put aside the time each week and keep encouraging yourself to move forward over the six-weeks. This course consists of a series of short recorded lectures with some extra learning resources available online. During the course, you will have access to discussion areas where you can ask questions and get support from your fellow classmates. This is something I would highly recommend. Doing an online course can often feel like a lonely experience and can lack the appreciation or encouragement from those we would usually get it from if going to a physical college building each week. But by getting involved in the discussion boards it gives you the opportunity to help others whilst also discovering suggestions and ideas you may not have thought of yourself. Also one successful motivational tool in such online courses are regular quizzes, which smartly are included in this course as your build up to submitting your final report.

On completion, if successful, you will automatically receive your certificate electronically which you can immediately email to your boss or a potential employer, before you pop open a bottle of bubbly and finally put your feet up for the evening.

 


Lean Restaurant Management

The Gallery Cafe in Gort takes us a long way from high volume manufacturing! Sarah Harty, owner of this Co. Galway restaurant, exemplifies lean practice in many ways e.g. sourcing from local suppliers, good teamwork, innovative use of space and giving back to the community. And the proof of the pudding – a customer review score of 4.5 on Trip Advisor.  Her story is an inspiration to anyone wishing to implement lean business.

Over fifteen years ago, a young woman, Sarah Harty from County Meath, fell in love with the small town of Gort in south Galway.  In 2005, Sarah opened The Gallery Cafe, a place she soon turned into a hub for her local community. Although she didn’t have any experience in running a business, especially one dealing with catering, it didn’t stop her from following her gut and seeing it through with passion. Her initial business idea was simple – paint pictures and serve customers.

One of the first important decisions Sarah took though was finding the right location, which would ultimately lead to a great lean management structure.

The original cafe in Gort was closed down after only a few years in business due to fire regulations, so she moved up further in the town. Although this new premise was great, she learned a lot about what she didn’t want in business. Sarah realised that a larger venue and bigger staff can bring unwanted stresses that her business model ultimately didn’t need.

As luck would have it, within a few years Sarah was able to buy the original location for a great price and refurbished the entire building. This is where it gets interesting. Her basement floor is now made up of a kitchen, bathroom, and an 18-foot well which attracts many a tourist. The ground floor is where her cafe, restaurant, and art galley is located which also acts as a monthly music venue for local artists. The first floor of the building hosts yoga classes and kids meditation with Life Drawing Workshops taking place there in the winter months, and on the top floor is where Sarah now lives.

Sarah’s food is simple and seasonal. She sources everything locally from her butcher next door to her Uncle who provides berries. Even the crockery they use is sourced locally with a team bonding exercise every year with the staff making their own plates and cups together with local ceramics maker Michael Kennedy.

Instead of creating something for her community, she did her research to see what the locals wanted and then met their needs. For Sarah, a successful business is built on great staff and a happy kitchen. Gort has a significant Brazilian community. So instead of filling a kitchen with stressed chefs throwing pots and pans, stamping their feet and ponding their fists, she filled her kitchen with a bunch of happy local Brazilian ladies who bring a great energy to the place.

Although, Sarah’s initial plan was to paint pictures and serve customers, she soon realised that this wasn’t going to be a reality and that it was more beneficial for all to use the gallery as a hub to showcase 22 artists from the area every year. This again, made the community the focal point of her business.

Sarah now employs 12 full-time staff and through hard work, proper planning and practical decisions – her business is now thriving. As she simply puts it “If you support your local community, they will support you.”

See the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXxmQeqDxF0&t=20s