This article: Introduction Lean Six Sigma
|Lean Six Sigma: The value adding, perfect organization|
^ For more articles about (Lean) Six Sigma, use the drop down menu in the top left corner. This is the introductory article about Lean Six Sigma, another article introduces Six Sigma!
Introduction Lean Six Sigma
Really different organizations meet this profile! Lean Six Sigma is for example applied by chemical companies such as Shell (see the article below) and SABIC Innovative Plastics, but is also practiced within hospitals, such as the university hospital of Groningen in the Netherlands (UMCG).
Initially, Six Sigma was dominating in Lean Six Sigma. In DMAIC-projects, lead by Black Belts, Lean-tools like Value Stream Mapping were then only applied when needed. Today, there is an increasing appreciation for the people part of Lean. Examples are frequently visiting the shop floor as a manager (Go to the Gemba), visual management, and the formation of teams that improve their own way of working. An example of a company that applies Lean and Six Sigma in a more balanced way, with both methods being equally important, is Philips.
Lean Six Sigma (introductory article)
Shell optimizes end-to-end with Lean Six Sigma
By Dr Jaap van Ede, business-journalist, editor-in-chief business-improvement.eu.
The first version was published in 2008 in “Chemie Magazine”, the specialist journal of the Netherlands Chemical Industry Association (VNCI)
Between 2004 and 2008, Shell Chemical Netherlands (SCN) saved as much as 30 million Euro with the aid of Lean Six Sigma!
^ The chemical plants of Shell at Moerdijk in the Netherlands form a network.
Local optimization therefore doesn’t make much sense! Lean Six Sigma matches
well with the idea that processes should be optimized end to end.
This leads to the following conclusion: To make a company perform optimally, all production, business and management processes should be mapped, end to end. Next, Key Performance Indicators should be defined for each process, so that it becomes measurable how efficient this process runs.
Shell calls this unit and department exceeding approach “process (oriented) thinking”.
‘In the nineties we already recognized the importance of process oriented thinking’, says Hans Boerstra, change manager at Shell Chemical in the Netherlands (SCN). ‘However, we were not completely satisfied about the application of it. The right kind of performance indicators were not always available. Besides that, we had no structured approach to improve processes that performed below standards.’
DMAIC-cycle connects Lean en Six Sigma
Lean manufacturing reduces waste in time and materials, which results in increasingly efficient (logistic) processes. Only steps which add value for customers are considered to be useful. A process flow diagram (Value Stream Map) is used to identify which processes add value, and which don’t. Seven kinds of wastage are reduced as much as possible: overproduction, inventory, manufacturing errors, manufacturing disruptions, waiting times, transport and unnessary movements.
> more about Six Sigma
‘If a certain process does not perform as planned, then you would like to have a standard approach to find and eliminate the root cause’, says Boerstra. ‘Thereto we adopted Six Sigma, and later we added Lean tools. So nowadays we apply Lean Six Sigma: Lean to make our processes more efficient by removing steps that don’t add value, and Six Sigma to strive for constant quality in each remaining step’
Every improvement project is executed conform the DMAIC project cycle of Six Sigma. The letters in this acronym stand for the project phases Define (what are we going to measure and why), Measure, Analyze (why is quality below standard), Improve and Control (lay down the new standards)
Change manager Hans Boerstra: "We aim to optimize business processes end to end. Six Sigma fits perfectly, because DMAIC-projects are done by multidisciplinary teams.
That way, local optimization is prevented"
Another positive aspect is that DMAIC-projects are executed by multidisciplinary teams. ‘This reduces the risk of local optimization. Six Sigma thus supports process oriented thinking’
Last-but-not-least: Six Sigma puts the needs of the customer first. The goal of each DMAIC-project is to improve those quality aspects which are seen as critical in the eyes of the customer.
^ The persons interviewed for this article. From left to right: Black Belt Nicoline
Eikelenboom, Change Manager Hans Boerstra, Green Belt Joep van Giezen,
Yellow belt Cees Knook.
‘Within GE Six Sigma became compulsory, but within Shell there is not such a diktat’, compares Boerstra. ‘It was our free choice to start with Lean Six Sigma within SCN, although we get support from Shell Learning. They train our future Black and Green Belts. Those are the people who become respectively full-time and part-time DMAIC-project leaders.’
Another difference with GE is that Lean Six Sigma is not a global excellence program within Shell. ‘We do have global programs like GAME, which stands for Global Asset Management Excellence’, Boerstra points out. ‘GAME standardizes a number of important working methods which affect the safety, reliability and availability of our factory processes.’
Theoretically, a DMAIC-project within SCN could result in the wish to change a global standard, as defined by GAME. ‘If so, we have to consult the process owner concerned. However, in most cases that will not be necessary. Within the boundaries of GAME, a lot of improvement is possible by a correct implementation of the standards. Besides that, not all the crackers of Shell are the same.’
Reduction of accidents
An example of a project which came up during the Recognize-step, was the wish to reduce the number of accidents during turn-arounds to zero. ‘During overhaul the number of incidents is relatively high by nature. This is caused by the huge amount of unusual work, done by a lot of external employees.’
Subsequently, safety experts were appointed. ‘Each day during a turn-around, these experts walk around to see how the wind blows. They summarize their findings by a score for each of the eleven points of interest. This way, even a subjective aspect as the attitude to work was made measurable. When a certain score is low, action is taken at once, so that the risk of accidents is reduced immediately. In addition, we saw that the level of security became more constant after a while.’
^ Value Stream Mapping identified which activities in the laboratory at Moerdijk
add value, and which don’t.
In this case, the focus was on Lean: Value Stream Mapping was applied to identify which activities in the laboratory at value, and which don’t.
^ By relocating popular analyzing equipment to central positions,
waste in the form of ‘walking’ was reduced.
‘A third example of a simple but effective improvement was raising the time limit before the Laboratory Information Management System logs out automatically. This used to be 10 minutes and is now 30 minutes. Analysts now less often need to login.’
Interestingly, the primary focus of the project was not on logistic improvement, but on reducing the work stress. ‘Preceding the project, all employees working in shifts said that their workload was to high. Now this has dropped to 56%.’
A new DMAIC-project should lead to a further reduction of the work stress, by leveling the demand for assays. ‘At the moment, there are three priority levels. Soon this will be raised to five, to make a better spread of the work load possible. In addition, the number of unnecessary requests for assays will be reduced.’
More efficient transshipment
In Moerdijk, the lion’s share of the thirty bulk chemicals are supplied and/or removed by boat.
That fact is important, since the space at the quay increasingly became a bottleneck. ‘On one hand, there is an increasing demand for transshipment capacity. On the other hand we saw that the efficiency of that process was deteriorating. As a result, our expenses for harbor dues were increasing. In the long run, it would even become possible that timely supply of raw materials to production couldn’t be guaranteed anymore’.
It became clear that there was a need for a cultural change. From now on, everyone should have to strive for transshipments as quick as possible.
^ A DMIAC improvement project, aimed at more efficient transshipments, proved
that investment in a second quay was not necessary!
Each team not only maps what can be improved, but also implements their findings, and finally secures that a return to the old situation becomes impossible.
‘Today we have 15 Black Belts, although some of them work part-time’, says Boerstra. ‘In addition there are 25 Green Belts.’
Besides that, inspired management is of crucial importance. Third, business priorities should always come first. ‘In addition, it should remain attractive for employees to work on Six Sigma improvement projects’, Boerstra says.
Grip on wastewater
This project clearly demonstrates the usefulness of “process oriented thinking”. It concentrated on two questions:
The data-driven approach of Lean Six Sigma turned out to be perfectly suitable to solve these questions!
Process water goes to a storage tank, and from there to an installation for wastewater purification. Rainwater is immediately discharged into the harbor. ‘Unless the rainwater is contaminated, for example due to leakage of chemicals on our site.’
Wastewater purification is a biological process. Therefore the concentration of organic substances may not exceed a certain limit, which is called “chemical oxygen demand” or COD.
First, it was mapped what were historical causes of overruns. ‘According to the Pareto-principle, in general 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. We hoped to find that the lion’s share of the overruns is connected to wastewater from a single production process. In that case we could have improved the process control of that part of the factory. However, we found something different: The major part of the overruns, 34%, was connected to… cause unknown!’
This lead to the following conclusion: There was a need to record incidents better!
‘The situation is comparable by pouring a bottle of aftershave somewhere into the water’, Van Giezen explains. ‘Therefore super-fast sampling is crucial, otherwise the contamination has already past by.’The new approach bears fruit. Since the introduction of the water management tool, the number of COD-overruns was reduced by 50%!
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