Stephen Dowle, Global Head of Operations

Two years ago, the day after New Year’s Day to be precise, I was asked a question by both the CEO and COO, in my opinion “which is best Kaizen, Lean, or Six Sigma?” Having thought about this and knowing full well that this very question has been debated for what appears to eons; my response was “all of them”.

Not being one to sit on the fence, I added that in my experience each philosophy has its own merits depending on the intended application or activity. Indeed, I had found that a fusion gave the appropriate and desired results. This is due to each sharing fundamental process steps. Let me explain.

There were a number of opportunities available for Continuous Improvement Programs, however, one in particular needed to be transformational. This was the layout of the Plant and the method with which DGP Intelsius manufactured and assembled its products. As a transformational event, this took in almost every element involved in Lean with elements of Sigma and ultimately ongoing improvement steps of Kaizen.

Production was located such that personnel encouraged to enter via the warehouse caused problems. This included people and workplace transport conflicts, absence of visual management, bottlenecks in process flow, no build / cycle accountability, high stock levels of finished goods (PUSH not PULL) – all leading to costly downtime and lengthy line change-over, etc.

Once the ‘Vision’ had been established, a strategy was identified to realise that vision. Intelsius needed a structured Plan and a Change Agent to create the need for change and deliver the plan. The need for change needs to be communicated and that involves one of the most pivotal criteria in this process, which is to engage people and motivate them in order to drive change forward.

Our vision is to become a World Class Manufacturer employing Good Manufacturing Practices.

Our journey has started in using DMAIC techniques (Sigma), to measure and benchmark; establishing Takt time (LEAN), the time required to manufacture a product to meet demand; and monitoring 4M’s (Kaizen) Man, Machine, Movement and Materials.

Suffice to say production was moved to improve safety, and give visibility.

One Piece Flow was introduced which reduced labour, allowed for quicker build / cycle times reducing the amount of finished goods stock, and opened up capacity to meet the growth demand, eliminating over-production. These all were put into place addressing the 8 wastes. Continuous Improvement programs were employed in other areas of production, the warehouse and planning, realising significant gains.

Whilst I believe the journey will never be completed as there is always need for improvement and that there is no doubt whichever philosophy is adopted there is one thing that unites them all and that is…. the desire for wanting and making improvement!

Oh and the question that was asked by the CEO and COO, it was in my 3rd stage interview.

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