Stephen Turnipseed, Lean Sigma Process Advisor, presented an overview of Chevron’s Lean Sigma activity in the San Joaquin Valley Strategic Business Unit (SJVBU). Although he said Chevron Corporation is only two and a half steps into enterprise-wide deployment of Six Sigma, the SJVBU has benefited from the tools since its first project at a water plant in 1999. Lean Sigma at Chevron continues to grow and is presently expanding into all of North America Exploration and Production as well as select business units overseas.

The majority of Steve’s presentation was about how Chevron has gone about engaging their business partners in Lean Sigma and he included best practices, success stories, and “must do’s”. He first addressed the question, “Why involve business partners?” and gave the following answers:

  • Chevron processes are dependent on / tied to our business partner’s processes
  • To make step change improvements in Chevron performance, the performance all along our value stream must improve
  • To make improvements in the Chevron value stream, our business partners must be part of the improvement effort
  • To make rapid process improvements, we must have a joint effort

Next he suggested alternative methods to working with them (training, consultation) and two ways to define the relationship: contractual or voluntary. Chevron chose to invite their business partners on a voluntary basis which proved to be successful as every one of the invited business partners participated in the program plus Chevron received requests from additional companies to be included in the training.

Steve concludes with a list of ‘must do’s’ when involving business partners in your Six Sigma program:

  • Create a safe environment for participants
  • Develop a supportive, not a punitive approach
  • Make it safe for business partners to bring forward improvement suggestions
  • Let them know it is OK to point out where Chevron is the bottleneck
  • Split direct competitors into separate training events
  • Keep internal processes of business partners strictly confidential

Examples of joint projects:

  • Reduction of oil well workover rig cycle time
  • Reduction of lead time for Engineering Drawings
  • Implementing “flow” in above-ground pipe installation and replacement
  • Improve productivity of installing thermal insulation on aboveground pipe
About the Author