iSixSigma’s inaugural Retail Forum for Process Excellence opened on Monday, March 28, with six hours of educational workshops. The conference runs through Thursday, March 31 at the Westin Edina Galleria in suburban Minneapolis.

Robert Hafey, the president of RBH Consulting and the author of the book “Lean Safety – Transforming Your Safety Culture Using Lean Management”, started the day with a phenomenal session that informed attendees on how they could positively impact safety at their workplaces through the utilization of lean techniques.

“A common requirement to attain either world-class lean or world-class safety is the ongoing engagement of the workforce,” said Hafey, a former manager at U.S. Steel and the former manufacturing and lean director at Flexible Steel Lacing Company. “Lean thinkers all agree that it is this cultural-changing employee engagement activity that leads to long-term lean success.”

Hafey said that too often, lean has been used as a cost-savings methodology by management and, as a result, gaining employee interest and buy-in can be difficult. This workshop suggested a different path to lean success – a safe path. By using some of the common tools in a lean thinker’s toolbox and focusing on safety instead of cycle time, Hafey stated that organizational change agents can easily start to build an understanding and acceptance of lean while improving safety in their facilities.

“On the safety side, safety compliance (OSHA) is the focal point of most safety programs,” said Hafey. “Reacting to injuries and near-misses is the norm. Yet an opportunity exists to proactively engage the workforce in a meaningful program focused on safety improvement. How better to show respect for people?”

During the workshop, attendees participated in group exercises that were aimed to help improve the safety program in their retail and non-retail facilities. Exercises included:

  • Process mapping an incident/accident investigation process that gives focus to root cause analysis and corrective actions
  • Process map other safety processes such as forklift training, evacuation plan, lockout/tagout training, safety walk, emergency response plan, etc.
  • Writing a safety cultural vision statement
  • Creating an employee safety engagement survey
  • Developing an outline for a safety improvement program
  • Create safety improvement and safety observation forms that can engage all employees in a business

Attendees left with a better understanding of how they can make a safety difference when they return to workplace.

In the afternoon, Suzanne Long and Seth Rosenfield of SSA and Company led a workshop titled “Shifting the Curve in Retail: Driving Profits Through Process Excellence”.

Today’s economic environment demands that retailers take a new, more disciplined approach to profit improvement. Whether the corporate goal is to drive revenue, reduce shrink, optimize labor or lower costs, “Shifting the Curve in Retail” should enable attendees and their firms to understand both how process excellence can be applied in the retail industry, as well as how companies are using methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma to drive breakthrough results. This session included a revealing study that SSA conducted of three major United States retailers, as well as fascinating, real-life case studies of how leading companies, both in retail and other industries, have achieved billions of dollars in cost savings and revenue improvement.

This session provided interesting insights and actionable ideas that will allow attendees to change and enhance their perspective on the impact of process excellence in the retail industry.

The presenters spoke from a wealth of experience. Long, the retail practice leader at SSA, joined that consultancy in 2008. With nearly 20 years of retail experience, she was one of the pioneers of Six Sigma within the retail industry. Prior to joining SSA, Long was the director of Six Sigma for Albertsons Inc. (now Supervalu), the third-largest food and drug retailer in the country. In that role, she led the first program of its kind in the grocery industry, and one of the first such programs in retail. Rosenfield, managing director of SSA’s revenue-enhancement practice, has been with the firm since mid-2010. He previously held executive roles with Rosenfield Partners, Window Film Depot, Katzenbach Partners and Ernst & Young.

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