As a former forklift operator, I can understand the complexities of forklift operations. I know absolutely nothing about forklift manufacturing, but one could argue that it might be harder to operate a forklift than build one…

The very first Six Sigma project I ever heard about involved a forklift. It perked my interest, because naturally, I knew my way around a lift. I was reading Harry and Schroeder’s Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations my first day as an intern for SSA & Company, when I came across one of the Ploymerland (division of GE) Black Belt projects.

With customers threatening taking their business elsewhere,employees were trying to figure out why there was so much damage to delivered goods…. After using Six Sigma tools to identify the root cause, turns out the characteristics of the forklift as well as forklift operator experience played roles in damaging the goods. Instead of training lift operators or hiring the most experienced, the simple and least expensive solution was installing shorter forks on every lift, eliminating the opportunity for puncture damage altogether. I remember thinking, “Wow what an easy fix to a problem you didn’t know you even had.”

Six Sigma has come full circle since Polymerland-From forklifts being the root causes of defects in Six Sigma projects, to manufacturers using Six Sigma to build better forklifts more efficiently. Such is the case at Crown. Six Sigma has saved the company about 1.5 million so far. Not too shabby.

Crown Embraces Continuous Improvement,, Jan 29, 2009

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