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No Projects in the Hopper!

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  • #30154

    j
    Participant

    I’m a BB in the UK working for a Large U.S. Corp.I have just successfully completed my second project only to discover that there are no projects in the ‘hopper’ and have spent the last three weeks trying to identify one. I am being approached now by senior executives with opinions they want validating, ‘gut feelings’ or issues that are simply “just do’s”. We seem to be lacking the data to identify potential issues. So I am now setting up data gathering systems to then trend in a few months time to establish whether there is a problem to pursue.I notice that our US six sigma project list now includes a project to ‘Increase Projects in the Hopper’!Anyone suffering from the same problems?RegardsJ

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    #78279

    Mares
    Participant

    J,
    Try having a look about what are the company needs. Where are the problems at this moment? Look at business results: are earnings, margin and cash flow on target? Each of those aspects may trigger projects or unleash opportunities.
    Other questions: is your business under recessive market conditions? If Yes, may be you need to focus on costs based on the products or services with less contribution margin. Is it oversold? Great! In that case you may explore the potential to increase productivity, or gross volume… so impacting on earnings.
    In my opinion, at this moment your customers are the top managers, who may represent stakeholders. My suggestion is: listen the Voice of Your Customer… and look for $$$.
    Regards,
    Adrian

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    #78280

    Patch formerly Patrick
    Participant

    J,
    You may also want to review the strategic business priorities for the year.  Are there objectives to be met that can use the help of a ss project.  For example if improving cash flow is a priority, are there project areas thst will influence this outcome. 
    My thoughts.
    Patch

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    #78288

    Quainoo
    Member

    The time to implement six sigma project is the same time to identify more projects to work with.
    While we evaluate the potential causes that will guide you to many directions and only limited way you will work to find the solutions.
    But others means more opportunity that need you to verify after this project.
    Another tool you can practice is the value stream map from Lean tooks. That helps you find the possible waste to eliminate — great project too.
    Vincent, China
     
     
     
     
     

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    #78292

    Ray Howcroft
    Participant

    We are suffering from the second part of your problem, we have projects in the ‘hopper’ but have had to question if they are suitable, for the same reason – most are ‘Lean’ projects at best or ‘just do it’ at worst.  The way we are rectifying this is to carry out a diagnostic to determine the gap between ‘theoretical’ possibilities and ‘actual’.  We do this for Efficiency, Spoilage, Maintenance Costs and Direct Material Costs.  It takes 4 people a full week to complete but will give us projects which we will fit into a 3 year plan.
    Yours
                RH

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    #78295

    Birgit
    Participant

    Hi J,
    I work as a creativity facilitator for business improvement projects in Germany and have had a couple of inquieries going into the same direction.
    In my opinion, using creativity tools rather than sticking to problem gathering (this is fine for a first step while the problems are luring around) provides more interesting breakthrough projects.
    Birgit

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    #78297

    Harjot
    Participant

    Hey J, you’ve got great advice from Adrian, Patch, Ray, Vincent and Birgit … and I can only say that just close your eyes and visualize your internal and external processes … I mean really walk through them like a customer (internal/external) would … there is always scope for more … this approach really works for me …
    The other sign of an empty bucket indicates only a lot of “trash” than meets the eye … dig deeper … and whatever industry you are in, just cull more data after the “visual walk” and am sure there will be opportunities … and sure you need lots of creativity!
    Hope this helps!
    Harjot

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    #78299

    Neupane
    Participant

    Ladies & Gentlemen,
    Indeed there are good suggestions for a good question.
    Unsure if the following message thread is relevent in this discussion forum; however, please help to understand.
    In every management’s initiative, many of us may have come across the organiazation’s intent to increase revenue,  say by 15% year on year.  Some part of it may be thru selling / marketing new product introduction in a new geography. 
    Directionally the strategy may be correct but how to work further on using a Six Sigma approach to increase the revenue in sales & marketing point of view.
    If J is offered this kind of initiative, what will be the approach.
    Regards
     
     
     
     

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    #78300

    Frank Voehl
    Participant

    One of the most effective ways to solve this problem in a systematic manner is to start using a Cost-of-Quality tracking system to identify the High-Leverage Opportunities.  This dramatically improves the selection process.

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    #78303

    Eddie Conklin
    Participant

    Hey J
    I’m a Leanie, Have you mapped all your Value Streams. When you do this the hopper will be filled and you will have to get another “hopper”. Lean does a great job of exposing waste, and would a perfect mate.
    If you need more info on Lean please let me know
    Eddie C

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    #78304

    Daniel Ramirez
    Participant

    In the beggining, when your Company is a mess, there are plenty of opportunities for big improvements…you don’t need to look for projects: they’re everywhere. But once you start improving, or if your company does reasonably well, you have to look hard for projects, specially some with big savings on them. That’s when I think you absolutely need to have or establish good Data gathering systems all over the place. Having a Project hopper or pipeline requires constant updating, because some of those get old and are no longer issues or there are bigger issues now.

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    #78307

    Chad
    Participant

    You’re not alone.  My organization has yet to realize Six Sigma projects are dependent on processes and data.  Data without processes is will not yield conclusive projects. 
    But ask the executives what is important to the business and align projects with the business strategy.
     
    Chad

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    #78308

    W
    Member

    Tell me about it. In this era of cost cutting and layoffs senior management are so concerned with what projects I have and how quickly we can get the benefits that the Six Sigma process is being pushed ahead at record pace.

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    #78309

    howe
    Participant

    J,
    I agree with Patch.  Six Sigma project should be driven off of your company’s strategic plan.  Additionally, many Six Sigma projects should generate additional projects.

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    #78313

    Tab
    Member

    I am curious as to how your company has structured its Six Sigma deployment.
    Some companies initially focus on the completion of high profile process improvement projects by Black Belts.  This approach generates enthusiasm for the program with the delivery of significant cost savings from Six Sigma.  As most companies have “Low Hanging Fruit (LHF),” this approach often works well initially.  As the LHF is harvested, the opportunities are fewer.  Approaches such as brainstorming and other idea generating forums become less useful over time.
    As the Six Sigma deployment matures, I believe that it becomes increasingly important for process owners (Yellow Belts) to employ Six Sigma tools to manage their daily work.  One of these tools, control charts, is important in differentiating between process performance issues involving special cause and common cause variation.  Typically, process performance issues involving special cause variation are handled by Yellow Belts (and their process team) and issues involving common cause variation are the basis for improvement projects assigned to Black Belts.
    As a Six Sigma deployment matures, I think it becomes increasingly important that Yellow Belts use the Six Sigma tools to manage their processes.  Without this change in focus, I would expect a Six Sigma deployment to eventually founder.
    I am not sure what approach your company might have taken or where you might be in your deployment.  I hope this helps.

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    #78315

    aush
    Participant

    Dear Eddie
    CAn you give some more details on lean . I wii appriciate if you can send some stuff on my email add [email protected] or post it on this site.
    thanks

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    #78319

    Leung
    Participant

    It’s really the job of the senion six sigma team to have a process by which projects are suggested and reviewed according to business criteria (need, finances, etc.). It’s really a shame when six sigma isn’t deployed properly…it gives everyone a bad name who’s doing it.

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    #78320

    Eddie C
    Participant

    J,
    I have found that not only does Lean and sixsigma coexist perfectly, they depend on each other. What happens is Lean strips out all of the non-value activities leaving only the process exposed. With the processes exposed you can easily understand its variation and capability. Why your sixsigma projects don’t get the bang for the buck is because of sub optimization. You worked hard to eliminate the variation of the process and have it in control (yield 100%) and it goes and sits on a shelf are moved to inspection. On the other hand, you lean your environment and your process is out of control, you have gained nothing because you have to overproduce, rework, wait, etc. Anyway, Lean is listed on this site under methodologies. If you need any more help e-mail me directly.
    Sixsigma’s Lean Friend
     Eddie C     

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    #78324

    DrSeuss
    Participant

    UK BB,
    Your company has a serious problem…Top management has not been brought totally into the Six Sigma program.  I also work for a large global company and every year during the planning for the next year budgets and resources, my top management is given its targets for next year.  These targets get funneled down to each operating manager.  Each of these managers has the responsibility to deliver on these new goals or they will be replaced by new managers who will succeed.  Each operating team then generates a hopper of potential Six Sigma projects to deliver the targets.  Some projects are real and some projects fizzle out.  The goal is to generate enought  projects that can be delivered to achieve the business targets.  My company has been operating this way for over 100 years (even before Six Sigma).  The Six Sigma organization has a project tracking database that tracks all projects & benefits.  This database serves two main purposes:  1.  It is a repository of all projects and information; and 2. The financial information is captured for the Six Sigma organization to justify its existence.  The Six Sigma project generated dollars can be tracked and compared to the cost of the program.
    Your company needs to use a process similar to the one described above.  It adds accountability from the bottom to the top and ensures a full project hopper.

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    #78332

    Kim Niles
    Participant

    Interesting question thought provoking comments. Please review and critique the following list of project selection guidelines. It’s supposed to be in order of priority and I just made it up on the fly after reviewing your messages.
    Notes:

    The potential savings must exceed expected expenditures after including soft costs in all cases.
    Actual selection should be performed by the Master Black Belts and Champions as they have the best chance of seeing a projects true potential savings and realistic costs.
    In some cases, ROI’s (return on investment; cost justifications) will need to be performed.
    Project Selection Guidelines (in order of subjective likelihood)

    Strategy based projects in accordance to plan, balanced scorecard, known weaknesses, high risks, etc.
    Obvious cost, customer satisfaction, productivity, reliability, or related base projects taken by priority, identified through cost of quality programs, reject data bases, customer complaints, management complaints, etc.
    QFD or VOC reports
    Areas of particular interest to sales support (i.e. where pretty pictures showing control help sales).
    Old Six Sigma project or Kaizen event leftovers or spin-off projects.
    Areas where artisan methods can be quantified and or converted to scientific control.
    Areas where continuous variables are present but have not been optimized.
    By asking why 5 times for every key process in the company.
    Process owner concerns
    Through Lean, 5S, or safety tour concerns.
    What do you think?
    Sincerely,
    KN – https://www.isixsigma.com/library/bio/kniles.asp

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    #78333

    Ashman
    Member

    This is a training issue.  We train the champions that they own the define stage of the project.  They can only assign the project to a BB or GB once they have met the define tollgate.  These champions have accountability for making their business goals for the next year, as well as, defining meaningful projects that are signed off by finance.  On the surface this may appear to slow the process down, but in the long run you have quality projects driven by a champion who is fully engaged.  Your “root cause” problem is training and accountability by the champions.

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    #78341

    Sridhar Prayaga
    Member

    Rajan,
    I’m just starting to learn about this business and would highly appreciate if you’d keep me posted on any ideas you get/recieve on the situation you outline. Thanks
    [email protected]

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    #78343

    Sinnicks
    Participant

    Birgit,
    You made an intriquing reference to creativity tools.  What tools are you referring to?  References?  Thanks, Mark

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    #78356

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    J,
    I have been off line a while and didn’t read the whole string so I apologize if this is redundant.
    The bottleneck should always be a project. If you are capacity constrained you will increase capacity. If you are not capacity constrained , velocity will increase. Nothing bad happens when you fix a bottleneck – it just moves to the next slowest operation (now you have another project).
    If you are in a manufacturing type operation start at the last operation and match the tact time of your customer and work backwards into your factory. Some (actually most) of these will not end up SS projects but it will uncover several (eventually).
    Good luck.

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    #78399

    Majumdar
    Participant

    No easy answer. In our company we are meeting with the department heads and preparing a spread sheet indicating what processes are going on, and creating a metric for each. Additionally, at the monthly managers meetings the President of the company has insisted on a brainstorming session where each group must come up with a project, a primary metric, and COPQ,    

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    #78404

    Girish S dandekar
    Participant

    Dear J,
    I am surprised to understand that there are no projects as for any organisation there are always key business issues & important processes(manufacturing as well as transactional)which can be translated in one or more six sigma projects.
    One thing agreed that there may not be suffficient data on these issues,in which case data collection will be the first step before six sigma projects can be identified.
    Best of Luck
    Best Regards
    G S Dandekar
     

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