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Starting a continuous improvement department

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  • #49672

    New to CI
    Participant

    Hi,
    I am a recent engineering graduate hired as an engineer, but placed in a new continuous improvement department at a small contract manufacturer. The originator of the department just left the company and I am now charged with developing the program. The culture of the company is open to improvement projects. I am taking a 6 sigma class and understnad the basics of quality and process improvement.
    My question is how do I start up a CI department? Are there any guidelines or documents that you can share? I want to make procedures for how we do data collection, run 6 sigma projects, choose projects, etc.
    Thanks for your help!

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    #170054

    shaner77
    Member

    A continuous improvement department? 
    Are you the only person undergoing six sigma training?  What is your support from upper management will they undergo training?
    If they don’t I would say your CI department is being setup for failure. 
    Not only do you need their support, upper managment must commit. 
    In your Six Sigma classes you’ll earn tools to answer your questions.
    I also suggest you take a class in crucial confrontations, you will find that you will have many. 

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    #170071

    New to CI
    Participant

    The department consists of me, another new to ci person and a couple of interns. There are 4 other people taking the 6 sigma class and management definitely wants to see the department succeed, but hasn’t provided much direct support. I have plenty of projects to work on, but no real resources (mainly because I don’t know what I need) and am being pushed to solve everything at once.
    I guess what I am looking for are worksheets or standard procedures that could help me get things more organized. I want to be flexible in the way we do things, but don’t want to keep reinvinting the wheel and doing things on the fly.

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    #170074

    Deanb
    Participant

    Recognize you (and your organization) are beginning a journey and must mature in logical steps. This means “walk before you run.” One of the most common errors at this stage is biting off more than can be chewed. The CMM (Capability Maturity Model) will ground you to seek advancement sensibly. If a process is a CMM Level I, recognize that to get to Level 5 you need to conquer 2, 3, and 4 first.Suggest you learn and apply the basics first, such as tools that help ID simple problems and their priorities (7 quality tools, FMEA, Pareto, etc). To get and sustain financial support consider doing COPQ with your CFO. Then start solving low hanging fruit in simple processes. The changes these will impose will probably occupy you for a while, buying you time to obtain training in higher SS skills. It also will give your organization time to adjust to a new environment of change and CI.Focus on simple processes first before going cross functional. Each area of the company may need to have several projects under their belt before they are ready to participate cross-functionally. My first year in a similar role documented 120 completed projects before we started taking on complex problems. The patience paid. This also helped upper management learn patience.Good luck.

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    #170080

    Howe
    Participant

    In addition to using the Capability Maturity Model I would also seek out other contract manufacturers that practice continuous improvement.  One will lead you to another.  One of the best circuit board contract manufacturers is Cirtronics.  They are in the NorthEast and have a website.  I would also recommend looking at Thomas Dunn MBB website: leansigmamart.com.  He has compiled a Process Improvement tool box that has all of the templates and tools that you will need for implementing your projects.  The Process Improvement Software is free and downloadable from his site.  It is an exciting journey!!  Best of luck.
    Marion

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    #170082

    Brandon
    Participant

    New to CI, take a look in eBooks on this site. Two suggestions – Exec Intro: get mngt to understand what is involved in implementing this program , their role and what to expect. Second – Project Selection Process – a means of identifying and prioritizing opportunities.
    Tee it up correctly from the start or you will face more challenges than need be faced.

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    #170104

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    New to CI,
    You have just made the case for not setting up the department.
    “……..and am being pushed to solve everything at once.”
    As long as you own CI then nobody has the job of fixing anything but you. You need to do one of two things.
    First choice – get rid of everyone working for you and set yourself up in an internal consulting role so you can advise the people who are supposed to own the process and therefor the improvement of that process on how to go about it. This probably won’t work well for you since you probably know next to nothing at this point in your career.
    Second choice – buils a huge department. Since all your process owners don’t want to fix their own stuff take the people they have working for them that are supposed to do it. As you figure stuff out then you direct them what to work on and you will look really smart and will have the resouces to do the job. If you are really smart you will hammer the idea of CI into those people and then get them promoted to the point that they end up running the other departments. Once they are in charge of everything else you won’t have to do anything because they will be doing what you believe is the CI job.
    The second sounds convoluted but I know a guy who did it. Took the second choice and about 20 years later was at the first choice because he didn’t need anyone any more. Nobody worked for him, didn’t do a lot (directly), was respected in the quality community because the plant had great quality. Not a great strategy for people climbing the corporate ladder. It takes a long time to develop.
    Good luck

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    #170110

    Severino
    Participant

    I would recommend getting yourself started on Policy Deployment.  Management.  You cannot improve unless you know what the goals are. 
    1.)  Your management should develop a strategic plan for the next 5 years. The goal should be to focus on Quality, Delivery, Cost, and/or Growth (one goal for each).  Do not assume that just because they have a list of stuff for you to do that they have a plan.  Everyone in the company needs to be aligned strategically.
    2.)  Break each goal down into annual goals that will get you progressively closer to the goal
    3.)  Develop metrics (KPIs).  These are how you will measure your progress towards your goal.
    4.)  Each annual goal should then have an action plan detailing how you will attack it.
    Keep things simple, keep it manageable and get a strategic direction before you start.  I would also recommend starting with Lean projects rather than full blow Six Sigma projects at first.  They will be simpler, more manageable and I’m sure there is a lot of low hanging fruit you can trim before you need to start applying DoEs, ANOVA, PFMEAs, etc.  Look for your waste and attack it with the simplest tool possible.  When you hit the point of diminishing returns that’s when you crack over into your SS projects… at least imo.

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    #170116

    Fontanilla
    Participant

    Very excellent points.  I want to make another, which also builds on a previous poster’s message:  Get an Executive Champion.  You need someone with firepower backing you at every step in the process (even when you are wrong, and you will be from time to time.)  You don’t want to become the “bad cop” in the company when it’s time to make corrective actions.  Leave that to your champion.  You need to be feeding (good) advice to this person, who is hopefully already trained, going the training with you, or is going in the next class after you.  Your champion needs to be someone with enough “stripes” to effectively influence the rest.  The top of the company would be a good place to start looking for your person. 
    Now, get to work on the previous poster’s message on strategy, with your champion and strategy team, and get solving problems!
    BTW, the points about starting small, using the 7 basic tools, etc., are also excellent advice.  In fact, you’ll find over the course of your career, these tools will solve the bulk of your problems.  The Pareto Principle applies here for sure.  More advanced tools will be used on relatively few projects.
    Best of luck to you!!

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    #170123

    Fake MBB
    Participant

    Disagree
    Seven tools are for the start up only,later you will need more advanced tools

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    #170129

    Swaggerty
    Participant

    May need…not will need…most things can be dug into using the 7 Q C tools. By & large, most issues have low lying fruits which can be fixed with a bit of common sense. Six Sigma heps u bring a structured approach to it

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    #170137

    Dr. Ravi Pandey
    Participant

    Dear You,
    You got a great role albeit it may have come to you a bit early.  You do need a mentor but not the kind who is going to tell you how to do what you are trying to do.  The one just asks you questions, makes you understand ther risks, and review with you.
    Creating a department that will create success is dream of many.  I had the opportunity and loved. 
    I tell people that to achieve any goal, you have to have a story..spend time developing the goal, understanding the needs, the politics, the culture, the resources etc….HR can help you on some of these change aspect (fortunately in my case, I had to mentor HR also – they did great work though).  You can use some of the tools from Six Sigma in this journey.  For example, I had used SIPOC to understand the interactions, information exchanges etc…For me department is like a assembly, a subsytem of a bigger product/system…that is how you can make sure that your team is performing in harmony with the bigger team,
     
    Hope that helps…Too long in consulting business…makes me a bit verbose :).
     
    Good luck.

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    #170141

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    George,
    We have done this “I can fix it all with the 7 basic tools” inane diatribe before. Show some data beyond your opinion.
    I will be glad to furnish you with the data we began a deployment with and I would really love to see you figure out 50% of the project because it could not have been done with the 7 basic tools.
    You guys and your 7 basic tools had their shot and didn’t deliver under the TQM flag. SS earned a place in the business world because it has repeatedly delivered results. Give it a rest you had you chance.
     

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    #170142

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Dr. Ravi Pandi,
    You got hammered once before by Stan for your self absorbed posting. He offered to get together and see just what you were made of. I never saw you accept that invitation. I would love to come and watch.

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    #170143

    Swaggerty
    Participant

    Have a look @ the post i replied to, Mike, b4 u start shooting off..

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    #170150

    Deanb
    Participant

    Mike,This is not an “us vs them” issue. Also, aren’t the 7 tools now being used (and even taught) by many as part of the SS toolkit? I know many cases that support SS doing better when basic CI preceded it. I also know many cases where even established SS companies have reintroduced basic tools, and this is logical because the more complex stuff you do, the more simple stuff you must also do, and vice-versa. Perhaps for complex consulting projects your comment has merit. But for someone needing to launch an organization-wide initiative from ground zero, I respectfully must question your position.

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    #170151

    Stevo
    Member

    Now this is more like it.
     
    Someone makes an innocent oversimplification of an issue –   gets called out  – then starts the justifying.  And the hole gets bigger.   Yea!!
     
    Stevo
     
    Ps.  I’m more of a “Use the right tool” then a “7 tools” guy.
     

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    #170153

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Deanb,
    When someones understanding of effectively solving problems in an organization is so superficial that they can only count tools then it becomes a “us versus them” discussion. The 7 basic tools were thrown out to the masses and people we told to go forth and do good. Was it effective? Probably to some extent but if it is so powerful why did Six Sigma more completely embraced by the business world? It got better results. Six Sigma has more than tools it is a methodology that takes the time to define and baseline issues so that a problem is actually set up to achieve some results and institutionalize the result. If you put it in the hands of someone who is marginally stupid they will still achieve some level of results by just following the steps.
    Let’s take the most basic piece of problem solving. Is my data any good? And the answer from TQM is? Of course. And the answer from Six Sigma is? Don’t know. Lets do a MSA. We fix more stuff with MSA than any other tool so you run in the 7 basic steps guys and they are control charting the data, and scatter plotting data and Pareto charting the data, etc and then they brainstorm the answers and at the end of the day the measurement system is so totally wacked they can brainstorm until their nose bleeds and they are all intrinsicly fulfilled and they aren’t going to fix it. They have their little circles around out of control points and lots of writing on the back of the chart and tweek the knobs and if you listen real close you can hear the gage sitting there giggling.
    Effective problem solving is about rigor and discipline and repeatability not about who has what tools. Are the 7 basic tools in SS? It depends on what emasculated version someone has been taught but generally yes. Are the 7 basic tools adaquate to do the job most need done? No.
    On one deployment I was asked by the CEO to track the Just Do It projects as well as the Six Sigma projects. What we found was the Just Do It projects generally Just Never Get Done. Why? No structure. You take a Just Do It project and run it as a DMC project and the completion rate goes up. Why? Structure, discipline and rigor.
    Just my opinion.

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    #170154

    Vallee
    Participant

    So now I can’t use my wrench for a hammer anymore?? But it worked just fine before….Yes understand the basic tools but understand and observe the process to see if they are even applicable. Goes back to the nature verses nurture argument, you need to understand how the tools interact with the process before selecting one of the other.HF Chris Vallee

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    #170156

    Deanb
    Participant

    The more experienced folks get in this game, the more “right tool” oriented they tend to get. Ditto that.

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    #170158

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    HF Chris Vallee,
    You can still use a wrench if you don’t have a hammer and you can still use a wrench on some big nails. If you want an efficiency improvement then you get a hammer for the big nails. You probably don’t want to use a wrench if the job requires finishing nails.
    Probably the one really intelligent step that has never been put into the Six Sigma process is “sit and watch the process run.” Sit long enough or often enough that people start doing the things they do when you aren’t there.
    There used to be a sign in the Marysville Honda plant that said “If you haven’t seen the problem don’t talk about the problem.” That is probably paraphrased to some extent and I haven’t been there in so long I don’t know if it is still there but it is still good advice.
    Once you understand the process then I believe you are right, tool selection will happen more naturally. Look at a fairly recent post about someone who wants to plot accidents/ safety events in a capability study. First you don’t solve much with a capability study and second what does it do to create any better understanding of a safety issue. When you are counting occurances it is like an attribute control chart. The root cause can be so far away that the time you spend with the chart is pretty much NVA. You still don’t know anything about root cause.
    Just my opinion.

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    #170159

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Stevo,
    Good observation when you look at the post that started this.
    The day is over here and they don’t have some antiquated embargo preveting them from importing really good rum. It is time to do a nice rum and coke (Coca Cola – Cuba Libre or as they say in Miami “give me a lie”) and enjoy the evening.
    You need to keep an eye on that Pittsburg condition. Take a couple zolft and call in the morning.
    Regards

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    #170160

    Deanb
    Participant

    Perhaps you should make those rums doubles.

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    #170164

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    What ever lead you to believe they weren’t? This is batch processing at its finest.
    If we could keep the ice from melting we would use a Kanban.
    Regards

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    #170188

    Swaggerty
    Participant

    A little bit verbose??? Stop kidding yourself..

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    #170192

    Lomalagi
    Participant

    Hi Deanb,
    I have been put in a similar situation as you this January. One thing I can say is that it is not as simple as getting six sigma training and getting on with it. More important than the six sigma methodology appears to be the people piece that involves inclusion of all staff, managing change, getting their buy-in etc seems to be the most crucial component. Understandably, the process is only as good as the people who are doing it….
    My team all have green belt training and still took a while to get things in order – we have done 3 projects using DMAIC and learnt heaps. One thing I wish could have been done is a proper strategy and careful planning befor this whole thing took off.
    Mike Carnell, thank you for your last comment, I found the comment on needing to have structure, discipline and rigor for “Just do its” in place extremely useful as I’m preparing a program that is aimed at establishing the CI culture in my organization and was struggling with how I was going to get the buy in of staff who are used to the “Just do it” way.

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    #170203

    Mikel
    Member

    Hey Doc,That was about the dumbest answer I have ever seen.The guy doesn’t have a prayer in the role he has been thrown into.
    Giving him round worded BS will not help.

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    #170228

    Sean
    Member

    I was in a similar position years ago.  I was tapped to start up a program, but was given a budget to help bring in an experienced company to help.  We chose Six Sigma Qualtec as they were the most experienced firm.  (company was the original Motorola Six Sigma International company).  
    If you are interested in who we worked with from the company, let me know and I will provide it.
    Sean 

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    #170230

    Quainoo
    Member

    I started in a company who the owners were also the management(champions) They ran their company like dinosaurs and butting heads with me constantly. My point is you need to be able to present the business case to them and have your facts presentable. I have been working with a program that walks you through this.  Too much to type and chat about here. If you get some time shoot me an email and I will see what I can do to help. [email protected] good luck otherwise.

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    #170291

    Forrest W. Breyfogle III
    Member

    When management asks for the creation of a continuous improvement department, often what is really needed is an improved overall business measurement-analysis-improvement system.
     
    Simply doing projects often can sound good; however, this typically leads to sub-optimizations that do not impact the business as a whole.  Often the continuous improvement department will later be disbanded during downsizing because any reported financial benefits are small relative to the big picture.
     
    Forrest

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    #170303

    The Yak Fisher
    Member

    Good morning “New To CI”
    The answer to your question takes much longer than anyone has time to type an answer to your post.  I have spent over 20 years in quality assurance.  I lead the effort to make two companies ISO 9000 ready and have conducted many process improvement projects over these years.  I am currently assisting a school district with their goal to win the Baldrige  for education.   Send me an email at [email protected]  and we can arrange a good time to talk.
    Good luck in your new position.
     

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    #170307

    Fake MBB
    Participant

    I’m more interested to know about your Baldrige efforts.
    Thanks and regards

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    #170312

    Real World
    Participant

    Email me and I’ll schedule some time for us to talk via land line.  There is credibility to all the advise posted so far to your request for “help.”  However, there is another side to the “naysaying” approach that you’re getting more of than actual help.  No need to throw in the towel…  Email me…

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    #170318

    shaner77
    Member

    Shoot me an email and I can send you some forms.
    Does anyone in your department know MS Access or another database? 
    I find it helpful to use as many electronic forms as possible.  Using report and query functions tracking effectiveness is much easier.  Access can readily import data from Excel and can crunch numbers as well.  Or data can be entered directly into Access.  This can help with project selection.
    Not sure what industry you’re working.  My experience is completely in manufacturing and contract manufacturing.  I recommended crucial confontrations training because in your work you will find people who clam up or lie out of fear you are trying to bring disciplinary action on them.  OR you may come at a point where someone else will feel as if you stepped on their toes.  The training helped in showing others that 1.  The project was beneficial to them.  2.  That CI is about improvement, not write ups and terminations.  CI actually reduces the number of write ups and terminations.  Low hanging fruits are plenty among people working the lines.  Production leadership is often pulled in so many directions that they don’t remember or can’t take the time to investigate much of what the production associates have to say. 
    In my case our suggestion system goes directly to HR who knows very little about the process, HR filters what suggestions make it to someone who would recognize the value.  It’s a broken system and is one of our low hanging fruits in process of being changed.  Maintaining a good relationship with those doing the work is priceless.  Go to break with them, eat lunch with them, and socialize after work with them from time to time.  Insist to their leadership they are rewarded for any idea, whether it’s used or not.  People will start to seek you out with ideas, consider all and give feedback as to why you will or will not pursue their idea.  If you pursue keep that person involved. 
     

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    #183497

    New to CI
    Participant

    Hi everyone,
    When I originally posted my question about how to start up a CI department, I was focused on solving manufacturing problems. Now, I much better understand what many of the replies implied about CI’s value being two fold. There is the process improvement that is achieved through lean, 5S, six sigma, etc. which serves a very important role in developing an improvement minded culture. And there is the strategic, informational, measurement development and analysis side which greatly contributes to the overall business development.
    In this same vein, does anyone have any advice on a good metric for a CI department to show the success or failure on a larger scale than project by project?
    Thanks!

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    #183499

    Taylor
    Participant

    OK, so its been a year can you show improvement in:

    Productivity
    Effeciency
    Profitability
    Cost Reduction
    Delivery Time
    Scrap Rates
    Head Counts
    Incident Reduction
    Safety
    Takt Time
    DPMO
    Work Order Reduction
    Reliability
    OEE
    MTBF
    MTTF
    ETC, ETC
    Without knowing your specific projects anyone of these metrics could be used to show improvement.

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