How to achieve process excellence using lean and six sigma techniques
To achieve tangible business value from continuous improvement initiatives we must move beyond the primary focus on method and tools. Lean and Six Sigma techniques have been adopted by many industries; however, we are seeing 50-70 percent of initiatives fail to reach their full potential, ‘hitting a wall’ after initial improvements. The central tenets to real business transformation are threefold:
- Role-modelling Lean Leadership behaviour which truly empowers employees;
- Ensuring improvements are connected by aligning initiatives to core business strategy;
- Creating targets that go beyond cost reduction to time-based and service level competitiveness.
However, there are often significant barriers which must be overcome in order to affect lasting change.
Leaders must role model change – the Lean Leadership maturity model
Leaders need to be open to learning and change themselves, and creating a learning environment for those around them. This is why Lean and Six Sigma methods and tools, when used in isolation, are not enough to deliver lasting operational transformation. Instead, they should be used as part of a broader approach to driving continuous improvement. The Lean Leadership maturity model articulates the evolution of Lean deployment in most organisations.
Deploying rigorous standards, tools and audits initially deliver strong results, but over time improvements slow and results plateau. Getting over the ‘wall’ needs a different approach to leadership. Leadership must focus on reinforcing Lean behaviours through situational coaching (on-the-job). Time spent at Genba (time spent observing from the ‘shop floor’) coaching teams and supporting continuous improvement must be the first priority, and if demonstrated consistently is truly transformational.
“How do we break down organisation silos?”
A team is by definition, a mutually accountable group with complementary skills, committed to a common purpose. However, senior leadership teams are often treated as distinct groups of high-performing individuals, while shared goals are often distilled down to financial performance, which can appear abstract in the day to day.
Finding a more perceptible shared objective can appear difficult. But in fact, it is business transformation itself that should be the common aim. The goal: drive performance improvements across the end-to-end value stream and create a rewarding place for people to work. This will result in a high-performing organisation and create an environment for true continuous improvement. Integrating business transformation governance directly into the business performance management system locks improvement activities directly to business results, creating pull throughout the organisation. To successfully secure business targets, teams must work together to mitigate risks and support each other in implementing end-to-end improvement initiatives.
Leaders must role model change – the Lean Leadership maturity model
All of the above rely on leaders being open to learning and change themselves, and creating a learning environment for those around them. Successful business transformation which delivers rapid results and lasting change cannot occur if all levels of the organisation are not involved equally.
This is why Lean and Six Sigma methods and tools, when used in isolation, are not enough to deliver lasting operational transformation. Instead, they should be used as part of a broader approach to driving continuous improvement. The Lean Leadership maturity model articulates the evolution of Lean deployment in most organisations. Organisations start by deploying rigorous standards, prescriptive tools and audits to measure implementation with leaders driving implementation through compliance to standards. This will initially deliver strong results but over time improvements will slow down and results will plateau; you have “hit the wall”. To get over the wall the focus must move to flexibility, experimentation and Lean thinking. This needs a different approach to leadership. Leadership must focus on reinforcing Lean behaviours through situational coaching (on-the-job). Critical to success, is the time commitment from leaders to coach and support their teams in the implementation of Lean. Time spent at Gemba (time spent observing from the ‘shop floor’), coaching teams and supporting continuous improvement must be the first priority, and if demonstrated consistently is truly transformational.
Which organisations deliver change best?
Those that deliver change well tend to have strong values and are consistent in their approach to driving performance and implementing change, their leadership behaviours and focus on long-term impacts. Not to be mistaken with personal style which is always unique to the individual, behaviours can and should be consistent. Those leadership behaviours must support the values of the organisation and be specific to what the organisation does and how it works, and are relevant to everybody with people leadership responsibility, from executives to middle managers to team leaders.
“The worst behaviour you demonstrate is the best behaviour you can expect of others” is a powerful statement, because it is simple and true. An organisation cannot have multiple standards of leadership behaviour if it hopes to create a consistent way of working and a high performing culture delivering breakthrough performance.
Jonathan Gray is VP at Hitachi Consulting – the global management consulting and IT services business of Hitachi Ltd., – responsible for the delivery capability of the EMEA industrials practice. Jonathan has over 15 years of management consulting experience complemented with time spent in industry and finance, and specialises in Operations Strategy, Leadership and Performance Management across the value chain.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.