Lean Six Sigma (LSS) thrives on the notion that there is always room for improvement, and it looks to eliminate defects that can hinder the flow of a process from moving toward its performance end goal. On the day-to-day ground level, as challenges arise, solutions are sought not by looking in the rearview mirror asking what could have been done. The question to pose instead is “How can we improve?” to prevent future challenges. This is accomplished with help of the people who touch every part of daily operations through a process called managing for daily improvement.
Where MDI and LSS Meet
Managing for Daily Improvement (MDI) is a mechanism in which organizations implement visual management strategies and facilitate key performance indicators (KPIs) at the ground level with day-to-day employee activities. This is born out of the idea that, psychologically, individuals want to do well. Employees who look to improve their everyday processes and contribute to their professional work in a positive way are the top performers in the organization. And while many companies tend to run daily activities through a top down approach, MDI flips that type of management pyramid to drive change from the bottom up. Let’s say, for example, that a manager oversees several different business units running independently from one another. If these separate units find similar challenges through breakout sessions, it can open the doors for employees to develop empathy and share experiences with each other – thereby creating cross-team cohesiveness.
For companies focused on continuous improvement, MDI is the springboard to answering how processes can be improved, and LSS provides the tools to implement these improvements. So, how can you put this mechanism into action? First, have individual business unit operation teams meet daily to discuss previous day goals and actual results. These teams then can identify the root causes that created shortfalls in reaching goals and ensures that the solution is documented. Lastly, the team should assign responsibility for the action required to reach the desired solution and determine a time frame for completion. MDI allows for those challenges that cannot be quickly resolved to be escalated, and leadership commits to help find resolution for those particular issues. This increases employee morale, improves performance and empowers employees to affect change from the ground level up. Because the team is much more self-managed, managers move from being reactionary problem-solvers to strategic, proactive thinkers providing sustainable solutions.
Employee and Customer Benefit
MDI comes with great benefits on both the employee and customer fronts. Employees feel that they are empowered to drive change in the organization, and barriers between operational units continue to be broken and bridged together. Most importantly, MDI and the use of visual management creates an environment where exceptions or shortfalls to performance targets are immediately apparent and as such, can be addressed in a more efficient manner. Due to the enhanced visibility of data and metrics across peer groups, sales leads have improved their customer service by walking prospective customers through the operations process and comfortably answering any queries on how success is measured. The MDI process creates an environment of positive reinforcement, allowing everyone the ability to contribute, which in turn has a direct positive effect on the customer.
Continuous Improvement from the Bottom Up
The roadmap to identifying issues is encouraging teams to talk and problem-solve amongst themselves, and the real value for MDI is the opportunity to identify and process those issues by empowering employees to drive change. And the customers will feel that added value not only in metrics but also from a morale perspective. Overall, MDI provides organizations with key takeaways and measured KPIs. Ground-level teams that face daily challenges have a newfound camaraderie and can view each other as counterparts working towards a common goal, allowing both employees and leadership to approach issues strategically and proactively.
Have you considered implementing MDI in your daily team operations?
Keith Richard is Vice President, Operations, Transportation Management, at Transplace. Mr. Richard’s tenure in the logistics and transportation sector extends 30 years and he has proven leadership skills in managing and leading various aspects of logistics and transportation operations involving trucking, shipping, intermodal, 3PL operations, and overseeing department of defense contracts. Prior to joining Transplace, Mr. Richard spent 11 years at Sea-Land Service, where he was the Director of the Western Network. He also served as Director of the Ryder Logistics Network and Vice President of the Gulf Region for Intermodal Trucking Company. He then led the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) for Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) in Iraq and Kuwait. This experience included leading a $1.5B operation with 2,000 employees for the Department of Defense (DOD) and Mr. Richard was selected as one of four executives to represent KBR and Halliburton before the Congressional House Reform Committee. Mr. Richard later became the Director of Transportation at Ryder, leading the $300MM transportation and logistics operations for Dr. Pepper and Cadbury Adams. At Ryder, Mr. Richard also held the position of Customer Logistics Director, leading the dedicated contract carriage operation for the Gulf Region, and was the leader in developing Ryder’s dynamic and expanding oil and gas lead logistics sector including oversight of all supply chain activity.
Jon Eberly is Customer Service Manager at Transplace. Mr. Eberly has more than 20 years of experience in transportation and logistics industries. He is currently responsible for several key logistics accounts within Transplace which total $90 million in annual transportation spend. Mr. Eberly joined Transplace in May 2010, after 6 years as Director of Global Logistics for BIC Graphic/Norwood where he managed sales and operations planning/forecasting, procurement/vendor management, warehousing, parcel route management, global supply chain logistics and regulatory compliance. He has also held management positions at UPS and Airborne Express/DHL. Prior to his current role, Mr. Eberly was a member of Transplace’s Lean Six Sigma Black Belt team where he earned his LSSBB certification in June 2012. Prior to joining the Black Belt team, he was the General Manager of Transplace International where responsibilities included systems integration, process implementation, and P&L management. Mr. Eberly earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from the University of New Orleans.