Six Sigma Black Belts set themselves apart now more than ever

You don't have to look hard to see the product supply chain throughout the world is at its breaking point. Warnings of system collapse are everywhere. As of this writing, there are over 90 ships sitting off the Los Angeles port just waiting for a spot to unload. The national shortage of truck drivers just amplifies the issue. Even when product arrives, there is a delay in getting it off the docks and in the hands of retailers. Much of this is blamed on Covid, at least originally.

Many retailers & US manufacturers are now relying on just-in-time distribution, even if they don't want to. Many organizations are now finding that it is beneficial to have certified Six Sigma Black Belts on staff to help streamline their supply chain. "We've moved past the idea of having six sigma projects. Now our Black Belts focus their time on smaller kaizen events and general push / pull logistical concerns." Stated Brian Sleft, Director of logistics at Yousu Distributing. "We need people who can measure and analyze our production. Software has made this job easier, but it can't replace the creativity of a good continuous improvement manager who's been trained to use a lean mindset. Tolerances for errors are even higher now than they were before Covid. Add to that the labor shortage, and the problems can pile up quickly."

Brian if confident his organization can manage the logistical nightmare, as long as the problem doesn't last to long. They have already trained three additional employees for the Six Sigma Black Belt certification to ensure teammates are managing tasks and process change.

The mantra of process improvement has always been to focus on the voice of the customer. This is one of the first things quality control managers learn. Unfortunately, you can’t focus on the customer if your product is sitting half-assembled on the production floor. You can look at the Ford production issues with chip shortages as a perfect example. Six Sigma Black Belts are rewriting the books with so many supply chain issues at hand. What choice do they have? Trying to define a problem using a Spaghetti map gets you, well, spaghetti! 5S and 6S are helping some, ensuring the existing employees are safe and have immediate access to the equipment they need for manufacturing.

So what can be done to turn these issues around? One of the first steps for a company is to understand Six Sigma philosophies and how to recognize an opportunity. Six Sigma is a top-down methodology. That means the decision to implement comes from the top. Buy-in is critical and even harder to secure when budgets are tight. Using the core process of define, measure, analyze, improve, and control helps a company find its weakest areas. It’s not designed to be a quick fix, it is a long-term investment in quality.

Continual communication is critical to the success of the project. This is where certified Black Belts really stand out. They typically have strong project management skills, meaning they understand the importance of communication and how it affects real and perceived projects.
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