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Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Results:
Repurposing 2,600 Hours of Transportation Waste Toward Value-add Work

Hampton Sublett of UC Davis wasted no time in conquering the task of improving “wrench time” to help lower costs for customers and increase the number of tasks completed across campus each year. Learn how his team was able to save and repurpose 2,600 hours!


Project Summary

Increasing “Wrench-Time” at UC Davis

Key Words:

  • Wrench Time: The time a tradesperson spends performing their value-added work

Problem Statement: The campus is comprised of more than 1,000 buildings of varying ages and requires significant work to maintain and improve. UC Davis is attempting to see if it’s possible to increase “available wrench time” by decreasing the time trades professionals need to spend on tasks that are not directly related to their trade.

Goal Statement:  By January 25th, 2018, prove via a pilot program, that available “wrench time” for electricians can increase by 5%.

Take Away: The Project Charter was important to keep the team focused on the goal & scope

This project was predominantly focused on trying to keep those well-skilled and folks that are doing the good work of trying to keep our buildings up and running, keep them actually in the field doing the work that they like to do and that they’re best at rather than driving around campus trying to get parts that they need, spend time pulling parts out of the warehouse. So that was real core focus of this particular project.


Define Phase: Identify the Problem

By utilizing a SIPOC and a Swimlane Map, Sublett & his process improvement team sought out to understand the customer requirements and a profound knowledge of the Budget Approval to Start Date process. They found that:

  • Parts were being stored in multiple locations for a single order
  • There were far too many steps in the process “From Budget Approval to Job Site Start Date”

But one of the key things that you need to do within any Lean Six Sigma project is really be careful not to expand your scope beyond what you can control. So we were very deliberate about making sure that we focus just on a small element of the entire lifecycle of projects getting completed around campus.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: SIPOC, Swimlane Map


Measure Phase: Quantify the Problem

It was time to call in the Delta Force! A process improvement team who were comprised of the team members that are doing the work, including the project manager, supervisor, the electrician and his chain of command.

And so we had to focus and ensure that we had open and honest communication. This was probably no more important than to make sure that I, myself, and being very transparent about what it is we’re trying to do, how this will benefit not only themselves but the larger university.

To collect the data, the team made sure to implement a Data Collection Plan in which they identified specific measures they would collect data on, who would collect it, and how it would be collected.

Alright. When it comes to the data collection planning, it was rather simple. In fact, this entire project was rather simple. And that’s kind of one of the beauties of it and the Lean Six Sigma process if you follow it with a deliberate approach.

Sublett and his team created a Histogram of time spent pulling parts at a specific location (Location 3), and developed a Spaghetti Map to understand the process even further. They found that:

  • 65% of trips took 5 minutes or less
  • There were about 15 minutes from each day that were non-value added time

So if we can eliminate these trips all together, we really get some serious savings with respect to the drive time.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Data Collection Plan, Histogram, Spaghetti Map


Analyze Phase: Identify the Cause of the Problem

It was time to identify the root causes of the problem. By creating a Fishbone Diagram, utilizing the Root Cause Hypotheses and testing to see if the Pareto Principle was in effect, the team found that:

  • The customer is impacted multiple times due to multiple site visits
  • There was a lack of end-to-end process visibility for all employees involved
  • Plumbing, Structural and HVAC warehouse visits needed to be queued up to save time

Some possible root causes of why these issues were occuring included:

  • Waste: Non-Utilized Talent
    • Electricians are pulling parts at Location 3 instead of having Project Managers order all at once
  • Waste: Motion
    • Electricians are spending too much time driving back and forth to Location 3 and Project Manager Office
  • Too Many Customer Site Visits
    • No one has been tasked with looking at the process from the customer perspective

So we really tried to hold that charter up as often as need be to make sure that we didn’t get too deep into the woods. And that the team held me accountable for doing that as well.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Fishbone Diagram, Root Cause Hypotheses, Pareto Chart


Improve Phase: Implement and Verify the Solution

Now that Sublett and the ‘Delta Force’ have selected the solutions to move forward with, which included:

  • Utilize “Location 3” warehouse staff to deliver electrical parts to Electrician’s Shop
  • Project Manager places orders for Non-stock and Stock parts, thus eliminating the need for Electricians to shop for Stock parts at Location 3 warehouse

They then created a Future State Swimlane Map for the “Budget Approval to Job Site Start Date” process and implemented the improvements.

We were very noninvasive with respect to our data collection, wanted to make sure that the technicians did not feel as though they are a under a complete microscope. But there as many times where they either – parking and walking doesn’t sound like a lot but at some particular times, a time of day where the main parking lot for the Location 3 is busy

Success: The team was able to reclaim 30 minutes of time for Electricians every day!

  • Per day per Electrician: 30 minutes
  • Per year per Electrician: 130 hours (30 mins x 260 work days)
  • 130 hours x 30 Electricians = 2,600 hours saved!

I find units saying, “It’s only a buck here or a minute there,” but when you’re really trying to find a way to quantify it into a meaningful number, you can see that it adds up to being something of real consequence.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Solution Selection Matrix, Implementing Improvements


Hampton Sublett

…to see the look in the eyes of the people who have been doing this work and probably wanting to try something different or at least seeing that their opinion is valued, obviously, we all have seen it. We are probably guilty of doing this sometimes by pushing down the solutions that we in management think are the right solution without making sure that we’ve either validate it or at least validated the employees’ perspective I think was truly one of the coolest parts of this entire project.

Hampton Sublett
Director of Strategic Solutions, UC Davis

Control Phase: Maintain the Solution

By creating their Project Closure sheet and updating the Executive Summary, team Delta Force reflects on the positive impact their efforts will have made on the external customer.

Lessons Learned:

  • Remember to stay agile during the Improve Phase, your plans may need to be adjusted once they meet with reality
  • Continuously reiterate the purpose of the project to the team through the project
  • Protect the scope of the project to ensure it remains manageable and achievable
  • Set expectations up front that the project is a team effort and that open, honest communication is vital

While this project did not seek to achieve hard savings or profits, several solutions which were deemed out of scope still have the potential to create ongoing and impactful hard savings.

…to see the look in the eyes of the people who have been doing this work and probably wanting to try something different or at least seeing that their opinion is valued, obviously, we all have seen it. We are probably guilty of doing this sometimes by pushing down the solutions that we in management think are the right solution without making sure that we’ve either validate it or at least validated the employees’ perspective I think was truly one of the coolest parts of this entire project.

Lean Six Sigma Tools Used: Project Closure, Executive Summary


A Sneak Peak Into the Full Success Story Webinar:

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, I will. So I will just say that I love your project. I think the fact that you spoke so much about the soft skills required to do a Green Belt is a testament to your approach and the success of your project.

You mentioned a lot throughout this presentation team dynamics and the importance of collaboration and ownership and it was very clear that respect for the workers, for the electricians, was very important to your project and the people on the team. And the fact that it really does make it a difference. And so, you spent a lot of time weaving that into your presentation and I think that is a great testament and example of how projects should be run. So I really appreciate that.

Also, one of my favorite items in your project as well is you really shared the impact of shaving 30 minutes off of a process. And I actually agree with you. I think most people don’t really take the time to think through the magnitude of doing something like that like, “Oh, it’s only 30 minutes. It’s not a big deal.” But when you multiply that out by per day, by per technician, per year and then to the other groups, that’s huge. And so I really appreciate the fact that you were able to share that so succinctly as well.

So I do have a few questions and this is really just for our audience as well. What would you say was maybe your favorite or most impactful part of doing your first Green Belt project?

Hampton Sublett: I think this one is the easiest because I’ve spent 20 years doing Project Management and from like the PMBOK Waterfall and Agile but I really think it comes down to empowerment of the team. And I mentioned the Project Management only because it’s not to say that that is not a tenet or a hallmark of Project Management but it’s not one that I particularly stressed as much as I did during this particular project and what I felt Lean Six Sigma really stresses.

So to see the look in the eyes of the people who have been doing this work and probably wanting to try something different or at least seeing that their opinion is valued, obviously, we all have seen it. We are probably guilty of doing this sometimes by pushing down the solutions that we in management think are the right solution without making sure that we’ve either validate it or at least validated the employees’ perspective I think was truly one of the coolest parts of this entire project. And I kind of get to see the look on the team members’ faces when we get to present this to other groups and they’re proud of the results as well they should be.

Tracy O’Rourke: Great. So it’s a great project. But my question is, did you run into any challenges or situations where you think you would have done something a little different?

Hampton Sublett: So challenges for me have always been coming up with matrix. And in fact, I think you and I even had several conversations about it. And so, in so many – well, I don’t want to put words in anyone else’s mouth but certainly, something I’ve struggled with especially within higher end but also just within myself is trying to find a way to quantify things.

It’s so easy to qualitatively say, “Oh, we think we did better or everyone feels better.” That’s all good and well. But one of the beauties and benefits of this structured approach is that it really pushes you to try and put a measurement against the improvements that you’re seeking. And so, by doing so you can actually let the data and let the math speak for itself.

That ends up being so much more valuable when trying to give presentations to upper and executive management because those are the folks that are – the ones that have to deal with the tight budget crunches and have to make those really challenging decisions and to be able to provide them with meaningful data that they can feel confident in because you followed a scientific method is – by using matrix much more thoroughly in everything else that I do, I will be putting them in a better position to be able to make better decisions.



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Success Story Transcript

Tracy O’Rourke: Hello and welcome to our Success Story series hosted by GoLeanSixSigma.com. My name is Tracy O’Rourke. I’m a Managing Partner and Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com.

We are very excited to have this offering for our audience because this is where the rubber meets the road. This is when we talk about real process improvement projects that have been implemented and we want to share those stories with you.

So today, we are highlighting an awesome project from UC Davis presented today by Hampton Sublett. How are you today, Hampton?

Hampton Sublett: Doing great, Tracy.

About Our Presenter

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, thanks for joining us today. And I’m really excited to share your project. So before we get started, let me tell you a little bit about Hampton. Hampton is the Director of the Office of Strategic Solutions at UC Davis. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing project portfolios that directly impact long-term financial sustainability of UC Davis. To date, almost $3 million a year in hard savings has been generated. That’s awesome. And the goal by 2023 is to generate $20 annually and you say that is ahead of schedule. Is that right?

Hampton Sublett: Yeah. I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great people at UC Davis that I’ve been able to make a lot of these projects move faster than we typically would have otherwise.

Tracy O’Rourke: That’s exciting. So prior to accepting this role, Hampton was appointed by an Associate Chancellor to help lead a 2-year initiative aimed at driving improvements in University Central Administration.

Hampton has also earned a Master’s in Business from the University of the San Francisco and a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University.

So tell us a little bit about yourself, Hampton. What do you do for fun?

Hampton Sublett: When I’m not having fun at work, I’d like to have more fun with my family. Typically, traveling wherever we can possibly get to whether it’s abroad or just hiking in the Sierra Mountains. Sometimes I do play golf. I love the barbeque and I’ve tried to get into running although it’s not exactly what I would call fun.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. I feel the same way about running. It’s effective but it’s not fun.

Hampton Sublett: It’s efficient.

Tracy O’Rourke: It’s efficient. That’s right. So you recently just went through UC San Diego Extension’s Green Belt Program. This was actually your project and I am happy to say that you were voted best in class by your peers for this project. So that’s pretty exciting. What did you think about the program?

Hampton Sublett: I thoroughly enjoyed the program. In fact, so much so that I’ve signed on to do the Black Belt Program with UC San Diego Extension. What I really found most impactful I would say specifically about the Green Belt was that you do have to do a project. So you have to take these principles that you learned from the class and learn how to actually apply them. And so, with your tutelage and frankly from the cohort that you go through the program with, you’re able to rely on or pull from knowledge from your peers to help you get through the program and come out with meaningful results.

I thoroughly enjoyed the program. In fact, so much so that I’ve signed on to do the Black Belt Program with UC San Diego Extension.

I think the return on investment for our own university for me to go through this program is I think you’ll see is more than adequate.

Tracy O’Rourke: Very exciting. And so, did you just passed your exam for your Black Belt too?

Hampton Sublett: I have. I have. And I have yet another project to do in early June and hopefully – when upon completion of that, then I should be a certified Black Belt.

Tracy O’Rourke: Very nice. All right. And we look forward to another success story.

Hampton Sublett: Hopefully.

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, I’m going to hand it over to you so that you can go ahead and walk us through your presentation and don’t forget to show us the slide with your picture.

Increasing “Wrench-Time” at UC Davis

Hampton Sublett: All right. Very good. Here we go. All right. So enough about me. Let’s move on. All right. So this project was called internally, we called it Increasing “Wrench-Time” at UC Davis. That term “Wrench-Time” really is just meant to talk about tradespeople doing trades work.

This project was predominantly focused on trying to keep those well-skilled and folks that are doing the good work of trying to keep our buildings up and running, keep them actually in the field doing the work that they like to do and that they’re best at rather than driving around campus trying to get parts that they need, spend time pulling parts out of the warehouse. So that was real core focus of this particular project.

This project was predominantly focused on trying to keep those well-skilled and folks that are doing the good work of trying to keep our buildings up and running, keep them actually in the field doing the work that they like to do and that they’re best at rather than driving around campus trying to get parts that they need, spend time pulling parts out of the warehouse. So that was real core focus of this particular project.

So what I thought I might do is because we do have some jargon at UC Davis that may not be applicable to either all fields or to your businesses out there, I want to walk you through some of our key terms for this project.

Glossary of Key Words

So Wrench Time as I was just saying, it’s basically the time a tradesperson is spent doing their value-added work. So again, not driving but rather doing stuff that they were trained to do.

You will hear this term Location 3 or I guess see this term as well. Location 3 is our UC Davis on-site warehouse. We will talk about parts that are in stock, that means the parts that are stored at Location 3.

And you will also hear the term Non-Stock. Those are parts that we had order from vendors that don’t come. They are all can put on a shelf effectively.

So moving on, we do have what’s called in our place a Silo’d Culture. I don’t think we’re the only ones. I do work in higher end with a lot of my peers and even though we are an IV school, the silo seems to actually permeate many different types of campuses.

So what I mean there is that many of our different business units have functioned almost as though they’re independent units and they don’t necessarily have the time or wherewithal to find opportunities to collaborate and try and reduce what I call the friction points or they don’t necessarily know how or where to apply the oil to get the gears turning a little bit smoother.

You’ll also hear the term IPE. This is the Inspector, Planner, Estimator. For the intent of this particular presentation, you can consider them sort of a detailed project manager or technical project manager.

And then this term Pulling Parts, so this is the time spent at the warehouse literally walking the aisles, so imagine you can put yourself in Home Depot as you walk aisle to aisle trying to find exactly the parts you need and putting them into your basket proverbial or otherwise and then leaving the facility. So, we’ll talk about drive time and pulling of parts.

DMAIC Process

So I think that should get you pretty much ready to hear the deck. So I’m going to move on to one of our intro slides. So we’re going to go through the DMAIC process. So of course, anyone who spent any time with Lean Six Sigma is clearly aware of the DMAIC process. So I’ll use these slides to do transitions as we go through each one of these phases.

Define Phase

Project Charter

So, we’re going to start with the Define Phase. Here is the project charter. And there’s a lot of information on and I’ll certainly try not to bore you with reading it all to you. But I’ll hit on some of the key elements.

Basically, our campus is comprised of over a thousand building spread out across Northern California, not just centrally located within Davis but Sacramento, Tahoe, and Bodega Bay even. And what we are trying to do here is of course keep our tradespeople in the field doing their trades’ work. So can we in fact do more with the same amount of resources?

So as you look at the business case and the benefits, what we hope to be able to do is reduce the cost of each job for each customer because the tradespeople are not spending – in transit but rather focused on getting the job at hand done, making sure that they have all the parts when they need them at the start of the job.

As well, we hope to increase the number of jobs that get done. Around many high rate universities, you run into a problem of what’s called Deferred Maintenance. Basically, you don’t have – you keep putting off the maintenance of these buildings for other work, other priorities. And at some point, your buildings get into a state of almost disrepair. So we’re trying to avoid that. And by increasing the number of jobs we can do each year that really helps us make sure that our facilities are of top notch, on par with our academia.

So our goal here was to increase wrench time by 5%. That seems like a modest goal but this was meant to be a very narrow scope. I think you will see it near the end of the slide deck that we have other ideas as how to increase it further.

But one of the key things that you need to do within any Lean Six Sigma project is really be careful not to expand your scope beyond what you can control. So we were very deliberate about making sure that we focus just on a small element of the entire lifecycle of projects getting completed around campus.

But one of the key things that you need to do within any Lean Six Sigma project is really be careful not to expand your scope beyond what you can control. So we were very deliberate about making sure that we focus just on a small element of the entire lifecycle of projects getting completed around campus.

So that’s pretty much the interesting elements. You can see the team members here who really made this a possibility. And it was their creativity, their hard work, and their constant ideas and willingness to try something new that made this a success.

SIPOC

Now again, for those of you familiar with the DMAIC process, the SIPOC is one of the primary ways to look at the high level process. In fact, Tracy, you might recall me asking why do we have to do a SIPOC when we’re going to be doing detailed workflow analysis whether it would be swim lanes or value stream maps? And Tracy reminded me that not everybody knows exactly what this process is, so to take them too deep into the details, you might lose them. So a SIPOC is a good way to make sure that everybody is on the same page.

In this particular scenario, we’ve got a number of different “suppliers” and I put that in air quotes because even some cases our customers are the suppliers, the example being of course that they have to submit a request to have an improvement made to a particular office or building. And then we have the IPE as I mentioned before. You can see the rest of them.

But I want to really focus just on the process flow just to kind of give you that high level overview of what it is we are going to be taking a deeper dive into. So at the Location 3 currently, places orders for non-stock parts from vendors. The parts then come into Location 3 via delivery truck of course.

But I want to really focus just on the process flow just to kind of give you that high level overview of what it is we are going to be taking a deeper dive into. So at the Location 3 currently, places orders for non-stock parts from vendors. The parts then come into Location 3 via delivery truck of course.

And then 75% of the parts are delivered to the IPE office while the remaining 30% stay in stock. This was an intentional deliberate move perhaps maybe even a year or two ago because the IPE wanted to ensure that all the parts needed for the jobs that he was running that he had direct oversight and control over so that he could make sure that the jobs would start on time and that there would be no lag for parts.

However, you’ll see later on that it was interesting that we’ve identified that extra motion and transportation I should say as something that we wanted to try and find a better way to improve.

So then as we move further down, I’ll try to use my mouse here to kind of show you where I am. Here we are. The electrician then before the start of the job goes to pick up the 30% to get 100% in total and then drives up to the job site where they effectively complete their work and the job is completed.

So, what we’re focusing on is this non-value add. So activities that are happening that have no direct immediate to the end user, to the customer if you will. All right.

And what we’ve learned here is – see the takeaway. The parts were being stored in multiple locations. This was actually an aha moment if you will.

Tracy O’Rourke: You said it was an aha moment because you just didn’t know that was a discover of doing this project that that’s when you discovered it, correct?

Hampton Sublett: Yeah. In fact, I thought all stock parts were in the Location 3 warehouse and not actually being taken – some portion of them being taken to the IPE’s office.

Tracy O’Rourke: OK. Good.

“Current State” Swimlane

Hampton Sublett: So I’m not going to walk you through every waking detail of this but as you can see, this is a pretty busy chart one. It’s really – starts with a customer saying, “Hey, I would like to have my office renovated,” to the time the electrician actually shows up with the parts to break ground. So this is – everything leading up to the work actually the beginning. That’s an important piece to focus on.

So, one of the slides that we had in our Green Belt training I thought was – it reminded me of a workflow. So this was the slide where you have perhaps a little bit over-engineering or overtime, additional extra steps added. So, I thought that was a – we got a good chuckle out of that one. I shared it with the team.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, we did.

The Measure

Hampton Sublett: And so now, we’re going to move on to the Measure. So we think that there’s a problem and we went out trying to identify what does it really look like? So what did this really call for? This called for Delta Force.

Now, just to have a little fun, we named our team Delta Force just to poke fun though we’re really not solving the bigger problems of the world but just to kind of create some camaraderie. So those in this photo, I don’t know who they are but I thank them for their support and their work.

Delta Force Ethos & Communications

OK. So Delta Force really was comprised of the folks that are doing the work. We’re talking about the folks in the Location 3 warehouse including the supervisor as well as the electrician and his chain of command and the project manager.

Now bear in mind, I was the new person to this group. They have worked together over the last year or so but they themselves are going through the transition of moving from one unit called Facilities into now Facilities and Supply Chain Management. So they are effectively two separate units.

And this is really all about the partnership about bringing these folks together to try something new and kind of break out of this mold. And so we had to focus and ensure that we had open and honest communication. This was probably no more important than to make sure that I, myself, and being very transparent about what it is we’re trying to do, how this will benefit not only themselves but the larger university.

And so we had to focus and ensure that we had open and honest communication. This was probably no more important than to make sure that I, myself, and being very transparent about what it is we’re trying to do, how this will benefit not only themselves but the larger university.

And we really talked about this willingness to try new approaches. As Tracy told us during the Green Belt Training and it played out during our project, you’re going to come up with ideas that are probably one step better but as you go through the process and project, you’re going to realize that you can continuously improve even on those improvements.

So we had several different examples, one of which I’ll hit on when we show you the next workflow but where we just iterated continuously to try and improve the end result.

All right. So benefits must for the organization. It can’t be for one person. I think this is where we run into trouble in the past, meaning before this project started where if one person could potentially do 10 minutes of extra work on their end before they hand it off to the next group that could potentially save maybe an hour from work downstream. And we didn’t want – I imagine rather that folks didn’t want to seem selfish to say, “Hey can you do 10 more minutes worth of work so you can save me an hour.” When in fact, that’s exactly what we need to be looking at when we think of the big picture. So we put that out of the outset.

Listen, don’t worry about what your solutions are that we’re going to iterate through even if it means less work for you and more work for someone else. If the net is a total savings then that’s what we need to kind of go for.

All right. Communications. So we have weekly meetings. During those weekly meeting, we talk about what’s working and what’s not. So as I was talking about, we iterate through. Certainly, certain things that we thought would work didn’t work as well as we had tried and so then we would try something new, getting to that new approach.

And then we said that we had to continuously have collaboration with respect to this brainstorming. It can’t be one or two people just hugging the microphone if you will.

And then we also wanted to focus on constant communication, just ensuring that the entire team albeit small was completely aware of everything that was going. So we started a group email thread. We even started a text thread. So it was very easy for someone to notify the entire group if something had come up that needed addressing.

And then of course you could have individual communications with one of your team members if it turned out that it was just something between the two of you and didn’t need to distract everybody.

Data Collection Plan

Alright. When it comes to the data collection planning, it was rather simple. In fact, this entire project was rather simple. And that’s kind of one of the beauties of it and the Lean Six Sigma process if you follow it with a deliberate approach.

So, both of our data types were continuous and variable. So, the first one was talking about that transit time, that drive time. So we have a large campus and we also have gates across our campus because we need to make sure that we don’t have the general public driving through for the safety of our students. Well, these gates open and close only during times where students are not likely to be in transit. So we have to make sure that we are maximizing our time of moving across campus.

Furthermore, we also talk about the time spent pulling those parts. Again, that’s walking that Home Depot aisle if you will are but of course our wraps.

Histogram of Time Spent Pulling Parts at Location 3

OK. So first, I’m going to talk to you about the time spent pulling the parts at Location 3, at our warehouse. So what this graph aims to show is that you’ve got the number of visits to Location 3 over an 11-day period. So this is the total number of visits and how long each visit was.

So you can see that the median here was about 4 minutes, many of which happening, in fact, 65% of which actually happened within only 5 minutes. And then subsequent trips or other trips if you will spread out upward of 16 minutes with one major outlier at 15 minutes.

And one of the interesting things here is even though my question to the team is sort of, what was the cause of these return visits. And we have – we are digging further into that reason in terms of whether the parts were broken or missing or whatnot. It still doesn’t change the fact that every one of these trips even if it is for a few minutes, it doesn’t account for the drive time and the parking time and the transit. So if we can eliminate these trips all together, we really get some serious savings with respect to the drive time.

So if we can eliminate these trips all together, we really get some serious savings with respect to the drive time.

Current State Spaghetti Map

OK. Now, drive time. Here is the spaghetti map that talks about the transit. All right. What I’ve tried to do here is number them 1 through 7. And I only use the two different colors because you ended up having almost 4 lines next to each other and that could get a little confusing. But here is the electrician’s home shot.

So effectively, the electrician arrives here at work, gets in their truck. Then they drive to Location 3, pick up their parts. So there is a transit time, about 3 minutes on average. Then there is shopping time at Location 3, 4 minutes. Then they walk over to the IPE office, remember that’s where 70% of the stock was, so they grab the parts there. And then they drive out to job site #1.

So this is when the value-add work really begins. So the customer sort of is finally able to experience the value. And then of course they have debris from doing their job. They drive that back to electrician shop and drop off the garbage only to go back to Location 3 and get parts for the next job.

Again, this is – I’m not sure if I said it, this is again, this is only one day’s worth of work. So if you will in the afternoon, they drive to Location 3, pick up their parts. They go out to the job and then back. So, a total of all that time together is about 15 minutes of what we are calling non-value add time.

Analyze Phase

Swimlane – Shows Wait Time and Non-utilized Talent

Now, on to Analyze. So, what does this all mean? OK. So remember that the swim lane diagram from before. This is the exact same diagram but with areas where we thought we could improve. So we did notice that even though this was out of scope, we did notice that we were visiting with the customers more often that we had originally intended. So we found a way to eliminate one of those steps. Plus as we talked about that 70% of the parts getting taken and stored at the IPE location instead of at the warehouse.

And then we found ways to eliminate the need for the electrician to actually come to the warehouse and drive – gather all of their parts. So we’re going to talk about that solution here in a second.

Fishbone Diagram

All right. We’re trying to figure out the root cause of why this is happening. We broke it into the four main, at least four main categories I should say. So all of these are decreasing wrench time of course, the goal being to increase wrench time.

We look at non-utilized talent. This is where we have Location 3 staff that are not being utilized to potentially help with delivery of parts. And perhaps one of the reasons for that was actually this lack of trust because they haven’t ever asked them to do that. And we’re talking about people who are having to engage directly with the customer. Meaning the electricians who show up at the customer site, if their missing parts or had defective parts because of this potential lack of trust then they don’t want to have to have that experience with them. They’re trying to provide the best value to the customer.

However, if we start by having these communications and building these teams and creating that collaboration and that understanding of what is truly needed, we can find ways to speed up the process.

However, if we start by having these communications and building these teams and creating that collaboration and that understanding of what is truly needed, we can find ways to speed up the process.

As I mentioned before, we noticed we had too many customer site visits so I would not spend too much more time there.

Excessive motions. So here, there’s frankly a lack of visibility into how much motion was actually taking place. So once we did the spaghetti diagrams, even those that we’re doing the driving, the electricians were rather surprised to see all that motion just within a typical day.

All right. And then excessive transportation. So this is where the goods and the parts if you will are being moved about the campus. So this is where again, the IPE was staging some of the parts at his office to ensure that they are ready for the electrician at the start of the job.

But again, going back to that trust, if we can build that trust, that collaboration, then we can find ways to alleviate some of these steps.

Root Cause Hypotheses (True/False)

So, root cause, hypothesis, and verification. So we basically said and we felt that the – we were spending too much time pulling parts and we were able to validate that through the data collection graph I just showed you with the histogram.

And then here, we’re talking about the motion. We thought we were driving around campus too much and we were able to validate that via the spaghetti diagram.

And as I alluded to in one of the swim lane diagrams, we did discover that we’re impacting the customer likely too many times before the job even begins. And even though we did validate that and said that it was true, it was out of scope.

That brings me all the way back to the discussing the charter at the beginning of this presentation where using that charter to keep your scope tight is really important. So we really tried to hold that charter up as often as need be to make sure that we didn’t get too deep into the woods. And that the team held me accountable for doing that as well.

So we really tried to hold that charter up as often as need be to make sure that we didn’t get too deep into the woods. And that the team held me accountable for doing that as well.

Pareto – Location 3 Warehouse Visits

All right. So looking at the Pareto chart, so this is the data for pulling parts at Location 3. Now, we only focused – it’s important also to mention that we focus on this electrical unit for a couple of different reasons.

First off, we had some staff that were willing and able to differently try something new. So we thought we had potential for high success rate. We also had electricians often are working on plan work so it’s easier to make sure that we can go through a deliberate parts list and submit that parts order compared to say, plumbing that might have a burst pipe or a toilet that’s not working that needs an emergency part. So that’s why we originally focused on the electricians.

However, when looking at that 80%, so we have the Pareto chart kind of show where the majority of the issues are happening, so it turns out that if we were to try and take this concept of which we’ve only piloted within the electrical side, we would probably want to focus on these four groups and not so much these until we at least fine tune the operations within these because that’s where the greatest value is.

…so it turns out that if we were to try and take this concept of which we’ve only piloted within the electrical side, we would probably want to focus on these four groups and not so much these until we at least fine tune the operations within these because that’s where the greatest value is.

Improve Phase

All right. On to Improve.

Selected Solutions

So this is one of my favorite tools within the Green Belt training where you talk about your various different potential solutions. So what we talked about was the two different – well, the first one was leveraging the Location 3 warehouse staff that frankly bill at a much lower rate than our electricians. And currently right now actually are not part of our recharge model. Meaning, the customer does not actually pay for their time at the moment.

And then we also – so we’re talking about them driving parts to the electrician shop. I want to actually stop here for a second and highlight. This was an idea brought forth by the Location 3 supervisor, Eric Loveless, when we were talking about how to improve the process, our original thought was, “Gosh! If we could get all the parts dropped off at the job sites, wouldn’t that be helpful?”

And if you think back to the spaghetti diagram, that would actually mean that the Location 3 staff had to drive out to job site 1 and then out to job site 2 and then back. Not only is that additional extra motion but that’s also – it creates a logistical timing issue where your plan has to be really perfect in order to not waste anyone’s time. Meaning if the electrician showed up 30 minutes early or the Location 3 person showed up 30 minutes late, that’s just waste of time sitting there and waiting.

So what Eric came up with was how about we drop off, meaning in Location 3, drop off the parts at the electrician shop the night before the parts are needed in a locked location so that when the electrician shows up at work, he just loads those parts directly on to his truck and from there, he has got everything he needs for the entire day? And I say he only because our electrician in this particular pilot was a Joe. But imagine, we either do or could have female electrician at some point.

All right. The second one and I’m not going to go through every one but I do want to just hit on these two first ones. The IPE places orders for non-stock and stock parts. This is where it saves the electrician the need to go into the warehouse and start pulling parts. So the IPE can go out to the job site in the estimation phase and identify an entire list of parts that are needed so he can order not only the non-stock but also the stock so that the Location 3 staff can get those parts and drive it.

What I love about this particular form is it gives you a great way to come up with a score for each one of your potential solution and whether or not you’re going to implement or not.

Now, you also notice right here, #3 has an equally high score. And so one could say, “Well, why don’t we just go ahead and implement that as well because you’re going to get an additional win?”

But we’re trying to be very careful to maintain our scope. I guess I really can’t stress this enough. We’re not ignoring this long term. We are just momentarily putting in a parking lot. So even though we’ve got several different other ideas that frankly we’re in the midst of trying out right now as ways to expand this particular pilot, I really enjoyed how it’s so easy to be able to see the value that is potentially created for each one. And it has also helped us de-prioritized solutions that we think may not be as vital.

So even though we’ve got several different other ideas that frankly we’re in the midst of trying out right now as ways to expand this particular pilot, I really enjoyed how it’s so easy to be able to see the value that is potentially created for each one. And it has also helped us de-prioritized solutions that we think may not be as vital.

“Future State”

OK. Future state. Now, I’m not going to waste your time walking through every different step but if you will recall, there were many more boxes. In fact, if I advance to the next slide, I’m going to take you back in time to the current state and look at all of that movement. I’m going to bring you back to the future state.

OK. So we are able to eliminate 4, maybe even 5 steps and much more of a streamlined process. And the electrician gets the parts with less motion, with less – the parts are in transit less often and you’ll notice that the customer actually potentially will be affected less.

“Future State” Spaghetti Map

All right. Now, let’s go to the future state’s spaghetti map. Now, you may have remember that there were 7 steps for a total of 50 minutes. Now, we’re down to 21. And why is that? So that is because the Location 3 staff with all of the parts needed, once they are ready for a job, they drive them to the electrician shop as I mentioned before, the night before, in a locked location. Therefore when the electrician shows up, he drives out, he grabs his parts, drives out to job 1, puts the garbage you may recall from a job site 1 back into his truck, drives to job site 2, does his second job for the day and then returns.

Now, what’s much more likely is that we could probably add a third job because the amount of increased wrench time. So we could take that additional time that is currently spent in transit and/or pulling parts to do a third or fourth job depending on how complex.

So we are able to eliminate 4 steps out of that process. So here’s a little flashback in time to remind you how busy it used to look. So 30 minutes, what is 30 minutes really gets you? Is it really that valuable? We would say that it is.

Improvements – Eliminating Non-value Add Work

Let me also before we go into some of the financial or the detailed time analysis of it, I want to make sure that you understand that this is a very conservative estimate. We were very noninvasive with respect to our data collection, wanted to make sure that the technicians did not feel as though they are a under a complete microscope. But there as many times where they either – parking and walking doesn’t sound like a lot but at some particular times, a time of day where the main parking lot for the Location 3 is busy. They have to park maybe 5 minutes away. So there is additional time most likely added to this but we try to be extremely conservative in our estimates.

We were very noninvasive with respect to our data collection, wanted to make sure that the technicians did not feel as though they are a under a complete microscope. But there as many times where they either – parking and walking doesn’t sound like a lot but at some particular times, a time of day where the main parking lot for the Location 3 is busy.

Time Savings

So what does this mean? This means that if for one electrician, we could save 30 minutes per day. Now, if we times that 260 work days, that’s 130 hours. That starts becoming meaningful. And then if you times by 20 electricians, you now have 2,600 hours of time that we can repurpose into doing more projects. And so we have that backlog of projects on campus, that deferred maintenance or even some of the other work that isn’t getting done as fast as potentially it could be.

So this is an attempt to try and find ways that we can leverage our existing staff to do more. In tight budget times that many universities especially public universities in the state of California are experiencing, this isn’t valuable.

Now, that’s – again, we’re only talking about electricians during this entire pilot but if we were to talk about the remaining trades and only rule this concept out to 50% of the remaining 176, we could potentially save almost – not save, sorry but repurpose 11,440 hours. That is an amazing amount of time save for an amazingly simple solution.

Tracy O’Rourke: That’s impressive.

Hampton Sublett: Look what 30 minutes can do. So when – and that’s what I find when I look all around campus. I find units saying, “It’s only a buck here or a minute there,” but when you’re really trying to find a way to quantify it into a meaningful number, you can see that it adds up to being something of real consequence.

I find units saying, “It’s only a buck here or a minute there,” but when you’re really trying to find a way to quantify it into a meaningful number, you can see that it adds up to being something of real consequence.

Control Phase

Project Closure

Now, under Control. How do we make sure that we don’t slide backwards? So some do’s and don’ts. So I talk to you about those because I think these are important. Stay agile during your Improve Phase. Remember that I mentioned that earlier on and this is something Tracy really kind of talked to us about but you’re going to come up with solutions. Don’t get wedded to those solutions. Don’t fall in love with those solutions. Understand that you’re constantly trying to iterate. That’s the whole purpose of Lean Six Sigma is this continuous improvement. And don’t be afraid to do that even within your project. So it’s this iterating over – sorry, reiterate the purpose.

Number two, so that is again, trying to keep yourself focused on what is important and don’t forget why you’re doing this. So again, someone might say, “Yeah, it’s only 30 minutes.” But no, let’s think of the big picture here. You want to protect that scope. I think I beat that one into the ground.

And then open and honest communication is absolutely vital. If you don’t have the trust of your colleagues, you’re really – it would be amazing if you are able to accomplish much.

So what happened here? With respect to hard savings, this project really wasn’t trying to get hard savings. Several of our other projects within the Office of Strategic Solutions are focused on just that.

And Tracy alluded to some of that earlier. But it’s many times equally or at least very important to make sure that you do get those soft savings. So you may recall that our goal was 5%. We were happy to say that we did hit 6%, again, only by implementing those two different solutions. If you go back to that solution page, there is at least 4 or 5 other potential solutions. I’m certain we could get to 10% without much trouble.

So if we were to actually deploy the 50% – what I meant – I apologize. What I actually should have mentioned was that 11,440 hours if we deploy to their 50% of remaining time was in addition to what we can save within the electricians. So it’s actually a much greater total of 14,000 hours. My mistake.

So the positive impact on the external customers, sure enough, jobs will take less time to complete so it means they can get back in their office space faster. They cost less to actually get done and we can get more done. So the job that we may have had to wait 6 months, might wait, call it 4 months or something along those lines anyway. We do have a lot of work to do in our campus. So we just make sure that we got all the appropriate sign-offs and hand-offs.

Executive Summary

And executive summary, so this is just a brief synopsis for what I’ve just been talking about but the best part was really that these – that the team members that I showed you on one of the earliest slides, I believe it’s the charter, the fact that they were able to see how much of a difference they could make by being empowered to try out their own solutions.

I can’t stress it enough that I was not the subject matter expert. I was merely a facilitator that helps follow a philosophy or a methodology that just leverage their knowledge, their expertise and to now here they are being able to the ones responsible for making a real impact because they were trusted to do so.

So it’s a huge testament to their own willingness to try, their own creativity, and frankly upper management to create the space for this to actually happen.

So that pretty much wraps up where I’m at. So Tracy, do you want to handle the questions from here?

Questions

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, I will. So I will just say that I love your project. I think the fact that you spoke so much about the soft skills required to do a Green Belt is a testament to your approach and the success of your project.

You mentioned a lot throughout this presentation team dynamics and the importance of collaboration and ownership and it was very clear that respect for the workers, for the electricians, was very important to your project and the people on the team. And the fact that it really does make it a difference. And so, you spent a lot of time weaving that into your presentation and I think that is a great testament and example of how projects should be run. So I really appreciate that.

Also, one of my favorite items in your project as well is you really shared the impact of shaving 30 minutes off of a process. And I actually agree with you. I think most people don’t really take the time to think through the magnitude of doing something like that like, “Oh, it’s only 30 minutes. It’s not a big deal.” But when you multiply that out by per day, by per technician, per year and then to the other groups, that’s huge. And so I really appreciate the fact that you were able to share that so succinctly as well.

So I do have a few questions and this is really just for our audience as well. What would you say was maybe your favorite or most impactful part of doing your first Green Belt project?

Hampton Sublett: I think this one is the easiest because I’ve spent 20 years doing Project Management and from like the PMBOK Waterfall and Agile but I really think it comes down to empowerment of the team. And I mentioned the Project Management only because it’s not to say that that is not a tenet or a hallmark of Project Management but it’s not one that I particularly stressed as much as I did during this particular project and what I felt Lean Six Sigma really stresses.

So to see the look in the eyes of the people who have been doing this work and probably wanting to try something different or at least seeing that their opinion is valued, obviously, we all have seen it. We are probably guilty of doing this sometimes by pushing down the solutions that we in management think are the right solution without making sure that we’ve either validate it or at least validated the employees’ perspective I think was truly one of the coolest parts of this entire project. And I kind of get to see the look on the team members’ faces when we get to present this to other groups and they’re proud of the results as well they should be.

…to see the look in the eyes of the people who have been doing this work and probably wanting to try something different or at least seeing that their opinion is valued, obviously, we all have seen it. We are probably guilty of doing this sometimes by pushing down the solutions that we in management think are the right solution without making sure that we’ve either validate it or at least validated the employees’ perspective I think was truly one of the coolest parts of this entire project.

Tracy O’Rourke: Great. So it’s a great project. But my question is, did you run into any challenges or situations where you think you would have done something a little different?

Hampton Sublett: So challenges for me have always been coming up with matrix. And in fact, I think you and I even had several conversations about it. And so, in so many – well, I don’t want to put words in anyone else’s mouth but certainly, something I’ve struggled with especially within higher end but also just within myself is trying to find a way to quantify things.

It’s so easy to qualitatively say, “Oh, we think we did better or everyone feels better.” That’s all good and well. But one of the beauties and benefits of this structured approach is that it really pushes you to try and put a measurement against the improvements that you’re seeking. And so, by doing so you can actually let the data and let the math speak for itself.

That ends up being so much more valuable when trying to give presentations to upper and executive management because those are the folks that are – the ones that have to deal with the tight budget crunches and have to make those really challenging decisions and to be able to provide them with meaningful data that they can feel confident in because you followed a scientific method is – by using matrix much more thoroughly in everything else that I do, I will be putting them in a better position to be able to make better decisions.

So, I struggled a little bit during this project about coming up with matrix and putting it in a meaningful context. That said, especially carrying on through the Black Belt, now I’m starting to see things all around me in terms of matrix. And again, I think that’s really valuable and it’s probably one of my biggest takeaway from both the Green and the Black Belt programs.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. Well, I was just going to ask you how has this class, both the Green Belt and Black Belt, affected the way you view things? So matrix is definitely one of those things. And it’s great to hear that you actually can quantify things even just looking at things and seeing those opportunities. Is there anything else that has affected how you look at things now that you’ve been through this course?

Hampton Sublett: I’m not quite sure this is the answer you are expecting but having been in Project Management for 20 plus years, I don’t need to put an exact number on that one, but is the project charter for a project following the PMBOK methodology. It’s there for a reason. Absolutely. And it makes sure that you think through so many important details. But what I love about the charter style within Lean Six Sigma is that you can go through all of those other steps within the PMBOK charter. But then it forces you to distill the essence of what it is you’re trying to accomplish into one particular document.

And so, I’m actually – I keep running into this topic both inside my head as a running conversation but also anytime I come in contact with any Black Belts who have project management background to say it seems to me as though they are different but don’t get me wrong, they overlap. And I almost use this analogy like if Project Management were a black circle and Lean Six Sigma is a white circle, they definitely overlap to have a significant grey portion.

And so, I think you can borrow tools from each discipline to help you execute on whatever it is you actually need. And so, I plan actually to start using the Lean Six Sigma charter as a way of keeping – a way of distilling our thoughts, making sure that we’re crystal clear and it’s a one-page.

I’ve written so many 20-page charters that never seen the light of day after we first write it. And then you can’t use it as a guide post if no one is looking at it. A guide post is only valuable if it’s visible.

And so meaning, literally you can slap it on the wall or one page is a whole lot easier to refer back to than 20 when you’re constantly in the throes of any project whether it’s a Lean Six Sigma or a Waterfall or Agile.

Tracy O’Rourke: Right. Well, good. That’s very helpful. And I think we do get that question a lot. We do get a lot of project management folks into our Green Belt and so I think it’s valuable to hear your perspective of how at least the charters overlap and where they complement each other.

OK. Last question is do you have any advice for someone in education that is going to be embarking on their first Lean Six Sigma project?

Hampton Sublett: Is this somebody who is looking for training or someone who has the training that is looking to kick off a project?

Tracy O’Rourke: I’m going to veer on the latter which is application.

Hampton Sublett: Application, OK. I think it’s important within the Lean Six Sigma projects to take a 2-prong approach. And I know this sounds probably cliché but you need to sell upper management on the high level value-add of what Lean Six Sigma can bring so that ideally they are supportive, not to have them push it but rather to let them let you work with the team.

So you need to come – the one prong is to make sure that executive management, if they’re not aware of what Lean Six Sigma is all about, what the value is, how it focuses on what the customer needs, you need to be able to succinctly make sure that they are at least agreeing or supportive of it.

Again, they don’t have to push because if they can just empower you to go work with the people who are actually doing the work then that’s where the second prong comes in. That’s where you meet with the individuals who are responsible for the work. You give them almost like a Yellow Belt introduction to Lean Six Sigma so that you can all get on the same page about the tools. They can understand why metrics are more important than a qualitative assessment.

And then once you get them on board and then buying in, of course then you’ll get the results that you want and then it’s even easier for the executive to look at the end results to say, “Wow! That was really impactful. I’m willing and happy to do it again and to the extent possible.” Hopefully even train up the staff beyond Yellow Belt.

And then once you get them on board and then buying in, of course then you’ll get the results that you want and then it’s even easier for the executive to look at the end results to say, “Wow! That was really impactful. I’m willing and happy to do it again and to the extent possible.”

Tracy O’Rourke: Thank you for that advice. Very helpful. Let’s go to the last slide.

Hampton Sublett: OK.

Getting Started

Tracy O’Rourke: OK. So I’m Tracy O’Rourke and you’re listening to the GoLeanSixSigma.com Success Story Webinar highlighting Hampton Sublett. Thank you for sharing your project with us today, Hampton. I loved hearing it. I’m very excited about what you’ve been able to do and your storyboard and I’m really looking forward to hearing about your Black Belt as well.

Hampton Sublett: Well, thank you very much for this opportunity to represent UC Davis. I’m just thrilled to see how much good work our entire campus is pushing forward on. And Tracy, you yourself were a tremendous leader, facilitator, mentor. I know I’ve reached out to you a couple of times outside the project so I appreciate your help.

And I can’t stress not only your program but those supported by the UC San Diego Extension Program where they emphasize doing a project not just understanding the theoretical content within a condensed week and taking an exam. They do it over an intentional protracted schedule of approximately about four months where you get some information, you get time to think about it, you get time to apply and then you come back and you get some information and it builds on itself to the point where you’re applying what you’re learning. And for me anyway, learning is all about doing. I don’t think I’m in the minority there either. So I appreciate the structure and the approach.

Tracy O’Rourke: Good. I’m really glad. I really the structure and approach as well because I agree with you, I think people learn best by doing and it can’t just be an academic exercise. It really does need to be roll your sleeves up and apply it and see what happens. So thank you for sharing your project.

And I also want to thank our listeners for tuning in today and joining us. So, if have any question about this presentation or about how to apply Lean Six Sigma, just contact us and don’t forget to download any free tools and templates on our website too.

So have a wonderful day and thanks for joining us. Have a great day, Hampton.

Hampton Sublett: You too, Tracy. Thanks so much.



Get the inside scoop on many other successful Lean Six Sigma projects at our Super Stories of Success page. Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear about your own project success! Please contact us.

 

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at GoLeanSixSigma.com, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.