The Manufacturing Institute

Six Sigma - not yesterday's tool

Mark Davidson, OPP Process Technology Manager, Innovia Films

Recently, I’ve seen a growing perception within industry that things have moved on a little from Six Sigma as a problem-solving technique.  This surprises me because having been through the process ourselves at Innovia Films, I can say quite strongly that it’s not a view we share.

The application of Six Sigma relies on a well-ordered, lean process being in place.  The developments in lean manufacturing make the need for Six Sigma, as a complementary problem-solving tool, even more strongly defined. So how can it be possible to separate the two techniques?

Our business has always had a strong track record of technical development, innovation, engineering and problem-solving.  However, in some critical cases we are faced with long-standing problems that either never seem to be simply resolved or recur more frequently than we would like to see.

To tackle these issues head-on, we turned to The Manufacturing Institute (TMI) for guidance and decided to invest in Six Sigma learning, the two main benefits being that it would give us a rigid structure to follow around DMAIC as well as driving a data and evidence based decision making process to strongly apply in these key critical cases.

Our training was much more than simply attending a course and gaining a certificate.  Through practical group and individual exercises, worked examples and seminar-type case discussions, we not only learned new tools but also how to apply them to generate positive results which has been invaluable to the business.  As such, we have been able to grow our training at a pace that has been in line with project demands.

During the process, TMI has been much more than a training provider.  Through their expertise, and the mentoring and support provided from Black Belt practitioners, we are learning how to change our problem solving practices and behaviours to sustain our improvement activity and achieve long term benefits for the business.  We have since trained four people to Green Belt level as the start of our long-term aim to build a pyramid structure within the company from Black to Green to Yellow Belt.

The path is by no means straightforward and it does require an open mind, hard work and commitment.  However, having a clear view from the outset of what we want to achieve and working closely with TMI has given me confidence that we will achieve our long-term goal.

Mark Davidson is OPP Process Technology Manager at Innovia Films, a leading global producer of speciality high performance Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene (BOPP) and Cellulose films for packaging and labels.  With production sites in the UK, USA, Belgium and Australia, the company employs 1,350 people, has a turnover in excess of Є400m, and currently produces more than 120,000 tonnes of film annually.

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