Earlier this year I was hired as Director of Continuous Improvement and Lean Operations, with the directive to leverage our Continuous Improvement process to address quality challenges across the platform. Although IWCO Direct has put a lot of emphasis on Lean Manufacturing, one of the tenets of Lean is that there are always opportunities for improvement. As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt who has led similar programs at Target and GE prior to joining IWCO Direct, I understand both the challenges in managing quality performance and how using data can help us accomplish our goals. One of the areas we are currently working to improve is increasing visibility to quality issues and ensuring the metrics being utilized for quality reporting are consistent across facilities.
How Data Is Being Used To Improve Quality
In order to provide broader visibility to key quality metrics across the organization, we are developing a dashboard concept that will allow us to more easily track quality issues in a standardized format. The dashboard will provide greater transparency for these issues and their resulting impact across the entire organization.
Another area of focus is improving data collection, which includes understanding the right areas to collect data, as well as fine-tuning the data collection process and analysis. Our objective is to use this intelligence to identify trends and eliminate potential issues even earlier in the process.
We often talk about the power of data to improve direct marketing campaigns, but we can also use data to enhance our operational effectiveness. For example, we have identified opportunities for Kaizen events with the relevant operational teams to determine if process, material or equipment changes can simplify and enhance our workflows.
Another key tenet of Lean Manufacturing is to prevent defects further upstream because of the cumulative effect they will have downstream. As we move into next year, we will be looking to streamline what we call “the front end” – ensuring that the information flow into our operational processes is as efficient and effective as possible. Data will play a key role in identifying these continuous improvement opportunities, as well as in documenting sustained improvement for the issues we tackle and resolve.
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