What Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belts Can Do For Your Organisation

What Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belts Can Do For Your Organisation

If you’re looking to drive a culture of continuous improvement, then it’s essential to develop the process skills of your people and give them a method to follow – that’s where training people to a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt standard comes in. 

A Yellow Belt is able to define their work as a process, to identify the customers of their process and understand their customer requirements, so that they can ensure their process adds value in the most efficient and effective way.  

People who are trained as a Yellow Belt can perform 3 vital roles in your organisation: 

    1.  Be advocates for improvement
    2.   Act as capable and effective team members for your step-change Green Belt or Black Belt improvement projects
    3.   Identify and act upon small improvements to their work processes on an ongoing, incremental basis  
There are some core skills that you can expect your Yellow Belt to possess:
Method
An understanding of Lean Six Sigma, the value it brings to your processes and the approach by which improvements need to be made – including PDSA, DMAIC or PMI’s Improvement Cycle.
Problem Statement
Able to define the problem, what it is you want to improve, and identify in which process the problem presents itself.
SIPOC
Use the SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers) to establish the scope of the improvement project, define what is adding value, gain agreement on the priority focus for improvement, and keep the team focused on the link between the process and the outcome.
Voice of the Customer
This applies equally to an internal and an external customer – understanding what the customer requires and what they value, using the words of the customer.
Flowcharts
Mapping and flowcharting the process, to agree the steps in a process and who performs them.
8 Wastes
Being able to use the 8 Wastes to identify what can be eliminated from a process to streamline it so that the process becomes efficient whilst still being effective i.e. delivering what the customer requires and values in the most efficient way.
Measures
Both Results Measures, which tell you how closely you are meeting the customer requirements, and Process Measures, which are the upstream steps in the process that will affect the outcome of the process. Understanding that measures are for learning about the process.
Run charts, Pareto, Scatter diagrams
A Yellow Belt will have a selection of tools they can use to analyse data that will help you understand more about the process.
Cause and effect diagram
A way of gathering everyone’s input on possible root causes of the variation you experience in the process.
Standardisation
Creating the standard or ‘best known way’ to perform the process which is agreed by everyone who is involved in the process. It includes suitable documentation, work instructions, step guides, or standard operating procedures. This can deliver unexpected improvements through creating a consistent approach which is adopted by everyone who performs the process.
Review
To define the learning and share with others. To contribute lessons learned to future improvements.

Is your organisation looking to establish a regular cycle of small improvements?  Your Yellow Belts can lead this – add in the Kaizen method to their toolkit, and you potentially have an army of people equipped to establish a frequent, perhaps weekly cycle of Kaizen improvements.   

Never under-estimate the power of developing your people as Yellow Belts – it is a valuable skillset.  Just imagine, if everyone in your organisation had these skills, if everyone was contributing incremental improvements on a regular basis, realising hundreds or thousands of small improvements over the course of a year, what impact would that make? 

Written by Susannah Clarke
Managing Partner
Process Management International

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Belt up! Which Lean Six Sigma Belts are for you, your team, your organisation

Belt Up!

Which Lean Six Sigma Belts are for you, your team, your organisation

LSS-Belts-artwork-2.png

Most people are familiar with the Lean Six Sigma Belts, but we are often asked to explain the difference, who should do which Belt, and what they can expect once someone achieves the various Belt standards.

If you are interested in understanding the Belts and what they mean to you or to your organisation, then presumably you are working in an organisation which has, or is in the process of establishing, a culture of continuous improvement where the thinking, methods and tools of Lean Six Sigma are important to you.

You value people as individuals and their knowledge of the work;  you want to engage them in creative problem solving, and believe that it is everyone’s job to build, maintain and improve the system. 

Take a look at this video in which PMI Consultant, Dennis Crommentuijn-Marsh talks about how to use Lean Six Sigma to improve your business.

How many of each do we need?

There is no mathematical formula to answer this question, nor should there be, but the image below shows the hierarchy of Belts, AND is a representation of the number of people in your organisation.  Starting at the bottom, it is realistic ambition for an organisation which sees continuous improvement as key to its ongoing success, that everyone can attain the minimum standard, White Belt. 

Here are some brief descriptions of each Belt level and the relevant skills that a certified member of your team would master:

Awareness level – meaning “they have knowledge of or are conscious of”.  They have a basic awareness of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), they can interact with processesthey are aware of how LSS has been applied to their work processes and they understand their role.  

Introductory level – they understand the basic LSS methodology, and know how to use a small range of basic LSS tools with the processes that they work in, to regularly make incremental improvements.  They can actively support and contribute to projects which are run by Green Belts and Black Belts. 

Practitioner level – they use the LSS methodology and tools every day in their work.  Following an improvement cycle, they can lead LSS step change improvement projects, typically lasting 3 – 4 months, which may require process redesign.  They have a wide range of LSS tools in their repertoire, a keen understanding of variation, and good facilitation skills, which enable them to involve the people who do the work in designing the improvements.  

Hierarchy of Lean Six Sigma Belts

Expert level – can lead business critical improvement projects for strategic issues, often with complex large data sets.  They have excellent soft skills, and can lead high profile cross functional projects, effectively engaging their stakeholders and project team members.  They act as excellent coaches for Green Belts. 

Master level – a Master Black Belt possesses outstanding leadership qualities, is an expert change leader, and is highly valued as a quality and improvement advisor.  They have a holistic approach to their work and a systemic view of their organisation.  Highly skilled and sought after as potential employees for senior leadership roles, and capable of leading organisational transformation, the Master Black Belt is a natural leader and mentor. 

If you are looking to…

    • accelerate your process performance
    • create accountability for process improvement
    • have clarity over everyone’s role in the system
    • introduce a step-change in thinking to focus on the customer and what they value
    • and improve staff engagement by providing capability and empowerment to tackle problems themselves

…then the Lean Six Sigma Belts can be a useful framework to adopt.

Learn more about the content at each level on our training pages here.

Written by Susannah Clarke
Managing Partner
Process Management International

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If this is the question, what is the best graph to provide an answer?

If this is the question, what is the best graph to provide an answer?

How to tell effective stories using graphs

I recently presented a 1-hour webinar on this topic, which was extremely well received by the participants from all over the world.

I explained how to best tell a story using graphs, especially in a virtual world.

What the audience valued was the expert insight in what to do, and what not to do when trying to tell a story.

As you will know, there are lots of packages and method to share graphs on dashboards: Excel, Google sheets, PowerBI, Tableau, JMP, Minitab, Dev-Ops, etc. When I look at those dashboards though, I observe common issues: “Are these graphs actually helping to answer the question?”

Let's start with the basics of a graph

Ensure that all graphs look the same, have titles without acronyms, a legend, easy numbers to understand and units of measure.

Understand the relationship between: data, creator, audience

It is key to understand these three elements:

    1. Audience: who is the audience for this graph, what is their experience and level of understanding of the graph you have created, what are the typical questions they ask?

    2. Data: which data will help answer their questions, what is the quality of the data, how is it sampled, do I trust it?

    3. Creator: how do you best create a graph to answer the question, do you have one or many creators, are they all trained in the same graphs, what is their level of understanding of different graphs?

Are they explanatory, exploratory or hybrid graphs?

    • An explanatory graph is used to explain a known answer to an audience.  These graphs are often simple in design.

    • An exploratory graph is used to discover an answer.  The question is known, but not the answer.  Often these graphs are more complex and have the ability to do stratification.

    • A hybridexploratory explanation graph used for both.  In dashboards, I see these often as they are so easy to create.  However, their major drawback is that the user has to manually manipulate the graph to get to the answer to their question.

So where do you start? First, understand the question, then select the tool

This infographic first focuses on the question and then suggests which graph is the best to help answer it.  Keep asking yourself: ” if this is the question, what is the best graph to provide an answer?”

[Click to enlarge]

Written by Dennis Crommentuijn-Marsh
Director Consultant and Head of Data, Analytics and Insights Practice
Process Management International

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Process Automation and the Quality Professional

Process Automation and the Quality Professional

As published on The CQI website 23 November 2020. 

Richard Seddon, Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI), UK, explains why quality professionals need to embrace process automation tools in this digitally-advanced era.

We all know that widespread process automation is upon us. However, no longer is automation the preserve of the big one-off IT project with defined governance, controls and standards. Recent enhancements by software vendors have put tools such as robotic process automation firmly in the hands of the process manager and, in many cases, the process operator. This is allowing employees to automate processes at will and without much in the way of due diligence. This shift presents the quality professional with a new and substantial set of challenges including, but not limited to: complexity, risk, visibility, documentation, conformance, compliance and, of course, audit.

In my experience, one of the most significant challenges listed above is ‘visibility’. Unlike some of the established Robotic Process Automation tools that have been around for several years, many of the new ones, such as Power Automate, which are finding their way to users’ screens, do not have a centralised means of tracking or administration. Power Automate for example, is enabling users to create automated workflows in a ‘low-code’ environment, meaning specialist IT knowledge is no longer always required. However, without a centralised reference point, the quality professional may struggle to know where automation has taken place, which, in turn, may mean they cannot rely on traditional process documentation to understand the operation of a particular process. A new type of sensitivity is needed to detect the new types of ‘democratised’ automation and therefore effectively manage them from a quality assurance perspective.

The temptation when faced with challenges such as the increased opportunity for risk is to restrict or possibly withdraw permissions, or perhaps even set up a central committee to approve changes and automation. Those organisations that go down this route will fail to unleash the potential benefits of modern process automation tools as they continue to burden the central IT team with more development than they could ever handle, thus depriving the organisation of the potential benefits. It is critical that users of process automation tools are empowered rather than constrained by the quality professional. The worst possible outcome in this new world of automation is the quality function getting in the way of improvement and the delivery of benefits.

Making Changes

So, what does the quality profession need to do differently? Firstly, they should start by acquiring an understanding of how process automation tools can be used in their organisation. Secondly, they should consider how their  usual quality methods, approaches and resources can be applied in an environment where process automation tools are in use. Thirdly, it is imperative that quality is built into any organisational approach to automation, and this must be led by the quality team or function. Tangible actions include being part of user training, and establishing accessible and easy-to-use governance tools and automation registers.


“The quality profession
needs to embrace process
automation tools for its own work
and to lead by example”

There are numerous opportunities to automate and eliminate much of the traditional mountain of spreadsheets, logs and records associated with operating a quality management system and its supporting quality function or department. The automation tools can make many of these quality processes more efficient, effective and relevant to the organisation. Taking advantage of some of the automation opportunities on offer is also a great way to enhance your own understanding of the tools, their implications and will better place you to guide the organisation in selecting the right processes to automate. At the same time, there is the opportunity to design an agile governance approach that will allow your organisation to realise the benefits, while enabling you to identify and mitigate risks that process automation presents.

 

Rich Seddon

Rich Seddon is Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI) and works in performance improvement programme design and benefit realisation.  His specialist areas are strategic leadership, rapid performance turnarounds and digital transformation.

Connect with Rich on LinkedIn.

Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 4: Material Availability

Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 4: Material Availability

As the house building industry is challenged by ever-increasing regulation, more demanding planners, a shortage of labour and customers whose expectations have transformed, the costs to your business continue to rise while the price you can sell your stock for doesn’t.

With a strategy based on continual price growth no longer viable, it’s those house builders who control their costs and reduce their time to build that will be the winners over the next 5 years.

Having spent decades working with house builders, construction firms and building material providers to help them dramatically reduce their costs –
 in one case identifying over £100m of savings for one house builder – we know where you should be looking and what you can do to quickly and effectively improve your operations to reduce cost and speed up your build. Ultimately improving your bottom line.

In this 4-part series, we break down the four key improvement areas that you should be focusing on to help you improve the performance of your sites, reducing costs and improving your time to build.

In part one we looked at 
Rework, part two focussed on Site Protection and part three was all about Plot Utilisation. In today’s blog we look at the final of our four key improvement areas, Material Availability and how you can make some simple changes to your processes remove the critical bottle necks on your sites.

What is Material Availability:

In this series so far we’ve focused on the issues that happen during the build, now we’re going to talk about an issue that occurs before all of these and one that has a huge unseen cost on your build – bottle necks in your supply chain.

The supply chain to sites is a well-established and a much-maligned source of delays to build progress. 

It is often highly complex, involving multiple suppliers and transport companies to get your materials where they need to be. This can be an ever-moving target for your operations teams as suppliers run out of stock, restock and then run out again.

What we often find is that these supply chains are managed inconsistently with relationships held locally at site or product level. This often results in a lack of clarity over the end to end supply chain and a lack of contingency plans for when things go wrong.

On smaller scale, simpler builds, this isn’t a problem, but when you’re managing multi-phase, multi-site projects this can be a real issue.

Without an end to end understanding of your supply chain it becomes almost impossible to plan effectively for contingencies – like when a supplier runs out of material – or respond to changes in the build schedule.

These delays can cause serious knock on issues on your sites and result in trades sitting around with nothing to do, or worse, going to work on a competitor’s site. Adding both cost and delays to your build.

By fixing these issues you can make significant savings.  Using data collected from a study for a UK house builder we identified over £10 million of benefit that could be obtained through addressing their supply chain.

What Causes These Delays:

There are three primary reasons that cause these supply chain problems for you:

Poor material management processes: ineffective material planning can often lead to too much or too little being delivered to site.  This leaves your team either struggling to find the right materials for their job or having to deal with where to put the overflow.

Ineffective measures: with most sites focused on build speed and quality, we often find that the measurement around materials is either limited or non-existent. As a result, it’s almost impossible to get an accurate site specific or regional view of where potential material shortages are likely to arise or where there is an excess of materials that could be shared cross sites.

Incorrect equipment to move supplies: while your supplier may be able to deliver the materials to your site, they often won’t take it further than the drop off point. Without the correct equipment available to safely move the supplies they sit dormant, unable to be used until they can be taken to the correct store or unit.

How To Improve The Flow of Materials To Your Sites:

Before you can identify which of these causes is the largest contributor to your problems you need to understand your supply chain.

You’ll want to map out the high-level supply chain and analyse the performance data for your sites.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to see where your biggest problems are and start to understand which element of your supply chain these relate to.

The next step is to select a group of sample sites, ideally sites that use the same suppliers, and begin to measure your materials in detail – what’s coming in on time, is it the right quantity and is it to the right quality. Armed with this data you will then be able to go supplier by supplier and where required either work with them to improve their service to you or begin the process to find a new supplier who will better suit your requirements.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

    • Do you know who your top five suppliers are and how they are performing?
    • Do you know what materials you often run out of or regularly have problems getting?
    • Do you have measures in place to track your suppliers and identify problems before they become issues?

Key Takeaways:

You can fix many of the problems on your sites but if you can’t get the materials where they need to be, when they need to be there, you’ll continue having issues.

These are issues that you can fix by taking a more holistic approach to procuring materials, firstly looking site wide and then region wide to help respond to shortfalls and minimise the instances of materials sitting idle.

By ensuring that you are ordering your materials effectively, measuring performance and have the right equipment on hand to deal with consignments as they come in, you’ll be able to improve the flow of materials to your plots and speed up your build process.

What’s Next:

So there you have it, having read through each of the blogs in this series you will now have a clear view of each of the four issues that you will want to address to help you save millions of pounds across your sites and dramatically improve your bottom line.

If you don’t want to wait until next week you can download our detailed ‘Weathering The Storm’ eBook where we explain the tried and tested approaches that we’ve used to help firms across the industry dramatically improve the efficiency of their build programmes and increase their bottom line.

Download our Weathering the Storm eBook today!

If having read this blog, you want to take action but don’t have the knowledge or capacity to do so then that’s where PMI can help.

We have a strong heritage of working with house builders to help them understand where the issues are hiding on their sites and put in place effective improvements to turn their business goals in to results.

If you want to find out more please get in touch with our Managing Partner, Rich Seddon: Rich.Seddon@pmi.co.uk

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Improving Operational Standards and Processes in House Building

Improving Operational Standards and Processes in House Building

With growing concerns about the quality of new build homes, the House Building industry is under pressure to do more to ensure the stock it’s producing is fit for purpose. 

With costs rising and the market stagnating, House Builders are finding it increasingly challenging to deliver high quality homes in a cost-effective way that maintains profit margins. 

To help you improve your house building business, we created our Weathering the Storm eBook which looks at four of the main areas that are causing issues on your sites right now. 

To help you accelerate the benefits that you can achieve by following the recommendations in our eBook, this blog outlines the five additional factors that we think you need to be working on at head office level.

Your quality inspection philosophy

Police or partner, how do your quality team approach their role?

There has been a call by some for the introduction of independent quality inspectors and processes, but this comes with the risk of sub-optimisation.

Independent inspection functions often become a ‘police force’ distracted by simply spotting non-conformance, rather than preventing its occurrence in the first place. The most successful quality teams work in partnership with operational teams to develop a culture of excellence through continuous improvement, not one that needs constant inspection. 

How is your quality team structured? If it follows the police force model, then the chances are it’s causing your business more harm than good.

Your quality inspection approach

In many House Builders there is a tendency to depend on pre- and post- delivery inspections as a means of ensuring quality. This is indicative of a culture that lacks focus on enabling quality. A focus on results measures after the event causes an untold amount of rework.

It’s better to get things right in the first place by defining and implementing an in-process measures system than waiting until the problem’s occurred and fixing it after.

Your processes

The house building sector routinely organises itself into geographical business units with varying degrees of standardisation. The industry often struggles to understand if the variation introduced in the name of localisation is truly adding value.

The common misconception is that standardisation impinges upon the flexibility to cater for local consumer needs or markets. It doesn’t. Only poorly designed standardised processes do that. 

How do you structure your processes? Are your processes standardised across your regions or do they vary? If they do, you’ll want to look at how you can align the different regions to help standardise your processes and improve quality across your sites.

Your relationships with suppliers and subcontractors

The idea of investing in training subcontractors to develop skills and knowledge in your build processes and policies can be unpalatable for some House Builders.

Why would you want to train your subcontractors who will then take those skills to one of your competitors?

To overcome this, you want to work in partnership with your subcontractors to develop efficient and effective new resourcing processes that work for both parties. Your subcontractors will not need to work elsewhere if you keep them busy on your projects and sites, meaning you can invest in their training with confidence.

By investing in this training, you will help improve the quality of their work, reducing rework and ultimately saving you time and money.

The role of your Board

Finally, for any of these measures to be successfully embedded, the Board must set out a clear direction to create the change of culture necessary for achieving Process Excellence.

An effective performance improvement culture starts at the top and your Board must back this up with unequivocal support – at both the tactical and structural level – to make transformation possible.

Improving your business

There you have it, the five accelerators that you’ll want to think about to help improve your House Building business.

If having read this you’re not sure where to start, or you want expert advice to make sure you’re going in the right direction then that’s where we can help.

We have a strong heritage of working with House Builders to help them understand the issues from site to head office, helping them identify their problems and put in place effective improvements to turn their business goals into results. 

If you want to know more about how PMI can help your business to improve it operational standards and process, please get in touch with our Managing Partner, Rich Seddon: Richard.seddon@pmi.co.uk 

Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 3: Plot Utilisation

Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 3: Plot Utilisation

As the house building industry is challenged by ever-increasing regulation, more demanding planners, a shortage of labour and customers whose expectations have transformed, the costs to your business continue to rise while the price you can sell your stock for doesn’t.

With a strategy based on continual price growth no longer viable, it’s those house builders who control their costs and reduce their time to build that will be the winners over the next 5 years.

Having spent decades working with house builders, construction firms and building material providers to help them dramatically reduce their costs – in one case identifying over £100m of savings for one house builder – we know where you should be looking and what you can do to quickly and effectively improve your operations to reduce cost and speed up your build. Ultimately improving your bottom line.

In this 4-part series, we break down the four key improvement areas that you should be focusing on to help you improve the performance of your sites, reducing costs and improving your time to build.

In the last part of our series we focussed on Site Protection and in today’s blog we look at the third of our four key improvement areas, Plot Utilisation – reducing the idle time across your sites.

Plot Utilisation -the number one cause of delays on your sites:

As the industry has evolved so has its approach to planning the build process for its sites.

To help increase efficiency and reduce the time to build, businesses like yours have iterated and iterated their build programmes to ensure that there is as little idle time as possible.

At your sites, you will no doubt have a clear build plan for each phase, broken down by unit type, trade, etc.

It’s then down to the operational teams to make the plan happen; book the trades, call-off the materials and pray for the right weather! 

While this approach is great in principle, what we often see is that while these plans may be robust at an individual unit level, they don’t always align when you go up to the phase or site level. This results in plots being left idle, not progressing, waiting for the next trades to come in.

When we say idle, we aren’t talking about the instances where there are issues that mean a plot can’t be worked on. We’re talking about the time where an active plot is available to be worked on but doesn’t currently have any activity ongoing.

This can be a real problem and add huge delays to your builds. From our work with clients in the industry, we’ve found house builders with up to 68% idle time on their plots. To put that into perspective, that’s almost 3 weeks in every 4 where a plot is sitting there, without progress. 

If you’re looking at ways to accelerate your build programme and deliver more units quicker, helping you increase cash flow and reduce your holding costs then this is a huge area of opportunity.

What Causes Poor Plot Utilisation:

From our work across the industry, we’ve identified five primary reasons for poor plot utilisation which, if corrected, can dramatically reduce the idle time across your sites.

We talk about two of the five in detail in this series – Rework (Part one) and Material Availability (Part 4 coming next week) – but there’s three more that you’ll also want to address to improve your plot utilisation:

Siloed Labour: we often see house builders take a siloed approach to their builds. Trades will work on one site and one site only, with little sharing of resource across site. As a result, it becomes much harder for you to respond to peaks or troughs on your sites, meaning some sites are flat out while others are putting their feet up at the local burger van!

Poor process: processes are often developed once and then left to run on site after site, with little consideration for the variation in how the processes are run across sites. Likewise, problems that are identified in the process, such as inefficient build routes, are rarely reported back and acted upon in a structured way. As a result, poor processes continue to exist, causing the same utilisation problems time after time.

Lack of consideration for the weather: we live in a country with hugely variable weather. While you can’t predict the weather, you can take steps to reduce the impact it has on your build. For example, extending the use of prefabricated building systems or reorganising your build to systematically ensure units are weatherproof as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, many house builders disregard this, taking the weather as a given and accepting all of the issues that it causes and then rushing to make up lost ground when it improves.

How To Resolve These Issues:

Siloed labour can sometimes be the quickest issue to resolve. To resolve this, you’ll want to start by reviewing your site plan at a regional level and not a site-specific level. Identifying where resource could be shared across sites to smooth out the peaks and troughs.

Doing this will let you create a unified, region wide, resourcing plan that ensures the right trades are on the right sites at the right times. Not waiting around doing nothing on one site or flat out on another.

Yes this may mean a small increase in labour costs as you have to pay for the trade to go from site to site but in the long term you’ll see a significant saving as you’re not paying for trades to sit idle.

The solution for the last two problems is the same and that’s to undertake a detailed review of your site planning process. You’ll want to ensure that it’s up to date and reflects the realities of your sites as they are now, not as they were when the plan was created.

Once you have the outline of a revised build plan you then want to take a step back and go step by step to ask, how could we still do this if it was raining? This will enable you to design as many weather dependant activities out of the process and build in alternative approaches where that isn’t possible.

This may all sound like a lot of work but done properly this can help you increase plot utilisation without reducing quality.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

    • Do you currently monitor plot utilisation and are you able to identify where your problem sites are?
    • When was the last time you reviewed cross-site resourcing to ensure your activity is balanced?
    • Do your build plans provide the flexibility to enable your teams to respond to issues that could have an impact on plot utilisation such as material availability or bad weather?

Key Takeaways:

Poor plot utilisation can dramatically increase your time to build and increase reducing both profits and cash flow.

Through our work in the industry, we’ve identified 5 primary causes for this poor utilisation that are happening on your sites right now.

By taking action to reduce these issues and improve plot utilisation you can make your sites run smoother to reduce issues and speed up your time to build.

What’s Next:

In the final part of our series, we’ll be looking at Material Availability and how you can make some simple changes to your processes to remove the critical bottlenecks on your sites.

If you don’t want to wait until next week you can download our detailed ‘Weathering The Storm’ eBook where we explain the tried and tested approaches that we’ve used to help firms across the industry dramatically improve the efficiency of their build programmes and increase their bottom line.

Download our Weathering the Storm eBook today!

If having read this blog, you want to take action but don’t have the knowledge or capacity to do so then that’s where PMI can help.

We have a strong heritage of working with house builders to help them understand where the issues are hiding on their sites and put in place effective improvements to turn their business goals in to results.

If you want to find out more please get in touch with our Managing Partner, Rich Seddon: Rich.Seddon@pmi.co.uk

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Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 1: Rework

Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 1: Rework

As the house building industry is challenged by ever-increasing regulation, more demanding planners, a shortage of labour and customers whose expectations have transformed, the costs to your business continue to rise while the price you can sell your stock for doesn’t.

With a strategy based on continual price growth no longer viable, it’s those house builders who control their costs and reduce their time to build that will be the winners over the next 5 years.

Having spent decades working with house builders, construction firms and building material providers to help them dramatically reduce their costs – in one case identifying over £100m of savings for one house builder – we know where you should be looking and what you can do to quickly and effectively improve your operations to reduce cost and speed up your build. Ultimately improving your bottom line.

In this 4-part series, we break down the four key improvement areas that you should be focusing on to help you improve the performance of your sites, reducing costs and improving your time to build.

In today’s blog, we look at the first of our four key improvement areas, minimising your rework – your hidden factory

What is Rework:

Right now, on your sites, hundreds, possibly thousands of tasks are being repeated. It could be the first time, it could be the second time, it could even be the 10th time.

Each time someone is repainting a wall, re-fixing a door or refitting a kitchen counter you’re having to pay for that additional labour, additional materials and manage the delays for other trades on site.

We call this rework “The Hidden Factory” and it’ll probably be the number one issue on your sites right now and much of it will be invisible to you.

We’re not talking about the big things, the ones that have been crawled all over by teams large and small and usually with a big price tag attached to them.  We’re talking about the day to day problems, the little pieces of repair or repeated work that get picked up by trades, site management and quality checks and then have to be ‘reworked’ by someone else to get right.

    • A stair stringer gets fixed crookedly – rework
    • A freshly tiled wall has to be broken through to access a pipe – rework
    • The drains get put on the wrong side of a fixture – rework

While on the face of it these may look like small mistakes, they can add up to a significant cost. For one house builder we worked with we found that over 13 days a week per site were being wasted on minor rework.

For every 10 sites in progress that’s over 6,700 days of wasted labour a year!

As well as these avoidable direct costs there are the other impacts; disruption to build programmes, inconvenience to customers, poor utilisation of trades, additional material costs. The list goes on.

Needless to say, this is a real issue and one that you will want to fix. But what is the cause and how do you fix it?

What creates the hidden factory? The primary cause of rework is often a lack of standardised working methods and an inconsistent understanding of what the end product should look like.

One team of plumbers will fit the bathroom one way while another team will do it a completely different way.

By understanding these different variations in the working methods that your contractors and staff are operating to you can begin to understand and then eliminate the causes of rework to improve quality, time to build and reduce cost.

How To Identify And Resolve The Hidden Factory:

Firstly, you need to understand where rework is most prevalent in your operations and what is causing it. This may be related to specific sites or certain activities across your portfolio.

You’ll want to start by picking a sample site(s) and conducting a detailed process study to understand the sources of rework and why it’s happening. This will help you understand where the biggest problems are and where to focus your efforts to get the biggest gain.

Once you’ve identified the priority areas to fix, the next step is to take a detailed look at the process and what’s happening on the ground.

This will involve analysing what’s currently in place in terms of processes or work instructions, speaking with your contractors and staff to understand where they see the problems and then refining the process to ensure it solves the root cause of your problem and mitigates the issues that are resulting in the rework. Trust and co-operation are key to this; ensure you bring everyone on the journey with you. Simply mandating a change is unlikely to deliver the results you want.

By doing this across the areas you’ve identified you’ll be able to significantly reduce the amount of rework and the cost associated with it while increasing the speed that you can deliver quality homes.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

    • Do we currently have a process for identifying rework on our sites?
    • Do we know how much rework we currently have and where it’s occurring most frequently – either by site or by activity?
    • Do we have an approach for identifying and correcting rework as part of our ongoing quality processes?

Key Takeaways:

Rework is often the biggest cause of unnecessary cost for house builders like you. By identifying and then tackling your rework you can dramatically increase the productivity on your sites and reduce your cost of build.

Reducing the rework in your business starts by identifying where it exists and where it’s happening most often. Once you know this you can create a prioritised plan to deal with it and start taking action to reduce it.

What’s Next:

In the next part of our series, we’ll be looking at Site Protection and how you can make some simple changes to your processes to dramatically reduce the amount of rework your contractors are having to do.

If you don’t want to wait until next week you can download our detailed ‘Weathering The Storm’ eBook where we explain the tried and tested approaches that we’ve used to help firms across the industry dramatically improve the efficiency of their build programmes and increase their bottom line.

Download our Weathering the Storm eBook today!

If having read this blog, you want to take action but don’t have the knowledge or capacity to do so then that’s where PMI can help.

We have a strong heritage of working with house builders to help them understand where the issues are hiding on their sites and put in place effective improvements to turn their business goals into results.

If you want to find out more please get in touch with our Managing Partner, Rich Seddon: Rich.Seddon@pmi.co.uk

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Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 2: Site Protection

Weathering the Storm Blog Series Part 2: Site Protection

As the house building industry is challenged by ever-increasing regulation, more demanding planners, a shortage of labour and customers whose expectations have transformed, the costs to your business continue to rise while the price you can sell your stock for doesn’t.

With a strategy based on continual price growth no longer viable, it’s those house builders who control their costs and reduce their time to build that will be the winners over the next 5 years.

Having spent decades working with house builders, construction firms and building material providers to help them dramatically reduce their costs – in one case identifying over £100m of savings for one house builder – we know where you should be looking and what you can do to quickly and effectively improve your operations to reduce cost and speed up your build. Ultimately improving your bottom line.

In this 4-part series, we break down the four key improvement areas that you should be focusing on to help you improve the performance of your sites, reducing costs and improving your time to build.

In our first blog we looked at Rework, your hidden factory. In today’s blog we look at the second of our four key improvement areas, Site Protection, the small changes that could save you £1,000s per plot.

What is Site Protection:

To achieve the economies of scale necessary on your sites you’re no doubt following a structured waterfall approach to your build.

You’ll do all the groundworks, then build the shells and then move to fit out for 10, 20, 30 units at a time.

As we highlighted in last week’s blog these mistakes, accidents or damage to your units will cost you money. To combat these issues the industry has developed a vast array of protective measures – dust sheets for stairs, film for windows, caps for window features, plastic covers for sanitary wear, etc.

You no doubt have processes in your business to ensure that these are used and as you read this you may be thinking – “This isn’t a problem for us, we have protection processes in place across all of our sites”.

The problem for many house builders though is that while they will have detailed protection requirements written down, they are inconsistently applied. In a recent study for one major UK house builder we found that 69% of the plots sampled did not fully comply with the prescribed protection requirements, increasing the unnecessary risk of damage, rework and increased cost.

It is likely that if you reviewed your own sites you’d find a similar picture.

Why Does This Happen And How Do You Fix It:

When you trace this issue back to its root cause it is often the result of a lack of clear processes, a lack of training and ineffective site performance measures.

While we have seen clear standards shown to us at head office, it can often be the case that these aren’t filtered down or are applied differently in each business unit or even site. If they are provided to the trades, they are often just handed over on a piece of paper, without much training or instruction about what they expect.

This, coupled with the way that sites are often measured – with a focus on the number of units completed instead of process adherence,  number of issues or rework created – means that trades are often incentivised to complete their tasks as quickly as possible without as much focus on the way they leave the units after they’re finished.

As Management guru Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed” and this is a great example of that.

A Model To Help You Think About Protection Methods:

This model is tried and tested and we’ve used it across the construction industry to help our clients minimise accidental damage caused to their sites. So what is it and how can you use it to help minimise the unnecessary damage to your sites?

Below is the overview of the PMI mistake-proofing methodology:

Let’s look at each of these steps in detail.

    • Eliminate: To start with you want to look at what you can do to remove the need for protection entirely. For example, can you change the order that your trades go into each unit to minimise potential damage?
    • Isolate: You then want to look at how you can isolate parts of the unit during the build to prevent access to certain areas for specific trades or damage-prone activities.
    • Process: If neither of these are possible then your next option is to build measures and controls into the process to minimise potential damage. For example, by using visual management to let trades know that they need to take extra care around certain parts of each unit like Kitchens and Bathrooms.
    • Physical: If having reviewed your processes none of these are possible then you’ll want to ensure that you can apply the required protection and resolve the causes highlighted above.

Following these steps will help you dramatically improve the protection of your sites, reducing damage and improving your bottom line.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

    • Do your site teams have a clear understanding of what protection should be used and when?
    • Do you understand what the level of compliance with your protection standards is across your sites?
    • How are you measuring the performance of your trades on-site and does this include a measure for adherence to protection standards?

Key Takeaways:

To minimise unnecessary damage caused during the build stages, most house builders will have processes in place which set out what protection needs to be used and when.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of understanding of these processes and the ineffective measures used to monitor performance these processes are often not followed. This leads to an increased risk of damage and higher costs on your sites.

By following our 4-step mistake-proofing methodology you can dramatically reduce the need for protection on your site and where it is necessary, increase its use to prevent damage from occurring.

What’s Next:

In the next part of our series, we’ll be looking at Plot Utilisation and how you can make some simple changes to your processes to dramatically reduce the idle time across your sites.

If you don’t want to wait until next week you can download our detailed ‘Weathering The Storm’ eBook where we explain the tried and tested approaches that we’ve used to help firms across the industry dramatically improve the efficiency of their build programmes and increase their bottom line.

Download our Weathering the Storm eBook today!

If having read this blog, you want to take action but don’t have the knowledge or capacity to do so then that’s where PMI can help.

We have a strong heritage of working with house builders to help them understand where the issues are hiding on their sites and put in place effective improvements to turn their business goals into results.

If you want to find out more please get in touch with our Managing Partner, Rich Seddon: Rich.Seddon@pmi.co.uk

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Innovation and the Quality Environment

Innovation and the Quality Environment

Innovation – What does it look like in quality environments?

Innovation is on the agenda for every organisation looking to grow. But innovation takes many forms and some organisations find themselves victims of innovating in ways that aren’t productive, too costly, or are not achieving the radical improvement that they need. This blog looks at how quality methods can provide the structure and environment required to stimulate and develop innovation in our everyday business lives so we can better serve our customers and stakeholders.

What sort of innovations do businesses experience?

Businesses experience innovations in three broad areas.

First, evolutionary innovation or ideas.

These are often extensions of products and services a business already delivers – the innovation is a new presentation of it. Kellogg’s are a great example of this, think Corn Flakes (the original and best), Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes (sweeter and nuttier), Special K (less than 2% fat, the health-conscious cornflake), the Corn Flakes Crumb to coat your meat/fish/chicken/vegetables. The list goes on but you get my drift. The point is Kellogg’s were not satisfied with the success of their original cornflake so they took steps to evolve it, to gain more customers and compete with their rivals. Have you been innovative in extending the products and services you deliver to external and internal customers?

This evolutionary innovation needs an environment where ideas can be generated. How might you create the space for such creative work?

The second category we could call ‘opportunistic’ innovation.

Have you read about the osteoporosis drug which also cures baldness? Did you know that Botox, which hit the market in 2002 as a wrinkle remover, came from research into treating crossed eyes, twitching/muscle spasms? Through the drug testing phases, a new application of the drug was discovered and this created a new market opportunity. Have you been involved in developing opportunities through your products, services or processes? Perhaps transferring methods or ideas from one part of your business to another?

Opportunistic innovation needs an environment where these opportunities can be spotted so that the discovery can become a new product/service.

The third innovation is ‘breakthrough’ innovation

This is the development of new ideas for product or service development, or the radical redesign of processes resulting in a step change in performance.

Creating the environment where innovation is possible in a way that is sustainable and the cost, time and energy involved is commensurate with enabling the company to survive whilst the innovation takes place can be very challenging. The product or service must be designed such that when brought to market it achieves the right level of quality and is commercially viable. Remember the days when it took more than a week to receive goods ordered? Through the radical redesign of delivery services, Amazon Prime and thousands of online shops can now deliver your goods the same or next day and if you’re a subscriber, at no extra cost.

Breakthrough innovation will only happen in an environment which is designed for this purpose. Have you been involved in such a project or development?

Innovation through Quality Methods

Innovation can and does happen in unpredictable or chaotic environments in which people are regularly firefighting, jumping to solutions without testing, risking failing to supply customers and where processes are not in control, stable or predictable, but it’s not ideal. Systemic Innovation requires focus, structure and tools to help teams develop their ideas, this is where quality methods can help create the right environment for the innovation and quality tools to help deliver innovation.

Let’s look at four simple stages to show how this can work…

Stage 1 – Where are we now?

Understand where you are today. Innovation is more likely to happen and be noticed in an environment where:

  • There are quality methods in place to measure performance
  • Your processes are in control so you can identify a change in performance
  • You can attribute a change correctly, good or bad…
  • You have data and analysis to inform decisions

In this stage use quality tools such as Pareto charts, control charts or flowcharts to help gather useful data to understand the process, understand your customers, your competitors, market trends and any other data that will support the business case for the work. This information will help you support the context of the innovation, and develop provide useful insights to help define the overall goal of the innovation.

Stage 2 – Where are we going?

Agree which type of innovation you are working on for each project. Breakdown the overall goal for the innovation into practical objectives. This will help focus the innovation.

Stage 3 – How are we going to get there?

Having established what you are aiming for, you are now in a great position to select the appropriate method/s for the innovation.

EVOLUTION:

Think about using a quality improvement methodology such as structured problems solving or lean six sigma to provide the overall structure.

Creative thinking methods work well here. If you are looking to extend an existing product range or service, quality methods such as TRIZ, structured idea generation, or Lateral Thinking are all great methods for evolving existing scenarios.

OPPORTUNISTIC:

Create an environment and a culture in which you can notice a change, where you ‘learn to see’ what is happening in your system. Quality tools such as Pareto diagrams, control charts, histograms, and stratification will aid you in noticing an opportunity and/or change. Continuous improvement methods will help you gather other opportunities that can be taken further to innovate products, services or processes.

BREAKTHROUGH:

By its very nature, it’s the big investment, it requires a dedicated programme and a consistent quality method such as Design for Six Sigma, founded on PDSA, with goals, roles and responsibilities clearly articulated and agreed. Align the work to your organisation’s strategy – your chances of success are increased when you have leadership commitment. And, as in all forms of innovation, you must be prepared to take risks and fail.

These are not concepts which are typically embraced by organisations, but remember it took James Dyson 5,127 attempts to create the bag-less vacuum and Thomas Edison 50,000 experiments to develop the battery!

Stage 4 – How are we going to make it stick?

Innovation is only part of the equation, on its own, it’s no more than a great idea.

Bring your creativity to life in a sustainable way through a robust implementation process.

Quality methods such as Lean Six Sigma have implementation built into the method. In other situations, planning implementation and integrating into daily process management are required.


 

About Susannah

 Susannah Clarke is Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI), Head of Skills & Capabilities Practice and a specialist in the field of Executive and Performance Coaching. Susannah has worked extensively in the learning and development sector, starting her career with NatWest Markets in the City before spending 17-years with GSK as a consultant.

In 2011 Susannah joined Oracle University as Partner Director for EMEA and in 2013 joined PMI as Managing Partner. As co-author of ‘Implementing ISO9001:2015” she brings together more than 35 years’ experience leading, managing and consulting across different organisations. Susannah has written several blogs and published many articles in leading process and Quality focused publications.