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PolyOne’s Lean Six Sigma Success

I recently had the chance to talk to Brett Warland, global director of process improvement at PolyOne Corporation. The word “global” is often present in the titles of many organization’s process improvement programs and employee job titles that deal with quality. This can convey not only an international emphasis on process improvement at worldwide branches of the company, but also that CI methods pervade each aspect of the business’s culture and day-to-day workings.

I definitely found this to be the case at PolyOne! Just a few minutes into our conversation, Brett mentioned that learning quality improvement practices and statistical methods isn’t restricted to any one job description, department, or business function within the company. In fact, as part of PolyOne’s global Lean Six Sigma program deployment, employees across all job functions and backgrounds were trained in Lean Six Sigma.

The Launch of the Lean Six Sigma Deployment

The company launched its Lean Six Sigma deployment as a major element in its strategy to combat the 2008 economic slowdown, and they were faced with the challenge to quickly train a large proportion of their full-time workforce in Lean Six Sigma. They set a five-year target goal to have 20% of all full-time associates formally trained, with different groups trained as project leaders requiring Black Belt, Green Belt, or Kaizen Leader designations.

Three years into its deployment, PolyOne has trained over 40% of its full-time associates in Lean Six Sigma, greatly surpassing its original goal of 20%! This total includes PolyOne’s entire sales organization, which received voice-of-the-customer concentrated Yellow Belt training.

A good portion of associates trained in Lean Six Sigma have also been trained as project leaders capable of leading Lean Six Sigma project teams. In addition to the Lean Six Sigma tool set, every project leader at PolyOne receives Minitab software training.

“Minitab is a core part of our in-house Lean Six Sigma training,” says Brett Warland, global director of process improvement at PolyOne. “The software is easy to deploy and it’s easy to teach employees across the organization—from those trained as Master Black Belts to those working in customer-facing roles.”

Analyzing Data in Lean Six Sigma Projects

With more than 180 belted projects under way at any one time, PolyOne’s project teams frequently use Minitab for data analysis. Here are just a few examples:

Teams use Minitab's Attribute Agreement Analysis to assess the measurement systems in commercial and transactional projects. One improvement team collected appraiser data for assigning codes to various causes for customer credits, and performed Attribute Agreement Analysis to find out if different appraisers assigned cause codes consistently. The analysis demonstrated that better operational definitions and more appraiser training were required before the appraiser data could be used to investigate specific root causes.

Another PolyOne project used Cluster Analysis to examine customer survey data. This improvement team wanted to evaluate if the data showed groupings of customers with similar needs. With Minitab graphs, the team was able to clearly see how various customer groups differed by demographic factors, such as industry and business size. The team was then able to use this information to tailor the company’s offerings to better serve their customers.

Cluster analysis was also used to determine if similar properties existed in over 100 grades of raw materials purchased for the production of polymers. This analysis of key material characteristics provided a starting point for quality teams to investigate opportunities to consolidate purchases and reduce complexities in the current purchasing process.

The Results of the Lean Six Sigma Deployment

PolyOne’s global Lean Six Sigma deployment has yielded excellent results for the company. Since the launch of Lean Six Sigma, the company’s enterprise value has increased by a factor of ten. PolyOne’s efforts with Lean Six Sigma also earned them the 2012 award for “Best Process Excellence Program” from the International Quality and Productivity Center.

You can check out the full case study on Minitab.com: http://www.minitab.com/en-us/Case-Studies/PolyOne-Corporation/

Has your company completed a global Lean Six Sigma deployment?


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