For this month’s Expert Interview I sat down with Angelo Nicosia, Dade Paper’s Corporate Process Improvement Manager. In addition to managing several of the company’s financial functions, Angelo is an expert at developing and implementing cost and efficiency improvements. In addition to an MBA, he holds a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification and has completed the coursework for his Black Belt.
LC: How many years have you been in this role?
AN: I’ve been with Dade Paper for over 12 years. When I first started, I focused mainly on finance and over time process improvement became part of my job. To that end, I began to study Lean Six Sigma several years ago and earned various certifications.
LC: What is Lean Six Sigma?
AN: Lean Six Sigma is a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste. There are eight types of waste analyzed: defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, extra-processing.
Six Sigma as a methodology provides an organized, specific, repeatable means of assessing and resolving challenges through a process titled:
Define / Measure / Analyze / Improve / Control.
This approach focuses on cause and effect with analytical problem solving tools within a management structure to assure results.
LC: Can you share an example of how you employed this methodology and the outcome?
AN: Yes, in this case we had an issue with one of our suppliers. Their invoices contained a lot of errors and it was causing our A/P department to allocate a great deal of time to address the problem. Because multiple branch locations were being serviced by this supplier, the errors were compounded. Despite A/P’s efforts, they were unable to solve the problem on their own. By applying the Lean Six Sigma method we were able to identify all of the contributing factors that caused the invoice errors. We were then able to design a new process in partnership with the supplier to reduce and eventually eliminate the errors. We established measureable performance indicators, better integration between people, process and technology. We engaged all of the stakeholders in the process to ensure acceptance, adoption and compliance. In the end, we eliminated the invoice errors.
LC: Is the process very complex?
AN: It can be, but by following the Lean Six Sigma method and applying critical thinking we can address just about any challenge and develop better ways to do things. I would encourage any business to apply these principles to address their challenges. The investment is worth it.
LC: What are the steps to becoming Lean Six Sigma certified and implementing a program?
AN: The first step is to find a good training program. I completed my training program at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida. There are many other institutions that offer this type of program throughout the United States including Strategy Associates. After completing the levels of training, referred to as “belts” much like martial arts, the next step is to implement the program on the right foot. There are 5 areas to address:
- Ensure that you have sustained leadership support from all levels and departments.
- Design a deployment strategy that closely aligns the goals of Lean Six Sigma with overall organizational business goals.
- Offer mentoring and coaching support to the new members or “belts” on the Lean Six Sigma team to help them learn to execute projects.
- Select projects and prioritize them correctly to ensure that the team has the data and authority needed to succeed.
- Communicate the benefits of Lean Six Sigma deployment to the entire organization, enlist their support and share the success stories.
LC: Do you have any tips that a business owner or manager could implement today to eliminate waste from their operation?
AN: Wasting resources, whether its materials or time, has a negative impact on the bottom line. A couple of very simple ways to reduce and prevent waste are to make sure you are purchasing the right products and implementing the right processes for the job. This holds true no matter what type of business, from a quick-serve restaurant to a cleaning contractor. For example, a quick-serve restaurant should use the appropriate size and style of take-out containers which can reduce packaging costs, streamline assembly and help with portion control. For cleaning contractors, proper training and task assignment can reduce labor costs and improve safety. Also, by investing in high quality equipment and maintaining that equipment properly the contractor can reduce expenses over time. Lean Six Sigma is a road map to identifying the opportunities for waste reduction and process improvement no matter what type of business you manage.
Angelo and his team employ the Lean Six Sigma principles each day to ensure that Dade Paper’s internal operations are efficient, cost effective and continuously improving.