Ahead of presenting at the LMJ Annual Conference, Tony Carr of Caterpillar speaks with Roberto Priolo about lean implementation at the company's Leicester plant.
Roberto Priolo: How did the Leicester plant’s lean journey unfold and what is your role in it?
Tony Carr: We started with six sigma at the turn of the millennium, creating a few black belts. In 2001-2002, we decided that we wanted all Caterpillar Desford employees to be at least yellow belts.
In 2006, the Leicester plant complemented six sigma, by adding lean through the introduction of the Caterpillar Production System. What we are doing now is driving lean by using formerly trained six sigma belts to deploy its principles.
I was never a black belt myself, but I became a six sigma project sponsor in 2001.
RP: Do Caterpillar plants around the globe have an opportunity to reinterpret principles and tools or are corporate guidelines for lean very strict?
TC: The division in Leicester has more freedom than others, because it is building a different range of machines, the construction products, which are considerably smaller than the average Cat product.
We have more freedom in the way we adopt the Caterpillar processes and models, to make sure we are as nimble and competitive as our direct competitors. We still follow good project management – DMAIC – but we are allowed flexibility in how we operate within the principles. We are given a budget we have to manage and we need to deliver results.
We need to use six sigma principles to get the job done, but each manager can decide how best to do that.
RP: Where’s the Leicester plant at from a lean standpoint?
TC: Six sigma is a critical component of our success – it’s now transitioned to being a part of our culture. This transition means we’ve moved from having dedicated black belts to having black belts from the early days who have become department managers and now work with teams to make sure the process is embedded.
The plant’s journey changed in 2006, as we implemented the Caterpillar Production System. We took our six sigma black belts and re-trained them in Caterpillar production processes.
Within my operating group I have a few Cat Production System black belts who also have six sigma tools. Their role is to drive the system in various projects through DMAIC, which drives our lean journey.
The real focus is on the combination of six sigma and the Caterpillar Production System, which essentially represents our lean journey.
Six sigma is still embedded in our culture – the next step for us was to adopt lean thinking following the Caterpillar Production System.
RP: What can attendees expect to learn from your presentation at the LMJ Annual Conference?
TC: The story of a plant’s lean journey, with its ups and downs, as seen through my eyes. I will be talking about the role of sponsorship in ensuring the success of a lean programme, and sharing a story of relentless drive for excellence.
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