Asset | Strategy & Logistics organizes the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training, in collaboration with NHTV Breda. I decided to participate in this training which started on Monday January 9. The training provides me the opportunity to increase my skills and knowledge about quality management using Lean Management and Six Sigma techniques.

The training was primarily meant for the students of the MSc. Supply Chain Management. However, quality management is not just for Supply-Chainers but also for a Strategic Management student like me, since it is optimizing your processes with the ultimate goal: serving your customer. A consultant-author Peter Drucker once said “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” Thus, quality management is not just a ‘supply chain thing’, it is good business management through finding a balance between financial constraints and customer requirements to deliver the optimal quality.

Besides that, to make quality management successful, management commitment is of great importance. Management should promote quality management, since if they don’t promote it, no personnel in the lower echelons of the organization will follow. During my Bachelor thesis, I wrote an advisory report about the implementation of ISO 9000 which is the global standard for quality management. I facilitated the implementation of quality management in a unique context, namely in a branch organization for shipbuilders and suppliers. My experience in quality management and lean management in general convinced me to follow this training, and after the first two lectures, I have no regrets.

I cannot provide many in-depth details regarding the content itself, but I can provide you with some interesting information about the training. First, I have not had that many lectures from such an enthusiastic lecturer. His experience as a consultant made his story even more interesting. He started the lecture mentioning that the training would not be very scientific but practice oriented. He clarified that this is also what you want, if you want to understand how operations can be improved in a real-life context.

With his examples, he showed us how easy it sometimes is to improve a situation at a company, the hardest part is not fixing the problem, but fixing the mindset of the people. Therefore, implementing Lean Management or Six Sigma is more than using tools, it is also convincing people, letting them understand ‘what’s in it for them’.

The first training session focussed on quality management in general, and the first phase in the process of Six Sigma, namely Define. Define is the first step of the DMAIC ‘problem solving methodology’. The first step is all about defining the problem, what do you want to solve at your organisation. The project team creates a high-level view of the process, in order to thoroughly understand the process and the need of the customers. As mentioned above, the customer needs play an important factor in techniques like Six Sigma. Therefore, it is crucial to know your customer and their needs to determine the requirements. During the second session, the customer focus was extensively explained and directly put into context by visiting Claassen, a logistics company located in Tilburg.

Claassen provides logistic services to approximately 400 small and medium enterprises. Their services range from:

  1. logistics services throughout Europe;
  2. sea and air freight worldwide;
  3. e-logistics;
  4. a variety of logistic solutions.

The unique selling point of Claassen is their flexibility, the company is able to provide a variety of logistical services which can be tailored for the small customers.

Two former logistics students gave us an intriguing presentation and a small tour through the headquarters. With a cross dock of 10,300 square meters divided over 68 docks, you have a lot of ground to manage. Claassen handles on average 1400 orders per day, operating from two locations (Tilburg and Meppel). Sadly, I cannot provide you with more details, but I can guarantee you that it was a nice experience to see such a company operating on full speed.

Taken together, both sessions were very interesting, the practical approach and the excursion brought this training to the next level for me. From my experience, I can conclude that such an approach is valuable, you are going to support/consult such like companies, therefore the problem based approach adds value to this course and to your overall Masters degree.

During the coming weeks, I will inform you about my experiences during this training and how these theories help me understand the real-life problems in companies.

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