A global electronics company won two awards this year for projects that used the principles of Lean Six Sigma to improve efficiency in the company’s warehouse and shipping departments.

One of the main components of the initiative incorporates a key part of Lean – it was driven by employees from the “bottom up.”

The company, Arrow Electronics, won two awards during the annual Business Transformation and Operational Excellence Awards (BTOES) ceremony in Orlando, Fla. Arrow, headquartered in Colorado, is a global supplier for industrial and commercial users of electronic components and enterprise computing solutions.

Arrow won the Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Technology and Communications award for a project that used video to increase productivity by 56% and reduce the walking steps for employees by 6.8 million (about 3,400 miles).

The company won the Best Achievement in Operational Excellence to Deliver Digital Transformation for a project that improved same-day shipping services at the company’s website, Arrow.com.

“Arrow’s global logistics services team is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to better serve our customers, both internally and externally,” Mary Beth Edwards, Arrow’s vice president of global business operations, said in a news release.

That statement shows the commitment to process improvement and Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma that has helped improve operations at many companies.

How They Did It

For the warehouse project, an employee-driven idea was conceived to use high-definition video shot from above the warehouse floor to record operations within the facility. While they had performed this since 2016, in 2017 the company added 360-degree cameras to capture all of the operation.

The cameras also fed the video directly to the Cloud, allowing company officials to review the videos on any device and from any location.

Employees met with an Arrow worker who is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt to analyze the video. Lean focuses on cutting out waste from an operation. One of the major areas of focus is on wasted employee movement. Using the video, Arrow employees and the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt found areas where changes could be made to make the warehouse operation more efficient.

Implementing those changes is what led to the elimination of almost seven million wasted steps and the significant increase in warehouse productivity. Perhaps most importantly, the initiative was not “top down” but “bottom up,” with employees developing the idea and having buy-in on the ultimate goal.

Click To Ship

The second award for digital transformation also related to Lean Six Sigma methodology. The company streamlined how data moved on the site, making processing times faster for customers through the “click to ship” process improvement project.

The changes resulted in Arrow achieving much higher same-day shipping results just 90 days after the project was launched.

The BTOES awards focus on recognizing operational excellence. Winners are chosen based on how they have executed a business strategy that makes their operation more consistent and reliable than competitors. A panel of operational excellence experts judge the entries. Getting shortlisted for an award – and winning one – gives companies the industry recognition that can lead to both recruitment of better employees and to more business opportunities, according to BTOES.

Also, BTOES looks for businesses that have lowered operational risk and cost while also increasing revenue when compared to competitors. The organization believes technological  innovation has created a situation where businesses need to undergo an “end-to-end business transformation.”

They list both Lean and Six Sigma approaches as being central to that transformation.

Other Awards

Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma are increasingly getting recognition and awards for the significant positive impact they can have on a business operation.

Recent examples include:

  • Healthcare supply chain companies who have used process improvement methodologies to improve performance.
  • Small businesses, a government agency and healthcare companies that used process improvement projects to win a 2017 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which recognizes exceptional work in process improvement and customer service.
  • Universities, including Singapore Management University, that have won awards for implementing Lean and Six Sigma-driven process improvement projects

Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma continue to make inroads into all areas of the business, academic, nonprofit and governmental sectors. For those who have decided to earn certification in the methodology, the time has never been better to put your talents to use.

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