It is no secret that achieving the goals of Six Sigma creates opportunities to retain customers, capture new markets and build a reputation for world-class products and services. For one of Allergan's manufacturing plants (Waco, TX), reaching these goals went beyond achieving breakthroughs in every area of its operation; to accelerate Six Sigma deployment while reducing costs, the Waco plant's quality leaders needed to find the right visual tool for mapping various Six Sigma and lean processes already in place.
Allergan, a global specialty pharmaceutical company, has more than 5.000 employees, 33 commercial locations, four research and development facilities, and three manufacturing plants. The Waco plant has been pioneering Six Sigma and lean manufacturing initiatives on behalf of company operations worldwide.
"Since we started these programs, we've become sort of the kernel on which Allergan's Six Sigma program was built," says Brent DeMoville. director of human resources at Allergan's Waco plant. "Now it's moving into our facilities in Brazil, Ireland and the United States."
DeMoville previously worked at Johnson & Johnson, one of the first healthcare companies to begin deploying Six Sigma. With Allergan, DeMoville now is responsible for overseeing the Waco plant's Continuous Improvement Group, which leads the charge for Six Sigma deployment.
"Like many companies that employ Six Sigma, we were looking to improve customer service and our cost structure," DeMoville says. "The Continuous Improvement Group was created to facilitate these changes."
Jesse Urteaga, Allergan's continuous improvement group manager, has eight years of experience in lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. "We were looking for a method to add muscle in creating change quickly and effectively," Urteaga says. "We were interested in the structured approach of Six Sigma along with the quick implementation of lean, so we decided to combine the two."
As part of the Continuous Improvement Group's methodology, Urteaga and Training Manager and Six Sigma Greenbelt Amy Kilgo focus on converting and streamlining positions that are inefficient. They also focus on developing positions that enhance the bottom line.
"We do a scan of the environment to see what improvement activities we can focus on," Kilgo says. "We work as facilitators with departments that need improvement and pull in team members from other departments on an as-needed basis."
But before implementing efficiency improvements, Allergan staff first needed a way to visualize the various manufacturing processes they soon would improve. "Before beginning any initiative, it's important to start with a good understanding of the process." DeMoville says. "We thought a good start would be mapping or diagramming what we had in place."
Urteaga agrees that a visual tool was necessary to a successful Six Sigma deployment. "Without visually displaying the processes, it's impossible to identify the obstacles, delays and bottlenecks."
DeMoville was charged with finding a software tool that could help Allergan diagram their business processes. "I'm the resident software geek, so I usually evaluate software tools, especially for process improvement decisions," he says.
Although DeMoville was an experienced user of several diagramming tools, many proved to be unable to meet the task, were not cost-effective or taken off the market. Enter SmartDraw software, an easy-to-use diagramming tool that is available on the Internet. "I was impressed by the tool's rich set of templates and huge collection of symbols, especially when it comes to business process management, or BPM," DeMoville says.
SmartDraw offered Allergan more than 60,000 symbols and images, including an entire collection for BPM, which includes symbols for Six Sigma, lean manufacturing, ISO certification and total quality management.
"I found every sort of BPM symbol and template that we needed to map out our processes," DeMoville says. "Also, it's easy to create your own symbols and save them, which we do for value stream mapping."
Ease of use was critical to the whole team. "I'm not one of those people who uses help or instructions, so it's important to me that the software is intuitive and logical," Kilgo says.
With the software's simple drag-and-drop drawing and intuitive user-
interface, DeMoville also found that he could rapidly create the process maps needed for Allergan's Six Sigma deployment. "I'm able to make diagrams quickly in SmartDraw," he says. "The tool also allows me to start from a polished-
looking template instead of a blank page, so I can save time by starting with a template and then making it my own."
DeMoville also found that the software works hand-in-hand with Microsoft Office, which allowed him to create diagrams and process maps and easily copy and paste them into Word, PowerPoint, Visio and more.
The tool offers pages of online tutorials, tips and pop-up hints so help is readily available. In the event users need more assistance, unlimited, free, live customer support from in-house experts is accessible.
SmartDraw is on its way to becoming Allergan's standard for process mapping and Six Sigma training. "Using the tool, we've mapped everything from in-house manufacturing processes to vendor transactions," Kilgo says. "We've also mapped our training tracking process, which ensures that our entire population has met their training requirements."
In turn, the process maps help Allergan employees gain a better understanding of how their processes work so they can know where to make efficiency improvements.
"The drawings help to clarify our processes, especially complicated ones," Kilgo says. "They make it easy to see how you are doing a process right now, and what is value-added or not value-added. This helps you decide what steps to improve and what to remove."
So far, SmartDraw has helped the Continuous Improvement Group streamline areas in which operations and transactions are "heavy." Those resources then can be deployed to other areas where they can be of more use.
"The maps have helped us begin to identify waste in our transportation routes-how we move products from point A to point Z," Urteaga says. "We're also using the software for project management, decision tree analysis, and mapping out current and future states."
SmartDraw also is actively used to create training materials for all of their Six Sigma Green Belts, and is required to complete several projects annually. According to DeMoville, SmartDraw will be the standard for Allergan's Green Belts, and he anticipates the company soon will have up to 50 Green Belts using the tool.
"The software will be used across the board, not just for manufacturing," DeMoville says. "We're using it for Kaizen events-mapping out the current state of our business processes with the future state-to look for ways to identify value-added processes and eliminate everything else."
The software offers features such as automatic formatting and professional color schemes, allowing even first-time users to create professional results immediately. The program's flexible printing options allow users to print everything from small diagrams to large posters.
DeMoville also looks forward to using the SmartDraw Image Plug-In that allows users to add digital photos to their diagrams. But the most significant benefit Allergan has seen in using the software is how well it complements their Six Sigma and lean manufacturing initiatives.
"The main benefit is that it allows us to dissect our processes without impeding production," Urteaga says. "It allows us to take our current models and work the bugs out of them. Creating these process maps helps us understand immediately if the flow of a process is as streamlined as we think. That knowledge is a huge asset." Q
For more information on SmartDraw, contact Christine La Grange at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 225-3342.
Tech tipsSix Sigma and lean program improvements at Allergan's Waco plant include:
• Implementation of a methodology that focuses on converting and streamlining inefficient positions.
• Use of a software tool for Six Sigma deployment to identify obstacles, delays and bottlenecks.
• Use of a software tool that provides a template and works hand-in-hand with existing software programs, and allows for the creation of diagrams and process maps.