Making the Case for Quality

July 2008

Six Sigma Green, Black Belts Help Manufacturer

Save Nearly $1.5 Million
by Jeanne Chircop
With a corporate commitment to helping customers lower costs and maximize productivity, it’s no
At a Glance . . . surprise that Crown Equipment Corporation is itself dedicated to lean manufacturing and total quality
management. Continuous improvement has been intrinsic to the company’s philosophy since its found-
• The newest component ing in 1945, as management has periodically adjusted product offerings and services to meet changing
of Crown Equipment
customer needs.
Corporation’s quality
management program is
Six Sigma. While lean is Yet even with decades of success that has made the Ohio-based manufacturer the world’s top-selling
the systematized corporate producer of electric lift trucks, the company still recently found ways to use Six Sigma strategies to
effort, company managers improve processes, reduce scrap and gas usage, and fine-tune operations. The company now has 18
apply Six Sigma to certain certified Six Sigma Green Belts and 15 Black Belts in its North American manufacturing facilities
projects as needed and as striving to lead the corporation toward even further improvement.
resources are available.
• The company now has 18 The Little Company That Could
certified Six Sigma Green
Belts and 15 Black Belts
Crown Equipment Corporation began as a one-product, one-room operation in the small, rural commu-
in its North American
manufacturing facilities. nity of New Bremen, OH. Started just after World War II by the late Carl H. Dicke and Allen A. Dicke,
the company manufactured temperature controls for coal-burning furnaces. By 1949, the enterprising
• To date, Green Belt efforts
have resulted in hard
brothers followed changing technology trends and switched to producing antenna rotators—devices
savings of $1.2 million used to enhance television reception. Even after diversifying into electronic components manufactur-
for Crown, and Black ing in 1951 and then adding lift trucks in 1957, Crown Equipment continued as a leading manufacturer
Belt efforts have brought of antenna rotators until late 2001, by which time changing technologies had rendered them virtually
$285,000 in hard savings, obsolete.
with more expected as the
projects proceed further. Still privately owned and managed by descendents of the original founders, Crown’s full product line
• While the time requirement includes:
for the first 12 Green
Belts to undertake • Manual propelled pallet trucks and stackers
training was a whopping
• Power pallet trucks and stackers
2,400 hours (total for all
12), the company has • Sit-down and stand-up counterbalanced trucks
calculated that it has • Narrow-aisle reach trucks
saved a little more than • Very narrow-aisle turret trucks
$500 per hour for each • Order-picking equipment
hour spent in training.
The company’s electric lift trucks are used throughout the world for transporting materials and goods
in warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing environments.

Still headquartered in the same, though renovated and expanded, offices in New Bremen, Crown is now
a multinational corporation with regional headquarters in Munich, Germany, and Sydney, Australia.
The company has 11 manufacturing facilities in seven U.S. locations and also has strong international

The American Society for Quality www.asq.org Page 1 of 4

parts.org Page 2 of 4 . Six Sigma enables a company to address motors. this direction for selecting and deploying projects. Queretaro. and strategies dates to the mid-1990s. formal commitment to lean manufacturing in 1999. electronic assemblies. Such vertical integration cre- • Kinston. and parts replacement. At the project manufacturing approach arranges production facilities and floor level. OH DeGrandchamp. and turing. At the organizational competitiveness.S. however. measure. than 40 locations in the United States. schedul- ter operations in Australia. analyze. Suzhou. China. Crown’s multidisciplinary teams also have the ability to quickly Six Sigma supports lean manufacturing by reducing variation adjust concepts during the design stages and provide supporting and waste. those professionals actually conducting projects and labor into work cells. Six Sigma: A Winning Strategy facilities in several countries. Korea. Focused factory strategies enable plants to level. manufacturing capabilities. Germany. Some quality experts refer to Six Sigma as a philosophy. The company also assembles the majority is still found stateside: its own products and provides The newest component of Crown’s quality management pro- • New Bremen. Crown Equipment owns production of its lift truck components. The American Society for Quality www. OH advantage. Traditionally engaging conventional production-line manufacturing.” explains Jeff Caudill. that manufacture implementing improvements are “Green Belts” or “Black Belts.asq. and manufactures 85 percent Like nearly all large manufacturers. ASQ identifies four basic DeGrandchamp says. repair. Belgium. and other manufacturing issues Malaysia. while “We have one of the lowest life-cycle costs in the industry. Data-driven strategies focus on defect prevention. specific tasks. “because we design and build our own In general terms. Roding.” Six Sigma. IN needed and as resources are available. define. specially trained “champions” and “executives” set the focus on limited. Mexico (two plants).” others consider it a methodology. tools that lead to increased productivity. a network of independent U.” • A structure to identify root causes This intimate product knowledge significantly reduces client • Advanced tools to achieve desired outcomes downtime due to maintenance. • Use of teams that are assigned well-defined projects that Flexible Enough to Change have direct impact on the organization’s bottom line. cylinders. improve. or multiskilled teams. • A management environment that supports these initiatives as The company’s commitment to using formal quality tools a business strategy. “it • Fort Loramie. Germany. and Six Sigma provides that tool. OH (five plants) maintenance services to gram is Six Sigma. In addition to the company- owned branches. wire harnesses. Crown’s • Celina. and tar- ment became interested in the concept of “focused factory” geted Six Sigma training enables professionals at every level of manufacturing in 1996 as a way to increase productivity and a company to assist with implementation.4 defects allowed per million opportunities. NC ates a strong competitive “When you’re in a lean system. IN customers. Properly trained teams can manage processes. Crown’s may be that you have a problem that requires a more powerful • New Knoxville. effort. ing. as it drastically reduces waste and duplication of effort. company managers apply Six Sigma to certain projects as • Greencastle. Singapore. Crown also owns branch sales and service cen. according to Mark main manufacturing leader for the New Bremen campus. operator comfort. and control. equipment maintenance. Manufacturing Operations global spread. and international Crown’s focused factory initiatives paved the way toward a Crown dealers operates in nearly 100 cities. • Training in “statistical thinking” at all levels and providing Crown’s impressive history of growth stems from its leaders’ key people with extensive training in advanced statistics and keen awareness of changing technology and market trends com.” complete products or complex components rather than single depending on the level of training they have received.) challenge. and specific areas targeted for improvement by providing: masts [the part that lifts the pallet]. Crown manage. Every Six Sigma project needs organizational support. A continuous focus on effectively satisfying changing • Emphasis on the “DMAIC” approach to problem solving— customer needs is a hallmark of total quality management. defects. Utilizing a “cellular” model. (These key individuals are designated bined with a corporate culture that has embraced flexibility and as either Green or Black Belts. A pilot project in the company’s New Knoxville motor plant brought Despite this diversification and such significant benefits that the company has since applied lean U. building lift trucks in Sydney. and better fleet management. OH director of quality and Lean/ problem-solving tool. claiming customers are willing to invest in themes common to Six Sigma: the quality of Crown trucks and service because they feel it will benefit them with cost avoidance in the long term.S. with no more than 3.” he says. Crown designs strategies to every process in every one of its facilities. While lean is the systematized corporate • Connersville. the Netherlands. Cellular manufacturing is an integral part of lean manufac- Australia. project management. “We know our products better. safety. England. New Zealand. and more more efficiently and thus reduce waste of all kinds.

increased loyalty. training.2 million for the company. Members of a Six Sigma all work as processes that can • Plant managers steering committee ultimately be defined. The Crown sessions were tolerance design. long increments one month apart. hard savings for measuring the success project that participants could take back to their local manage. improved machine operation. • Basic robust design process tools. If you control the inputs. generally tification. NC.org Page 3 of 4 . you Green Belt training and cer- thoroughly understand and use all aspects of the DMAIC model will control the outputs. Managers were directed to consider candidates who • Elimination of nonvalue-added steps. the second week self-esteem. Black Belts primarily on the potential long- term benefits of the projects. analyzed. such as: The Green Belt training was conducted at company headquarters • Quality function deployment (QFD) by a certified American Society for Quality (ASQ) trainer. must understand and use other key Six Sigma tools. ties during December 2006 and January 2007. participants represented varied • Willing and able to pass an internally developed test on experience levels and a range of disciplines: quality tools and statistics • Manufacturing engineers Each candidate was required • Quality engineers Design for X to suggest a project that would • Quality management system (QMS) trainers of machinists bring improvement to the com- • Quality technicians The Six Sigma perspective views pany. facility attended similar training conducted at North Carolina Crown’s Black Belt training occurred in the New Bremen facili- State University. and more efficient gas usage. in accordance with Six Sigma principles.400 hours (total for all 12). of its Six Sigma efforts. Six • Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) Sigma Green Belt training is typically conducted in two week. formats. with 15 individuals moving on to take Black Belt by company management. and controlled. Processes Six Sigma Black Belts lead problem-solving projects by training require inputs (x) and produce outputs to participate in the company’s and coaching project teams at their facilities. Two certified ASQ trainers led the effort. business unit managers were • Elimination of defects invited to submit names of potential candidates for Green Belt • Optimization of processes training. In addition. At about the same time. All of the Green Belt candidates presented basic details of their proposed projects to the group. basing selection expressed as y = f(x). Every successful quality improvement program has both tangible among others. a • “Design for X” strategies half-dozen Crown employees from the company’s Kinston. and work began. While the time require- remained on track. and process capability tools held in October and November 2005.000 in hard savings so far. At the end of the second week. the company has calcu- The American Society for Quality www. ment to begin actual on-site implementation. measurable results (tangible). participants took a four-hour 100-question exam To date. Projects Million-dollar Results ranged from general process improvement to scrap reduction. Rather than addressing any particular challenge. The first week of training was devoted to strategizing how to such as improved morale. Group participants continued to meet via teleconference efforts have brought $285. and intangible results—concrete. ings of $1. Crown has cho- was devoted to creating PowerPoint presentations about each sen to focus on tangible. including noise strategies. Each Green Belt was tasked with completion ment for the first 12 Green Belts to undertake training was a of a project within the following six months. selected 12 Crown employees improved. As in the Green Belt program.asq. each participant sug- gested an improvement project for the group to undertake. Crown initiated its Six Sigma program in 2005 with four-day Black Belt Training “Champion” training for key upper-level managers. such as secondary were: handling of goods • Improvement of overseas operations in order to eliminate • Personally motivated to do their best secondary handling of goods in the United States • Recognized to have a mathematical mind that would be well‑suited to the statistical nature of the improvement effort Also like the Green Belt program. which culminated with a four-hour Both the ASQ and NC State training sessions followed similar 150-question written exam for the 15 participants. higher employee organize resources and eliminate roadblocks. measured. and enhanced customer satisfaction. Black Belts must (y). all of Crown’s U. Crown’s Green Belt efforts have resulted in hard sav- about Six Sigma concepts and received certification upon pass. The company’s Black Belt ing.S. whopping 2. with more every couple of weeks thereafter to ensure each of the projects expected as the projects proceed further. Black Green Belt Training Belt projects focused on: In late 2005. and beneficial though impossible to measure results (intangible). the training was a natural The next phase of Crown’s Six Sigma effort occurred the fol- extension of the ongoing improvement philosophy championed lowing year.

quality engineering manager of the New Bremen headquarters facili. Now that demands have stabilized. For more information about Six Sigma and other quality tools. responsible for all New Bremen facilities. The U. One of only eight award recipients. This equipment has reduced the generation of waste paint sludge and air emissions. Budgets have been approved to quality manager. Crown’s results indicate Six Sigma is the “strongest improve.com. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and resides in eliminating the chromium from paint formulations.caudill@crown.degrandchamp@crown. however: Timing is everything. the timelines languished. metropolitan area.2 million in savings. waste minimization occurred because of installation of a power painting operation. Crown has been recognized with numerous awards.” according to John Daeger. He holds a bachelor’s Black Belt and a Black Belt.org Page 4 of 4 . www. He 15 projects from the process development stage into the imple. and natural resources the amount of hazardous waste involved in manufacturing by sectors. including outstanding achievement in waste mini- About the Author mization and pollution prevention. and quality auditor include full-time commitment to the Black Belt program. Though a relative newcomer to Crown—joining the company ing how its Six Sigma and lean programs should work together in 2006—he has long-standing career involvement with lean for total ongoing quality improvement. The team’s plan is to move the Equipment. In the broader scope. Company managers learned one important lesson. degree from Concordia University and a master’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. and Six Sigma activities and is an ASQ certified quality engineer. DeGrandchamp. visit “Strongest Tool” http://crown. quality engineer. While the Green Belt training rendered an • Mark DeGrandchamp is director of quality and Lean/Six almost immediate $1. the company. visit the American Society for Quality Web site. ment tool you can use. The American Society for Quality www.” one of only 27 in the country. lated that it has saved a little over $500 per hour for each hour For More Information spent in training. but also for serving as a role model for other industrial generators by demonstrating the feasibility of pollution prevention. Crown has also received the Governor’s Award in Ohio for Outstanding Achievement in Pollution Prevention.daeger@crown. He can be reached at jeff. with the intent that the growing number of • Jeff Caudill is Crown’s New Bremen operations lean leader Green Belts will help spread training throughout all branches of and has specific expertise in analyzing data and statistics. Crown earned the nomination not only because of its actual achievements in pollution prevention.asq. • John Daeger is quality engineering manager for Crown energizing the Black Belt effort. Daeger holds ASQ’s mentation and control phases. Full. In the meantime. Environmental Protection Agency has designated Crown as a “Waste Jeanne Chircop has been helping organizations share their suc- Minimization Partner. certifications and has completed ASQ’s Six Sigma Green time dedicated positions are currently being filled for a Master Belt and Black Belt training programs. Additional the Washington. has been with Crown for eight years and can be reached at mark.com. joined the company in November 2004. manufacturing. For more information about Crown Equipment Corporation. the Black Belt effort Sigma for Crown Equipment. The award cesses for more than 20 years. an ASQ their Six Sigma projects full time. he has more than 23 years of experience the Black Belt candidates didn’t have the opportunity to focus on working with quality initiatives.com. DC. As University of Indiana.com. Belts each year. With a bachelor of science has moved at a much slower pace because of its timing and degree from Purdue University and a master’s degree from the because participants weren’t assigned to the effort full time. certified quality engineer. She has written about quality recognizes the company’s success in substantially reducing efforts in the education. the company is also evaluat. He can be reached at The company also has plans to train a minimum of 10 Green john.S.org. Contributing to this Article ties.asq. Crown management is re.