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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 Page 1 of 4

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

selected 12 Crown employees improved. the company has calcu- The American Society for Quality www. Crown’s Green Belt efforts have resulted in hard sav- about Six Sigma concepts and received certification upon pass. participants took a four-hour 100-question exam To date. formats. If you control the inputs. ings of $1. 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. Every successful quality improvement program has both tangible among others. As in the Green Belt program. 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 Page 3 of 4 . with more every couple of weeks thereafter to ensure each of the projects expected as the projects proceed further. generally tification. Six • Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) Sigma Green Belt training is typically conducted in two week. ties during December 2006 and January 2007. All of the Green Belt candidates presented basic details of their proposed projects to the group. Members of a Six Sigma all work as processes that can • Plant managers steering committee ultimately be defined.asq. Black Green Belt Training Belt projects focused on: In late 2005. hard savings for measuring the success project that participants could take back to their local manage. 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. training. Rather than addressing any particular challenge.S. Two certified ASQ trainers led the effort. in accordance with Six Sigma principles. Projects Million-dollar Results ranged from general process improvement to scrap reduction. NC. improved machine operation. analyzed.2 million for the company. • Basic robust design process tools. and controlled. The company’s Black Belt ing. At the end of the second week. While the time require- remained on track. and intangible results—concrete. measurable results (tangible). measured. all of Crown’s U. 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. of its Six Sigma efforts. Black Belts primarily on the potential long- term benefits of the projects. must understand and use other key Six Sigma tools. 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. Managers were directed to consider candidates who • Elimination of nonvalue-added steps. At about the same time. such as: The Green Belt training was conducted at company headquarters • Quality function deployment (QFD) by a certified American Society for Quality (ASQ) trainer. and enhanced customer satisfaction. the second week self-esteem.400 hours (total for all 12). business unit managers were • Elimination of defects invited to submit names of potential candidates for Green Belt • Optimization of processes training. ment to begin actual on-site implementation. and beneficial though impossible to measure results (intangible). and process capability tools held in October and November 2005. long increments one month apart. which culminated with a four-hour Both the ASQ and NC State training sessions followed similar 150-question written exam for the 15 participants. whopping 2. including noise strategies. you Green Belt training and cer- thoroughly understand and use all aspects of the DMAIC model will control the outputs. Black Belts must (y). and work began. Crown has cho- was devoted to creating PowerPoint presentations about each sen to focus on tangible.000 in hard savings so far. with 15 individuals moving on to take Black Belt by company management. higher employee organize resources and eliminate roadblocks. The Crown sessions were tolerance design. and more efficient gas usage. a • “Design for X” strategies half-dozen Crown employees from the company’s Kinston. basing selection expressed as y = f(x). In addition. each participant sug- gested an improvement project for the group to undertake. facility attended similar training conducted at North Carolina Crown’s Black Belt training occurred in the New Bremen facili- State University. 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. Crown initiated its Six Sigma program in 2005 with four-day Black Belt Training “Champion” training for key upper-level managers. increased loyalty.

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