The Six Sigma drive

The Six Sigma drive

José Lopez is using Six Sigma methods to design an organization that will make it easy for customers to work with GE.

He was recently appointed general manager for Power Systems` new Energy Services Global Customer Service centre, which will provide a single point of contact for services customers worldwide.

Formerly Six Sigma process quality leader for GE Industrial Systems` Control`s (ED&C) Power Controls business in Europe, Lopez has been charged with establishing a world-class, state-of-the-art customer service centre. To do this, he is using Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) to create the optimum structure for the business.

“DFSS involves designing a new process, which is focused on improving an existing process,” Lopez explains. “The Six Sigma methodology has come in tremendously handy because it reduces trial and error. You know exactly how to interpret a customer requirement because you actually go out and ask the customer what their CTQs (critical to quality issues) are, as opposed to internally guessing.”

The Atlanta-based Global Customer Service centre is the result of a transformation of the former parts centre. This was accomplished by mapping all key processes and assessing their Six Sigma capability. Those considered not Six Sigma capable were redesigned, and projects are being carried out to improve those that were. The result has been improved performance in orders processing and orders backlog at the centre since it began processing parts orders this past summer.

Six Sigma is being used to assess overall services processes, the various organizations` role in these processes, and where the gaps and overlaps occur. The goal is to streamline the organization to make it more efficient and to avoid having more than one organization doing the same thing. Process mapping is being used to ensure a seamless, efficient process flow between business segments.

Part of this dimension of the service centre will be a focus providing customers with the opportunity to take advantage of GE`s technical expertise.

“If a customer calls asking for buckets, we may suggest replacing another component during the same outage, based on our knowledge of their turbine and the life span of the part,” Lopez says.

Customer dashboards are being used as leading indicators of customer satisfaction. The measurement is on DPMO (defects per million opportunities) reductions on five vital CTQs. Energy Services is hoping for a 50 per cent DPMO reduction by the end of this year.

Companies both inside and outside of GE have been benchmarked to assess state-of-the-art customer service practices. These have included GE Appliances, GE Medical Systems, as well as Federal Express, Compaq Computer, and Microsoft. The best of these practices will be incorporated into the Energy Services Global Customer Service centre.

Six Sigma is being used to design right down to the activity level which includes everything from how someone takes a call, to how calls roll over, to what happens in the event of an information system or phone failure.

Operational people involved in the day-to-day functioning of the customer service centre are being trained in DFSS and MAIC (measure, analyze, improve, control). Everyone in the Energy Services business who touches the customer will have some level of Six Sigma training.

The goal of making it easier for customers to do business with GE extends to defining an employee profile to fit the needs of the service centre.

“Because Energy Services serves a worldwide market, the group needs to be multi-lingual and multi-cultural,” Lopez says. “It is important that employees not only speak the language, but that they are able to read between the lines within a culture. We`re putting a lot of value on this, in addition to the required process skills.”

Lopez himself is a model of multi-culturalism. Born in Honduras, Central America, he grew up in Latin America and the USA, and has lived and worked throughout Europe. Most recently, he was based in Barcelona, Spain, before joining Power Systems from Industrial Systems.

“It is very difficult to run a global organization without international experience. You run the risk of being insular in your thinking,” Lopez says. “You need the openness of mind to see things from other points of view.”

Lopez believes two characteristics will drive leadership in the future: understanding how to do business across the world, and the ability to make continuous improvements in an ever-changing world.

“You`re always going to have to be rethinking your processes,” he says. “People who understand continuous improvement such as with Six Sigma are going to be very successful.”

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