- Implementing a Six Sigma Program? Do Not Underestimate the Value of Storyboards
- September is National Preparedness Month
- A Strategic Partnership: Core Competency and Outsourcing
- How Do They Do That? Google Street Views
Storyboards can be used for much more than documenting and individual project, they can serve as visualization and communication tools for everything fromtraining to reporting results.
- Employees across the enterprise should be informed about Six Sigma concepts and implementation results.
- Storyboards are a widely used document management tool in process improvement systems.
- Storyboards can be used in training, reporting, and communicating the concepts of Six Sigma.
The implementation of a Six Sigma program is much more than a process improvement program. Over time, organizations hope to establish a system that accurately manages processes to achieve improved business results. To meet this goal, employees must understand the Six Sigma program and be informed about the changes that are happening around them.
With the emergence of the graphical user interface (GUI) in the early 1990s, electronically formatted storyboards that provide a visual and logical flow of information became an excellent means of articulating ideas. Using real concepts and concrete ideas, storyboards aid in the illustration of key issues and pinpointing gaps that might otherwise go unnoticed. Storyboards however, are much more than documentation tools for individual projects. They can be used in educating trainees, reporting program results, and communicating the concepts of Six Sigma.
Managing and Improving Six Sigma Processes with Storyboards
During the storyboarding process, information is gathered and arranged. Information is selected that will provide continuity, consistency, and coordination throughout the various phases of any project in development. Up-to-date storyboards summarize progress and indicate what tools have been applied and in what sequence. This process can simplify problem analysis and expedite resolutions.
As all Six Sigma champions know, project structure and problem solving is based on the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) process. Storyboards reflect this logic, with each page clearly indicating the phase in the process.
The first three phases (Define, Measure, and Analyze), identify problems in the current process and examine possible root causes for the unsatisfactory process outcomes. The remaining phases (Improve and Control) focus on changing the current process to meet improvement goals.
Training Black Belt Candidates
With each phase of DMAIC comes certain expectations that must be met. To help Black Belt trainees complete the process improvement projects they are leading, many Six Sigma initiatives provide trainees with individual coaching throughout. During these coaching sessions, Black Belt trainees use storyboards to display what has been done since the last meeting.
Storyboards should be used to accomplish the following goals:
- Support the oral presentation.
- Follow the DMAIC process to structure and organize the tools used.
- Show the status of the current project.
- Be legible and concise.
- Use arrows, bullets, call out boxes, and balloons to highlight questions, key points, and so on.
- Show the data that supports findings and conclusions.
Using storyboards helps trainees apply what they have learned to their specific project, meet expectations, and foresee any changes or additional tools that may be necessary to complete the project on time. It also gives coaches insight into the trainee’s thinking, and enables them to determine knowledge gaps. This additional support ensures proper tool use, quality data collection, and uncompromised analytical results.
For guidance purposes, coaches may prepare additional pages that indicate the type and sequence of tools needed. Then, let trainees fill in these pages with charts, graphs, test results, and summaries as the project continues. These additional pages become a to-do list of next steps, helping the trainee to focus on what is important and avoid delays.
Management Presentations and Executive Summaries
When a project fails, it can lead to doubts about the effectiveness of Six Sigma. Monthly storyboard presentations keep business leaders and project sponsors informed, while keeping project leaders focused. These presentations should include recent developments, as well as root cause analysis of any process problems.
Management presentations and executive summaries do not need to be as detailed as the storyboards that are presented to project coaches. They often take the form of a subset of storyboards that summarize project activities, the root cause analysis of problems, and the solutions to implement.
Storyboards as an Educational Tool
As members of an organization come to understand the logic and flow of DMAIC through storyboards, they become more attuned to the issues and language of Six Sigma. Project leaders using storyboards can educate team members on how tools work together. Managers, sponsors, and business leaders will benefit from participation in discussions presented on storyboards. The transition toward training and project coaching can also move forward as more employees become involved.
Being prepared means being ready for any kind of emergency.
Whether caused by humans, a natural disaster, or a utility disruption,
every business should have a crisis management plan ready for any
- A crisis management plan will ensure employee safety and your business’s recovery following an emergency.
- Two-way communication is important before, during, and after any emergency.
- Always use good judgment and common sense in order to provide care for yourself, your employees, and your business.
Developing and implementing a crisis management plan can be a difficult task for any business. However, having a crisis management plan in place is something that each business owner, manager, and chief operating officer should have. In the event of an emergency, being prepared will safeguard your employees and improve the chances that your business will survive and recover after the emergency.
To assist businesses in preparing, the U.S. Government set up a Web site, ready.gov, to encourage Americans to prepare for emergencies at home, at work, and in their communities. The business portion, Ready Business, details what business owners and managers need to do to prepare a crisis management plan. The site provides useful information regarding how to create a crisis management plan and also provides easy-to-use templates to aid you in the development of your business's preparedness information.
Ready Business outlines three easy steps for businesses to develop a crisis management plan.
Every business’s crisis management plan needs to account for all types of emergencies whether they are man-made or common in nature. To prepare your plan, think about the situations that might happen, assess the situation, and draft your response. Always use good judgment and common sense in order to provide care for yourself, your co-workers, and your business.
- Be Informed—Know and understand what kinds of emergencies may affect your company. Depending on where your business is located, natural disasters may be more common, be sure to plan for these as well as other potential internal and external risks your company might encounter.
- Continuity Planning—Know and understand how your company functions. It is important to know which employees, equipment, materials, and procedures are critical to keep your business up and running.
- Emergency Planning—Your business’s employees are your most valuable asset. It is important to maintain two-way communication with them before, during, and after any emergency. Know and understand that they have the knowledge to get your company back up and running fast, but they will also need to cope and ensure the safety of their family members.
- Emergency Supplies—When stocking emergency supplies, the basic requirements for survival are fresh water, food, clean air, and warmth. Each employee should have a portable survival kit that meets these needs including any medication they are currently taking.
- Deciding to Stay or Go—It is important to plan for inclement weather and natural disasters, and whether you and your employees will need to leave before it all begins, while the event is going on, or shelter-in-place and evacuate afterward. Your plan must account for all possibilities.
- Fire Safety—It is important to have your business inspected for fire safety. Ensure that your business is compliant with all fire codes and regulations; smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems are in working order; and plan and practice fire evacuations drills with your employees. Ensure that they know how to get out of the building quickly and know where everyone meets after evacuating the building.
- Medical Emergencies—Responding to medical emergencies varies widely depending on the worksite situation or disaster. For example, plant workers face different safety risks than office workers. It is important to have First Aid kits on site, two or three CPR-trained people, and employee emergency contact information on file and updated yearly. It may be beneficial too to have employees share medical conditions that may require special emergency care.
- Influenza Pandemic—It is important to prepare for a pandemic influenza outbreak because your company may have to function with a reduced number of employees. You will have to educate your employees on the signs and symptoms of influenza and preventive actions, such as frequently washing hands, covering sneezes and coughs, and staying home when sick.
Before, during, and after emergencies it is important to maintain two-way communication with your employees and their families. Your employees may have first-hand knowledge where incidents could happen in the workplace and may also know solutions on how to prevent them from happening.
- Involve Co-Workers—When developing a crisis management plan, be sure to include employees from all levels of your company. Set up procedures to warn employees who have disabilities, who are hearing impaired, or who are non-native English speakers. Post regular communication updates via company newsletters, intranet sites, bulletin boards, and in meetings regarding changes to your company’s crisis management plan and always leave room for comments and/or suggestions.
- Practice the Plan—After your company’s crisis management plan is set up, be sure to practice the procedures with your employees. Prepare drills, exercises, and training seminars that will help you and your employees ensure readiness should an emergency or a disaster happen. Training exercises are a good way to show any potential areas that may need changes or corrections to the company’s crisis management plan.
- Promote Preparedness—Encourage your company’s employees to create a crisis management plan for their families at home and school. Your employees should have a way to contact one-another should a disaster happen. This will ensure that they remain calm during an emergency.
- Crisis Communication Plan—During and after any emergency, communication with your employees is critical. Your crisis management plan needs to provide details on how you will maintain communication with them, local emergency personnel, and others that are necessary for your business to remain functional.
- Employee Health—Keeping your employees healthy is important. Special recovery needs may be required by some employees and their family members following an emergency. Be sure to keep an open door policy where your employees can talk freely regarding their fears and, as an employer, provide care as needed.
The last step in crisis management planning is to protect your company and physical assets.
- Insurance Coverage—Keep your insurance policies current and up-to-date. It is important to review your insurance coverage with your provider and to understand what your policy covers and what it does not.
- Utility Disruptions—In preparing your crisis management plan, it is a good idea to plan for extended time without utility service. During and after disasters, electric, gas, and sometimes water and sewer services experience disruptions. Consider a backup generator to provide power during an emergency.
- Facilities, Buildings, and Plants—Be sure to take all the necessary precautions to protect your business’s physical assets. Ensure that fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are operable and clearly visible in the correct locations. You may want to keep copies of important documents in a fire-resistant safe.
- Equipment—When preparing your crisis management plan it is important to determine areas that may be susceptible to damage during a disaster or emergency. Be sure to do a room-by-room walk-through of your company building to determine what may need to be relocated and better secured.
- Building Air Protection—Indoor air quality is important to all employees. Your company’s HVAC system can provide protection from microscopic particles that would be released during an earthquake or a chemical or biological attack. These particles can only harm your employees if they get into your body. It is important to limit access to HVAC equipment and locations and to develop shut-down procedures in the event of such disasters.
- Cyber Security—Your company’s electronic data is vital to your company. It is important to protect and backup your data and other important electronic company information on a regular basis. Also be sure to setup routine employee password changes and to always install important software and security updates.
Having a crisis management plan is an important part of your business’s operation. Sure, you might only need it once, but having one implemented will ensure your employees’ safety and that your company will survive and recover following an emergency.
Outsourcing non-core competencies holds many advantages for your
business. Some of the areas commonly outsourced are food service, construction, energy management, security, grounds/landscaping, and telecommunications. Could this be a viable option for your business?
- Outsourcing non-core competencies has considerable advantages.
- Saving money is a strong driving force behind outsourcing decisions
- Outsourcing is not painless, but it is worth it, if you execute it well
More and more companies are outsourcing corporate functions that are not core company competencies. One definition of a core competency is any activity that creates or protects a competitive advantage. If facilities management or energy management is not a core competency in your business, there are considerable advantages to outsourcing. Several plant functions may be candidates for outsourcing:
- Facilities Management
- On-site Cogeneration and Combined Heat and Power Systems
- Distributed Generation
- Clean/Renewable Power Generation (for example, biomass, landfill gas, or wind)
An annual survey of registered participants of the Outsourcing Institute reported that saving money was the driving force behind their outsourcing decisions. Participants also cited improved focus on customer needs, access to world-class technologies, methodologies, and people as reasons for outsourcing, and the fact that it allowed employees to pursue other tasks and responsibilities.
EMCOR Group, Inc. conducted market research and reported its findings (used with permission) in a presentation titled, Managing Facilities for Performance. The company found that energy was a major area of concern, interest, and action:
- 87% of respondents say they have room to improve.
- 74% do not have a handle on controlling the cost, quality, and reliability of the power delivered and consumed across their enterprise.
- 59% feel they are not well positioned to control energy and improve operational efficiency.
- 49% are seeking ways to optimize energy use.
- Only 13% say energy use is optimized.
According to EMCOR Group, manufacturing companies are primarily outsourcing food service, construction, and engineering services. Other important functions that are commonly outsourced include energy management, security, grounds/landscaping, and telecommunications.
The EMCOR research also explored what criteria was used in choosing an outsourcing partner:
- 82% of respondents used financial stability as a criteria.
- 78% used reputation and track record.
- 76% sought ability to deliver measurable results.
- 66% used 24/7 availability.
- 64% used onsite technical expertise (building maintenance, facilities management, and energy management).
Connie Eren, Manager Corporate Services, SAE International made a presentation titled Outsourcing—Lessons Learned at the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) annual meeting. She suggests several points of consideration if you decide to outsource (used with permission):
- It [outsourcing] is not painless, but it is worth it, if you execute it well.
- Be realistic about how things will go in the first 6 to 12 months.
- Manage the relationship and be hands-on for at least the first year.
- Clarify with expected outcomes, results, timetables, and budgets.
- Schedule regular [face-to-face] progress reviews.
- Be open and candid.
- Allow mistakes and learn from them.
- Consider them [the outsource company] an extension of your staff or your partner.
- Treat them with respect.
- Do not assume that your way is the best or only way.
- Be proactive at resolving disputes quickly.
- Communicate both the positives and the challenges to your provider and to your internal executive staff.
If you search your home address on Google Maps, you may be surprised to find a wide-angle photo of your home, and wonder how that photo was taken. Learn more about this sophisticated technology.
If you have ever searched Google Maps—a Web mapping application—to find a street address, chances are you were able to see an actual street view of that location. In fact, if you search your home address on Google Maps, you may be surprised to find a wide-angle photo of your home and wonder how that photo was taken, and by whom.
Google Street View technology, featured on the Google Maps and Google Earth Web sites, was introduced in May 2007. A year later, the technology became available on smartphones and digital compasses as well. What began in just one U.S. city has grown to include a number of major cities across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and more. Today, Google Street View photos are available as three-dimensional (3D) images as well.
The photos seen in Google Street View are taken by a fleet of vehicles—cars, vans, tricycles; even snowmobiles—equipped with omnidirectional cameras that provide 360° horizontal views and 290° vertical views, global positioning systems (GPS) that record location, laser range scanners that measure up to 130 feet and 180° to the front of the vehicle; and antennas that continually search for 3G wireless technology, global systems for mobile communications (GSM), and local wireless hotspots (Wi-Fi). In spite of all the technology, and the wide array of vehicles at their disposal, however, there are certain conditions—stormy weather, rough terrain, even road construction—that limit Google’s access in some areas.
Photo courtesy of Google
As the specially equipped vehicles drive down streets, they take a string of photos. Once the photos are captured, they are sent to a lab for processing. During preparation, the images are meshed together creating the panoramic street view you see online. The photos that appear in Street View may be several months (or several years) old, since processing takes three to six months to complete.
The photos are used in a variety of ways, from locating the site of a news story to showing a real estate listing, and more. The faces of individuals captured in the photos are blurred—along with vehicle license plate numbers—due to concerns for privacy. For anyone that does not wish to have photos of themselves, their vehicles, or their homes visible on the site, they can make an online request to have them removed using the tools that Google provides.