What working with a Six Sigma certified specialist looks like in reality

One of the best things our customers can do is tour our manufacturing facility. Seeing our production processes in action and speaking to our engineers first hand, gives them a real sense of our commitment to ensuring quality assurance at every stage.

One of the ways in which we achieve this is through the implementation of Lean Six Sigma. Operations Director John McDermott, explains how Six Sigma training is integral to ensuring we provide highly efficient services and the highest quality packaging solutions.

Eight of our managers, including myself, are all certified green belts, meaning we’re all trained in the core methodologies, or five phases of Lean Six Sigma.

We were also required to demonstrate a process of continuous improvement and this was monitored from the start of the financial year through to project completion.

Customers see tangible benefits due to our company-wide commitment to Six Sigma

Our Six Sigma training has enabled us to improve the quality of our packaging, reduce lead times and improve reliability. So far, we’ve completed eight live projects in which we have:

  • Reduced downtime on our printing presses for external die cutting issues – this involved us measuring and analysing the main causes of downtime and conducting trials to eliminate their root causes


  • Improved machine speed on our gluing line – that had previously created a factory bottleneck. We’ve also seen an improvement in line speed on one of our HandRap machines. We achieved this by incrementally adjusting the speed and identifying and solving the obstacles we uncovered step-by-step. Our shift teams played a major role in helping deliver these improvements


  • Reduced spend on manufacturing consumables – by implementing more robust supplier agreements and looking at alternative suppliers and materials. Prior to implementation, we also carried out pilot runs and tests to verify conformance with our standards and customer expectation


  • Cut press changeover times – by redesigning our work area and introducing a more structured approach to readiness for changeovers and assigning specific roles to each team member


  • Improved product quality – we’ve reduced customer complaints by implementing stop/start procedures on our presses, gluing line and HandRap machines. We’ve also instigated quality groups with process owners and operators


We’ve also taken part in a customer sponsored waste reduction programme in which we reviewed our press operations. We identified two significant streams that, between them, will enable us to reduce our waste by 100 tonnes. The first project is complete and will, over the course of the year, realise 7 tonnes of board waste savings. The second project, which is the subject of our current Black Belt project will deliver in excess of 90 tonnes of board savings.

We’re now a more data driven and inclusive manufacturing site

A key part of the Six Sigma process involves drawing on department-wide expertise to approach a particular problem. It may be a management-led process, but it’s actually driven by our employees. For instance, our team will often get involved in brainstorming sessions, solutions workshops, pilot and control plans to identify and implement solutions that deliver the best value for our customers.

Six Sigma has also enabled us to become more data driven. For example, rather than relying on opinion, we now look for data to drive change and measure progress using a single scale called DPMO (Defects Per Million Opportunities).

Our customers can really tell how much passion, care and efficiency goes into our processes

To date, more than 50 employees from all groups in our continuous improvement process – which covers our maintenance, quality, planning, printing and converting teams – have been involved in integrating Six Sigma principles into their day-to-day operations.

And our customers can tell. For instance, a customer recently toured our manufacturing facility and commented on how engaged our team are. They could really tell how much passion, care and efficiency goes into our process.   

In fact, our customers and team have seen such benefits from the training that we’ve expanded our capabilities. Our Operations Manager, Hugh McBride, has recently commenced the Six Sigma Black Belt Programme, which is the next level on from green belt. It has a much stronger emphasis on analysing data, delivering larger scale solutions and solving more complex problems.

We’re also currently looking at developing our employee knowledge further by implementing Six Sigma tools such as 5s, which helps reduce waste, and error proofing, which will enable us to incorporate controls to prevent defects, reduce their severity and detect them.

Find out more about how we work with customers to solve packaging problems and make each project a success, read our blog ‘A day in the life of RAP packaging designers.’

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