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In Lean Six Sigma, Kraton trusts Laatukeskus in Finland

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Laatukeskus Excellence Finland Ltd has promoted quality thinking in Finland for half a century with their network of over 400 member organisations. Kraton Corporation has co-operated with Laatukeskus since 2017. At Kraton production plant in Oulu, there are currently fourteen active Green Belts and two Black Belts.

Sampsa Saranki, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Lead Belt has worked as a Production Engineer at Kraton Chemical in Oulu, Finland for six years.

–  I learned about the Lean Six Sigma method when working at a previous employer. My then supervisor was a Black Belt holder and he gave me some interesting materials to study. Later on, I attended training organised by Laatukeskus.

– The key benefits of the training are strategic – getting a wider perspective on the process development and understanding how the organisation’s capacity and resources can be better utilized. Additionally, the training gave me an excellent toolkit to carry out various development projects.

– With Lean Six Sigma principles, we improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation – but of course not automatically. To get there, it is essential that the organisation culture appreciates continuous improvement and staff engagement is well taken care of.  At our Oulu plant we have integrated L6S into our operations. Our routines and processes are based on metrics and set targets. We try continuously to exceed previous results.

– It is difficult to measure the success of each project in euros, because they vary so much. Part of the results are linked directly to cost savings, but there are other benefits as well. For example, on-time deliveries as well as reduction in quality and safety defects. Applying Lean Six Sigma is a philosophy, a way to proceed. Every day we strive for better performance.

– We did assess several potential service providers when planning training for our Green Belts in 2017. Laatukeskus met our set of criteria. Additionally, I had previous experience and a high regard of their competence. The feedback of the first participants was very good and it was easy to organise also the following training with Laatukeskus.

Lean Six Sigma from a global perspective

Jos Akkermans, Lean Six Sigma (L6S) Manager, is based in the European regional main office in Almere (near Amsterdam). He is part of the global L6S-team and has one European colleague and two in the USA. Their main task is to ensure that all the L6S programs in the 15+ Kraton facilities across the globe are in line with Kraton Corporation’s procedures and tools. The team works closely with a Lean Six Sigma point of contact at each location. All new trainings are agreed internally before execution, because the budget is centrally supervised.

– It is our vision that Lean Six Sigma becomes part of our culture. No matter what our jobs are, we see L6S as a consistent way to discover and eliminate unnecessary steps or work defects. Moreover, it dramatically  increases the value delivered to our customers.

– Most important benefits naturally vary between projects. They may include saving substantial number of euros, increasing customer satisfaction or spending less time in activities that don’t add value.

– We have a training application process. The applicant and his/her manager agree on a project before completing the application. The global team manages the waiting list and depending on urgency, they may decide to send the applicant to an external/open course. We also organise in-company classes. With external trainings we co-operate with ASQ and IASSC.

– When choosing new partners, we want a good balance of Lean and Six Sigma in the training. Obviously, it is essential that the trainers have the tool skills as well as DMAIC/project skills and that they are good at statistics. But because L6S is all about teamwork and you should also be able to manage your project team as well as leadership, the trainers should be able to equip participants with soft skills. We very much appreciate our truly competent partners, such as Laatukeskus.

Kraton Corporation is a leading global producer of styrenic block copolymers, engineered polymers and chemicals derived from pine wood pulping co-products that are used to enhance the performance of end-use products. Kraton offers its products to a diverse group of customers in over 70 countries worldwide.