Infrastructure Construction | 11 February 2016

Client: Highways England

Assignment: Integration of Lean Sigma for continuous process improvement

Highways England: M6 Extension puts Lean Sigma on the Map

The Problem

The A74 between Carlisle and Guards Mill is the “missing link” in the motorway network between London and Glasgow. Stretching 9km, the road carries 42,000 vehicles a day. The scheme to upgrade the dual carriageway to motorway also included two new major structures crossing the River Esk and West Coast Main Line, demolition of the Mossband Viaduct and provision of a new all-purpose road.

Having developed an impressive track record within the Construction and Infrastructure sector, Bourton Group was asked to help Highways England deploy Lean Sigma improvement methodology to bring the project in on time and significantly under budget.

The Solution

Our Approach

  • Introduce and deploy a structured approach to process improvement Enable analysis and measurement of performance
  • Deliver tangible benefits that impacted upon programme delivery
  • Enabled the organisation to be self sufficient in addressing future opportunities

The approach we recommended was essentially a pragmatic one, combining the need to equip people with the capability to undertake improvement projects in the short term, with the desire to have expert support working alongside them to guide, mentor and deliver benefits over the longer term. We introduced a team of Lean Sigma master black belts to lead the programme and provide consistency in transferring Lean Sigma skills to Highways England’s own personnel.

Getting Started

An early step was to identify and train champions drawn from the core construction team to provide internal leadership for the programme. We ensured a steering group was established to oversee the necessary checks and balances that such a major change of approach entailed, and to ensure ongoing alignment with operational goals. With them we agreed and monitored timing plans, resources, measures and benefits.

Managing for Success

Next we identify the most appropriate projects to kick start the approach. These needed to be high profile, achievable and capable of reaping significant benefit in order to gain early credibility. Once these were underway, we set up and lead monthly project reviews and quarterly programme reviews both to ensure that projects were on track and that the rolled up benefits were contributing to contract performance improvement. A key role was the ongoing training and mentoring of Black and Green belts as they identified and delivered their own improvement projects.

From the start, we developed sound working relationships with Highways England’s customers and suppliers of contracted services to ensure that all parties were aware of changes to processes and able to adapt to the new ways of working.

Process Improvements

We worked with Highways England to develop and co-ordinate a programme of discrete process improvement projects. These attacked known problem areas within specific schemes and were tackled by a powerful combination of our Lean Sigma Master Black Belts and Highways England’s growing cadre of Black and Green Belts. Using the proven DMAICT methodology and integrating Lean and Six Sigma tools, we helped people to identify the root causes of performance problems and implement a raft of new processes to eliminate waste and variation.

Building Capability

Bourton trained Champions, Black Belts and Green Belts, then provided full time Master Black Belt support to help identify improvement opportunities and mentor the internal resources. This ensured that optimum benefit was gained from the methodology and that people had the confidence to take projects forward on their own in the future.

The team are now fully self-sufficient and senior managers are looking to replicate the same improvements in other parts of the Highways England organisation.

The Benefits

Value Delivered

  • Project completed on time
  • Established a Continuous Improvement Culture
  • Resulted in a better focus on the customer
  • Reduced the time and effort of ‘fighting fires’
  • Improved communication links between teams
  • Strengthened the organisation for future tendering

What Highways England said about us

“The whole ethos is different because we’ve created an environment where everyone is challenging their own assumptions. A massive amount of what we’ve done is improving communication links between the designers, project engineers and quantity surveyors to build a more integrated unit. Collaboration with Bourton has given us greater awareness of potential barriers and issues. Their consultancy was extremely pragmatic, like a ‘route map’ that helped us to get from A to B”.

Shane Betts, Process Improvement Manager