Infrastructure Construction | 11 February 2016

Client: Network Rail

Assignment: Six Sigma Performance improvement and training

Network Rail: Six Sigma Speeds up the Rail Network

The Problem

The team rapidly identified five areas causing over 50% of the delays: Points; Track Circuits: Signalling; Seasonal Preparedness; and Operational Procedures. Now they needed to get to the root cause of problems in these areas. They knew Six Sigma would provide the right approach to identify and improve failing processes. But with the scale of the challenges they faced, they also wanted a consultancy that could transfer capability to give the organisation complete self-sufficiency for the future.

The Solution

We designed a programme to achieve large-scale transfer of knowledge and skills and, in the process, identify potential projects and implement a wide range of performance improvements.

This meant the role of our consultants changed over time – from one of ‘hands-on’ leadership in the early stages, to support for the first wave of internal Six Sigma specialists, and then as coaches and mentors from a distance as the organisation established its own capability to implement process improvements and deliver its own training.

Getting Started

Network Rail was going through a period of significant change and it was important to ensure Six Sigma improvement didn’t get lost in a busy agenda. To begin, we worked with the senior management team to raise awareness and secure their buy-in. A range of measures were agreed to get the organisation as a whole on-board – notably, a set of behaviours and objectives that were written into the job descriptions of every member of staff.

Building Capability

We worked with Network Rail staff to establish strong leadership for the programme and introduce an infrastructure for rolling out Six Sigma capability across 1,200 people. Senior managers became Champions to drive projects. Full-time leaders of business improvement projects trained as Black Belts to help them coach others to use Six Sigma tools and techniques. Leaders of smaller-scale projects trained as Green Belts while part-time project team members became Yellow Belts. We also developed internal Master Black Belts to offer expertise for all project teams.

Process Improvement

All classroom training was supported by real projects to identify and improve areas causing train delays. This was delivered through supported tutorial sessions and project reviews, both formal and informal. In total, client-consultancy teams outlined 300 projects and over half were fully implemented. Across various functions, targeted projects delivered initial productivity improvements of 12% and one single project alone reduced material costs by £400,000.

Managing for Success

We set up and ran a national programme office to manage events and internal communication, and track progress towards benefits realisation. This gave Network Rail a one-stop shop for all deployment and training activity, plus a resource to maintain the focus and pace of the programme.

The Benefits

Value Delivered

  • Over 1,200 people trained to manage and build upon improvements
  • Full self-sufficiency and capability in Lean Sigma process improvement

What Network Rail said about us

“There is an innate integrity to the business and a refreshing flexibility of response from everyone. They do what they say they’re going to do. They have good contacts, great skills, real competence and a fantastic attitude.”

Rob Freeman, Network Rail