S. Potra, A. Pugna, M. Mocan

Politehnica University Timisoara (ROMANIA)
The automotive industry faces a tough battle for corporate efficiency in a global quest for zero defects and first time right production. Lean Six Sigma offers a methodology based on measurement instruments, analysis tools, and productive thinking methods which, adequately implemented, trigger a cultural change and an increased focus on continuous improvement in all corporate activities. The results of such efforts are extremely rewarding: reduce of process variability and ultimately corporate performance. The Lean Six Sigma approach requires top management time and dedication because people facing cultural change must understand the change first. Therefore, for a successful implementation of this methodology, we need a clear communication plan, incentives for individuals to overcome change resistance and education of senior managers along with employees on the fundamentals, tools, techniques and benefits of Six Sigma. Training is part of the process because it makes sure that managers and employees apply and implement complex Six Sigma projects effectively. For a thorough training on the long run, university-industry cooperation is essential. Thus, experienced university teachers provide up-to-date and customized information as to develop technical and financial skills for corporate employees. Altogether the two parts cultivate a fruitful knowledge base for continuous assistance. The present paper presents both a qualitative and a quantitative approach to Lean Six Sigma training in a prestigious automotive company from Romania. Before creating curricula, a focus group with senior managers has been developed. From the discussions, an introductory course has been constructed with simple tools and examples to assure that each employee becomes a quality inspector at his or her workplace. After that, ten groups, each of approximately 20 employees (engineers in quality, maintenance, testing, equipment, and logistics) have been introduced in the Lean Six Sigma mentality. A qualitative questionnaire has been implemented both before and after the course. The results have shown that the employee preliminary perceptions of corporate efficiency are different from the actual performance needs. According to the final questionnaire completed after the initial training, their perceptions have changed; the employees became eager to involve themselves in problem solving with the help of the tools learned. Future research could focus on the most efficient Lean Six Sigma tools to be used in teamwork, a desideratum of the automotive leadership.