Achieving Lean Culture Shift in the Oil & Gas Industry

Sanjiv Upadhyay is the Lean Manager for Weir Oil & Gas Services where he is responsible for Business Process Excellence. The Lean Program at Weir Oil and Gas Services has been running for the past 7 years in Weir Dubai although the group has been involved with Lean since the 1990s.

In this PEX Network interview, he shares his thoughts on why culture is the key to achieving successful Lean results and offers suggestions on how to win the hearts and minds of all employees.

What do your responsibilities as Manager of Lean Manufacturing involve?

As part of the management team I run the corporate Lean implementation program. I’m "owner" of the plant Dashboard (KPI’s) on targets such as inventory turns, efficiency, low cost outsourcing, customer concerns and internal process improvement opportunities.

Under the Lean implementation program, I run several continuous improvement projects. As Lean implementation program manager I optimize the resources at plant level while working on the new facility project plan. This involves everything from training & educating the functional managers, manufacturing engineers and associates on lean through to identifying the production requirements/setting up procedures (business process flow, VSM etc) and actually running the Kaizen blitz program in order to support the higher level projects.

What would you say have been the key achievements of your Lean Six Sigma program?

Although, we have achieved some remarkable results with Lean Six Sigma – we’ve increased our on time delivery by delivery by quite a bit and managed to reduced several product-specific lead times by 25-30% - I’d actually say that our key achievement has been the change in culture that has resulted because of our Lean program. Middle management has really started to buy into the Lean concept. The value in that is that it means that everyone is starting to shape our continuous improvement initiatives into ways that benefit them and that provide greater benefit to the company. Instead of continuous process improvement being something done to employees, it has become something that everyone just does. And the beauty is that what everyone is doing is in line with the company goals and has helped us save substantial amount of money!

Our facility has broken into the list of Top WEIR global facilities and people are now aware and eager to succeed. In a few years time I can see our company using Lean Operations as a major competitive advantage.

What’s behind that achievement?

I would say that the main element to our success has been linking Voice of customer/Voice of business into projects which have a clear cut tangible goal. We’ve been very clear that we will focus on the areas that matter most to customers and we’re very thorough in analyzing the potential impact before beginning the projects.

Where has Lean Six Sigma proven to be most beneficial in your oil and gas projects?

Everywhere! We’ve used Lean Six Sigma in just about every area of business, from the shop floor on up and have used it even in administrative areas like accounting and HR.

What has been the biggest challenge in your Lean program? What advice would you give to other Lean practitioners?

Lean and Six Sigma are tried and tested methodologies and the methods will get you results. However, the biggest source of failure and the biggest challenge in running Lean and Six Sigma projects stems not from the methodologies themselves but from the people side. If you don’t get employee on your side you won’t achieve success. In other words you need to get a 360 degree buy in from managers/supervisors/operators.

On this note, I’d offer several ideas on how to get buy in from employees:

  • Show them "what is in it for me?" (Possible answers are that learning Lean is a skill that will enhance their individual career and also make their job easier by enabling them to make changes to their own work processes). But remember - show them, don't tell them!
  • Make your employee understand the link between his role and the impact he/she will have on the company dash board and balance scorecard. Show them how important their contribution is towards the company goals.
  • Use innovative techniques/tools such as "6 thinking hats", "brain writing" and several other lateral thinking tools to train managers and supervisors in business problem solving techniques
  • Move away from the perception that lean is housekeeping
  • Incentives should be budgeted to get active voluntary participation from all employees
  • Functional integration is a must - here a flawless implementation of ISO 9000 is needed
  • Move from a can’t do culture to a can do culture by creating an "Anything is Possible Buzz"

Another challenge is actually measuring the savings from the work that you do undertake. Savings are not additive in nature whereas cost is. Therefore I would suggest that the impact of Lean Six Sigma projects should not be measured in purely monetary terms. Savings can be shown as soft dollar impact to make it more tangible however I feel things like skilled manpower, educated and aware employees, team synergy and the buzz do definitely contribute towards the bottom line in the long run.