Process Improvement in an Office Environment Using Six Sigma

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1 Introduction



Airtel Enterprise business is the enterprise arm of the Mobile communication giant in Nigeria. Airtel Enterprise business is responsible for all enterprise business services in Nigeria and has presence in all 36 states of the country. Enterprise services includes but are not limited to Transit internet services, Access internet services, Private APN services, Value Added service (VAS) services and some enterprise GSM solutions and services.

To carry out this business, the mobile giant, Airtel Networks decided to introduce a new business unit solely for enterprise solution and select from each department a resource to support the business. The business grew above expectation in the first year and the business decided to recruit dedicated resources in the core team such as the deployment team and sales team but still shares resources with the finance team, procurement team and other business central units. Though the business has seen reasons to employ dedicated resource they however approved only two head count per sub-unit in the enterprise network deployment team while they employed over ten sales staffs for the various business sectors in Nigeria. The Enterprise Network deployment team comprises of two IP network engineers, two project managers, two transmission network engineer and one manager. The IP network engineers are responsible for all IP network design, deployment, operations, and troubleshooting. The IP network engineers are responsible for country wide enterprise network solutions. The project managers are responsible for taking input from the network planning team, translating this into tasks, assigning resources to the task, liaising with the customer and ensuring that the task is completed in due time. The transmission engineer is responsible for transmission network planning. While the unit manager overseas the entire business activities.

Business has continued to grow and customers were very satisfied for the first two years but the situation is changing. Customers are complaining of excessive down time, network outages, slow delivery of links, slow network, frequent network upgrades without customer notification or acknowledgement from the customers, wrong billing and more challenges are creeping up. Internally, the finance team is complaining of revenue leakages caused by not informing finance that a customers service has been upgraded, customer still active on the network even after customer has requested a termination of their services, customer being wrongly billed higher than he expects because the finance team were not updated on downgrade decision by the customer. The project managers are complaining that the materials are not being delivered to the site even when the materials are available on the warehouse database, they are also complaining of delayed delivery time by the internal IP network team. The IP network team is complaining that they are overwhelmed by several tasks they are carrying out.

These complaints have gone on for so long and have gone to the level of the CEO who requested earlier that more attention should be paid to details. He even promoted some of the managers because he realized that they were carrying out a lot of tasks at the same time and were delivering on their task to motivate them. The managers have put in more time but the challenges are still pouring in dialing. The CEO has mandated that a process should be put in place to cub the various challenges and has also employed a new process champion for the Enterprise team to drive the change and a continuous improvement program called AIRmax containing elements from Lean and Six sigma has been introduced. This program would be under trail for the next six months. The goal of the process is to move the from a reactive environment to a proactive environment with standardized approaches and improvement which involves every employee carrying out their daily tasks with daily improvement.

Review of Enterprise business staff strength reveals that the staffs available are sufficient in carrying out the required tasks and more. Since Airtel Networks (the mobile business unit) is currently trying out Lean and Six sigma tools in their operations, the management team decided to extend this trail to the Enterprise team to see how this tool can be used to reduce the workload on the staffs while delivering improved and quality services to the customers.

1.1.2 Problem Statement

Airtel Enterprise business through its customer dissatisfactory emails and notifications of termination accompanied with internal teams in finance and other units complaining of excessive workload and hence slips in various activities have realized that there has to be a different way of handling the current tasks while improving productivity and customer satisfaction. A successful Lean Six sigma process would provide a good analysis of the current state and the improved state (Veza & Grubic, 2004).

1.2 Goal Statement

1.2.1 Aim

The aim of this project is to review and document the current approach employed by Airtel Enterprise business in carrying out her daily activities and initiate improvements that would lead to service satisfaction by reducing waste while raising customer focus and satisfaction using Lean Six sigma DMAIC cycle.

1.2.2 Scope

a. causes of waste (time, process and resources)

b. waste measurement approaches.

c. long-term strategy for AIRmax.

2.0 Literature review

2.1 Six Sigma

Six sigma is a philosophy of doing business with a focus on eliminating defects through fundamental process knowledge. Six sigma methods integrate principles of business, statistics and engineering to achieve tangible results (Veza & Grubic, 2004). Six Sigma focuses on improving customer experience through business process and approach improvement by focusing on the fundamental causes of variation which causes the poor performance the customer experiences.

Six sigma is a set of procedures with the aim of a process improvement or service delivery (Veza & Grubic, 2004)

Six sigma was established in the early 1980s and was initially deployed by companies like Motorola and General Electric (GE) and has since then be deployed in various industries such as manufacturing and others (Smith, n.d).

A production process may use the Six sigma method call DMAIC to improve her processes.

DMAIC is a for process improvement.

DMAIC is an acronym that stands for:

Define: define the customer requirement and the process that affects such requirements.

Measure: collect data that shows the current (as-is) status. This data is going to be compared with data collected at the end of the process to measure any improvement.

Analyse: This is where the root cause of the problem is determined by analyzing the data and the process.

Improve: This is where all possible solutions are gathered and the best one is chosen to design a new process that would lead to improvement.

Control: that is where measures are put in place that would make the improvement long lasting.

Transfer: The lesson learnt on this project are properly documented and the knowledge is transferred to other projects where it is application for further process improvement.

The DMAIC cycle can be show in fig 1.1 below.

Fig 2.1 DMAIC Methodology. (Dhake, 2016).

While the methodology described above (DMAIC) may help a manufacturing or any other industry reduce waste and improve her process, the methodology however takes too long and may take several months as it is challenging to get every process member together at the same time to review the challenges and eliminate them.

2.2 Lean

Lean was developed after the second world war by Toyota (Goransson et al, 2012). After the war, due to resource challenge, Toyota had to find a way to harness her resources and had to come up with an efficient model. Lean focuses on the process flow efficiency and customer and not the resource, producing exactly what the customer wants in the quantity demanded and at when needed (Goransson et al, 2012).

Lean principles focus on reducing waste to the barest minimum through the application of a set of lean techniques such as just-in-time (JIT), cellular layout, line balancing, error-proofing, , 5S, visual aids, and work standards. Other lean techniques include Single Minute Exchange Die (SMED), Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), and Total Quality Management (TQM) Tools (Al-Aomar, 2011).

(PDCA) is a Kaizen concept. Kaizen is the concept for continuous improvement.

Fig 2.2 The PDCA-cycle as described by Goransson et al (2012).

Waste in Lean is any thing that is not adding value to the product and Lean suggests that such items should be eliminated or reduced to the barest minimum in the event that it is a mandatory requirement. There is various waste identified by Toyota and can be categorized into any of the below:

Overproduction:Producing what no customer will by immediately.

this is movement that does not yield any result immediately like long walk to get materials, bending e.t.c.

Waiting:Idle time waisted while waiting for next cycle to begin.

Over processing:Putting too much details in the work than necessary.

Unnecessary transportation:Movement of goods and service that does not yield any immediate result.

Excess inventory:Having to much raw materials in the warehouse. This results in tying revenue down.

Defect:this creates rework and wasted time. Get it right the first time is the right model here.

2.2.1 Tools and Techniques of Lean

The following are the tools and techniques used by lean:

  1. Five-S.

Fig 2.3 Five-S diagram (Wikipedia)

  1. Visual Workplace: This is using visual aids to help enhance the process by helping people know what to do at any time or where to go.
  2. Just-in-Time (JIT): This tool is used to ensure that things or processes occur exactly at the right time it should.
  3. Total productive maintenance (TPM). Equipment in the system and all parts in the process have to be in good condition for use when required. That is what this tool is used for.


  1. Dhake, R. (2016). Reduction in Defects of 1972FG using DMAIC Approach.
  2. Martin, J.W. (2009). Lean Six Sigma for the Office. Florida: CRC
  3. Goransson, D., & Tunovic, A. (2012). Process improvement in an office environment using Lean Six Sigma: Finding ways to work smarter instead of harder in day-to-day customer service operations
  4. Veza, I., & Grubic, T. (2004). Improvement of a Production Process with the Use of Six Sigma Methodology. InThe 3rd INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE UPS 2004
  5. Al-Aomar, R. A. (2011). Applying 5S LEAN Technology:An infrastructure for continuous process improvement.World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology,59, 2014-2019.
  6. Wikipedia contributors. (2018, November 24). 5S (methodology).InWikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:48, November 29, 2018, from

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