Holland Innovative clients rely on our specialists to optimise product development and related processes. Our approach Is based on applying proven statistical methodologies within a holistic approach that incorporates both the processes, as well as the people involved in therein.  

Nevertheless, the question is legitimate: does our approach fit all product development processes? And how do we succeed in implementing improvements and successfully market innovations in keeping with our clients’ strategic objectives?

Sjoerd de Vries and Loek Geelen, Product & Process specialists at Holland Innovative, share their vision on improving products and processes.

What do you believe product development processes are all about?

De Vries: ‘Doing things better than before. That’s what I aim for, when working for customers. My experience with Data Science and Six Sigma is the basis of everything I do: for me they are a match made in heaven.’

Geelen: ‘When is good, good enough? When is the moment that you can give the ‘all systems are go’ for processes or products? In order to be able to answer such key questions, you need predefined criteria. An additional advantage of having such criteria, is that everyone speaks the same language. This, in turn, enables you to find solutions and take steps more quickly. I have experienced hands-on that Six Sigma offers such valuable criteria.’

Is Six Sigma the holy grail?

De Vries: ‘The great thing here at Holland Innovative is that Six Sigma is not something that is considered as being a stand-alone solution. We see it as part of a larger whole. You cannot apply Six Sigma without good Project Management, Reliability and Product and Process Development. We look at all aspects and approaches. I may have my particular specialisation, but we apply an integral approach. We always consult with colleagues and other specialists.

Geelen: ‘The snag with Six Sigma is the way it is perceived by many: as being too complicated and too academic. True, but I’ve also seen that with easily accessible tools and methodologies, you can achieve a resounding result with Six Sigma.’

Methodologies versus the human factor

De Vries: ‘All projects are born out of  a customer need and a clear business case. The proven methodologies are highly analytical, resulting in a robust product with a predictable lifespan, and with a shorter time-to-market. But, I also draw on my experience as a consultant to apply big data analysis in improving products and production processes. Many processes are the same and by looking at them at a higher, abstract level, I can help customers acquire new insights.’

‘There does tend to be a strong focus on Design for Six Sigma and the creation of new products. But at the same time, I see that SMEs have more need for improvement in existing processes, rather than new processes. I apply my expertise in accomplishing precisely for such improvements’.

Geelen: ‘Every project is different: different culture, different processes. It’s often primarily  about the people factor: what do they need? I don’t just look at the tools and methodologies. In the end, the success of a project largely depends on whether you manage to give people insights into their way of doing things. Only when they have gained such an understanding is it possible for them to actually implement improvements. You have, as it were, make sure they are all willing to hop onto your train. It’s important to also listen to feedback. The entire improvement process is a dynamic game in which you learn from each other. The goal remains that the train and the people travelling on board arrive at the right station on time, even if heavy snowfall causes delays.’

De Vries: ‘Yes, that’s so true! Young professionals help me out with new technologies such as Python. In turn, I bring in my broad product and process experience. This way we can really mean a lot for each other. A nice word for this is ‘complementary’, or 1+1 = 3.’

What has been an important learning for you?

Geelen: ‘I am convinced that process improvements can only be implemented optimally, if you allow the employees involved to share in the problem. At one of my old employers, an online print company, much money was wasted on paper. This had to do with how the production process was carried out, in order to guarantee the quality of the printed matter. I sat down with the people on the work floor and it soon became apparent that the main cause of the waste was a human issue: they wanted to produce best quality printed matter and believed that this was the only way to ensure this quality. Armed with this insight into their own working methods, and by jointly drawing up new guidelines, they managed to reduce costs while maintaining the quality of the printed matter.’

De Vries: ‘For a client in the petrochemical industry, I had to use the continuous flow in a pipeline. My measurements showed that in 1 to 2% of cases there was a ‘hick-up’ in the system. The other data was constant. When asked, no one could provide an explanation. I then started looking at the process, in Six Sigma this is called doing the ‘Gemba-walk’. It turned out that the analyser was linked to a stationary pipeline with an occasional minimal flux. By not accepting outliers, you can make surprising discoveries.’

‘I see the same issue is now starting to arise at customers where, increasingly, processes are fully controlled by software. People are simply not aware of how important software has become. But it is essential that we are constantly in the know – and able to measure – that the software used is actually doing its job properly. Software Reliability is more important now than ever before.’

What is your goal?

De Vries: ‘Simply stated: helping companies and people to improve products and processes – in the broadest sense of the word.’

Geelen: ‘I want to continue to take myself to a higher level, in order to be able to support companies and people in product and process optimisation, in whatever setting.’

More information?

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