Examples of Initiatives that Helen Tai has led or coached
Implementation of Global Process Improvement Program
- Challenge: a consumer products company had aggressive growth targets and recognized that they would be unable to meet those goals without dramatic changes to the way they developed new products.
- Action: Partnered with senior leadership to identify the need for a more robust New Product Development Process, leading to the customized global implementation of a Design for Six Sigma program, including: leadership awareness training, development of training curriculum, deployment of training, coaching, certification of green, black and master black belts.
- Result: Dramatic improvements in the selection, definition & execution of NPD projects, leading to bigger and more successful projects, cancellation of poor projects, faster speed-to-market, increased sales & profitability worth over $100 MM.
Improvement in Decision-Making
- Challenge: The management of a large global consumer products company was making poor decisions regarding New Product Development. Projects were begun and cancelled several months later; decisions were often over-turned or delayed, requiring teams to pursue multiple back-up options; and big ideas were down-sized in order to meet aggressive timelines. As a result, projects failed to meet financial thresholds, did not deliver against the customer needs, or missed the launch dates.
- Action: A robust management review and decision-making process was implemented, including: newly defined decision criteria, establishment of clarified roles & responsibilities, a common communication template, and regularly scheduled reviews between management and project teams.
- Result: Project teams were delighted to have a clear understanding of what management wanted, and management received the information they needed to make the right decisions. Teams were given timely and clear direction, leading to revenue enhancement opportunities of $35 MM/year and cost of non-conformance opportunities of $9 MM/year.
Global Packaging Re-design
- Challenge: Re-design entire line of a company's baby products worldwide. The product line contained over 100 products, and the packaging differed from country-to-country. Switching out all packaging within 12 months would be logistically complex and challenging. Additionally, it was a beloved brand with a long heritage. Customers were loyal and conservative, and any changes could potentially alienate them. However, global market research showed that consumers found the packaging to be outdated and generic, and sales of these products were declining. The company wanted to attract new users and bring back lapsed consumers while maintaining its loyal user base.
- Action: Senior management sponsored a project team to develop superior and differentiated global packaging to help drive long-term growth. Through a thorough understanding of consumers, multi-generational planning, creativity/ideation sessions and excellent design work, winning new packaging was developed. The new packaging was preferred 3-to-1 by moms and 8-to-1 by young women.
- Result: The new packaging was responsible for a 12% increase in sales, translating to an annual sales increase of $10 MM.
Global & Virtual Teams
- Challenge: Sales of a baby product in the United Kingdom were going down. The product's container was unattractive and competition had launched new wipes, with much more aesthetically pleasing and functional packaging. The company needed a new container, both to stay competitive and because the molds were near useful life and needed to be replaced. Budget for this project was tight as the brand planned to launch something much bigger in the next couple years and just needed something to tide them over until then. The marketing team was in the U.K. and the packaging development group was located in the U.S. The two groups were not in agreement on how to approach the project, and communication was challenging due to the geographical distance and time zone difference.
- Action: Design for Six Sigma provided for common language and tools. Through this methodology, the virtual team was able to align on project objectives, determine the most important package attributes, design & select the best alternatives, and deliver a winning new package. Aside from one trip to the U.K. by the packaging team, all communication was virtual.
- Result: The team designed a consumer-preferred package in only a few months. It required no capital investment and provided an annual savings of $150 M and a cost avoidance of $2.5 MM.
Decreasing Cycle Time
- Challenge: When developing new products, companies create trial batches to ensure that the product is developed to specification and that the manufacturing process is running smoothly. At a consumer-packaged company, the time to create these trial batches was unacceptably long and causing delays in product launches.
- Action: Utilizing lean tools, the technical transfer group developed a map of the current state and a map of the ideal future state. They then developed 30-60-90-90+ day action plans to bring the process from current to future state.
- Result: Through some relatively simple changes, the team was able to reduce the cycle time from 166 to 111 days, a reduction of 33%.
Improving the Hiring Process
- Challenge: A sales organization was having trouble hiring the right talent. The time to fill positions was too long and they were unable to find suitable candidates. They had no established protocol for hiring, and so hiring managers didn’t know which external recruiters to work with, didn’t know what internal policies they needed to comply with, didn’t select appropriate people to participate in the interviews, didn’t know how to write compelling job descriptions, and didn’t have a clear idea of how to work with the human resources group, etc. Once candidates were hired, they were not given any formal on-boarding, making it challenging for them to perform at their new job. They spent tremendous amount of effort learning the new company culture – they didn’t know who to go to with questions/problems and didn’t understand the systems or how to work within them.
- Action: The sales recruiting team defined clear objectives for their hiring process. When they evaluated their existing approach, they recognized several gaps. They developed criteria and measures for external recruiters, developed an interview matrix, mapped out a simple but complete process for hiring and on-boarding candidates, established roles & responsibilities and trained the sales organization on the new process.
- Result: The new hiring process was rolled out in about 4 weeks. The right candidates were hired in less time with fewer resources. New employees felt like they were part of the team and were able to perform much sooner.
Maximizing Return on Investment
- Challenge: Patents can be a powerful weapon for growth and allow companies to sustain a competitive advantage. However, the time and resources required to develop a meaningful patent can be in the millions of dollars. If a patent is not carefully thought out, competition can find loopholes in the patent that allow them to sell virtually the same product. Additionally, companies need to ensure that they are not infringing on a competitive patent, making them vulnerable to lawsuits and loss of public trust.
- Action: The team utilized Design for Six Sigma to develop a strategic patent process. The project team understood that senior management wanted strong and defendable patents, but that they were not willing to spend the resources to patent “everything under the sun” (some companies spend millions to patent everything they can think of just to prevent others from using the idea, even if they never use that idea themselves). The new process required that each new product platform develop a patent strategy, which is a coordinated plan for developing and using intellectual property to create competitive advantage, including sustainably differentiated offerings in the marketplace. The patent strategy approach was very targeted and minimized investment while maximizing return.
- Result: Time savings on pursuing the wrong patents and cost avoidance of $5 MM.
- Challenge: Consumers wanted a larger sanitary napkin for overnight use. The project team designed a new consumer-preferred overnight sanitary napkin with the most coverage of any product in the U.S. and better adhesion to help the pad stay in place. However, the existing manufacturing equipment was not capable of manufacturing this new product and had to be redesigned at minimal cost.
- Action: The engineer utilized Design for Six Sigma, including Quality Function Deployment, Design for Manufacturability and Assembly (DFMA), risk analysis, Pugh Matrix, and Process Control Plans to ensure a successful outcome. These tools helped him better understand the requirements, identify multiple options, select the best of those options and ensure that issues were prevented.
- Result: The machine was not only successfully redesigned, allowing for the launch of the new product, but it was done at an annual cost savings of $257 M vs. the previous overnight product.
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