Six Sigma Black Belt - Stephanie Steider
This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.
One of the primary reasons Cummins continues to be a world-class organization is the people-driven processes that fuel product innovation. The global success of the Company depends on diverse individuals collaborating to analyze current standards and improve the current process. Many companies look to become better over time, but few have Six Sigma Black Belt employees, such as Stephanie Steider, who focus on continuous quality improvement.
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Stephanie, a Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology graduate, brings a high-level skill set combined with creative problem-solving mentality. She’s naturally inquisitive and always ready to ask deeper questions that help teams think deliberately about solving problems and enhancing solutions. From the time Stephanie joined Cummins as a Quality Development Engineer, it was clear that she was committed to a career path with real possibilities. She’s now a Six Sigma Black Belt and operates as a consultant within the company, remaining flexible and fluid to strategic global priorities.
“Six Sigma is built into everything we do; it’s our mindset. We love analyzing data - it’s the language we use to improve our Company and move our customers forward.”
Today, Stephanie’s morning starts in a meeting with India and China business leaders to launch a new Six Sigma project to improve supplier quality. These leaders are looking to Stephanie for guidance to improve supplier quality and manufacturing team relationships. This meeting helps with the “Define” phase of the project. In this instance, the USA and China supplier quality leaders collaborate on who should be involved in the project charter. The charter is an important document that names the project, summarizes the goals through a business case and lists the project scope.
After the meeting, Stephanie schedules her follow-up appointments based on action steps from the meeting. She schedules a future meeting with a Components Business Unit
team member to identify additional best practices to include in the charter. Next, she creates a RACI document (Responsible-Accountable-Consulted-Informed) that assigns responsibility to each of the team members to determine individual’s key tasks. The team will use this document as a visual tool to assist in developing the project milestone timeline.
“The benefit of the RACI model is that it allows us to confirm our roles. It helps team members understand who is responsible when we’re all new to a project and how everyone can most effectively contribute. It’s a visual means to leverage everyone’s ability to do their very best work.”
For lunch, Stephanie takes some time to herself. The office is quiet today, so she takes advantage to think a bit and relax. She walks to the Cummins Global Headquarters parking lot for the Farmer’s Market sponsored by the Cummins Sustainability Team and buys fresh vegetables for her family.
After lunch, Stephanie joins an international conference call with the senior leadership team of the Filtration business unit. Today, the team begins the “Analyze” phase of a Six Sigma project to discuss recently gathered data and begin the root cause analysis. The team discovers that the research data reveals a story different than originally anticipated. Stephanie presents her revised ideas for moving forward with the project and the project sponsor is comfortable with shifting gears to her recommendations.
“Sometimes projects are on track with making improvement and other times not. Based on the research, it’s a light bulb moment for the team. We’re finding solutions and it’s refreshing that leaders trust me when I recommend new angles for the work. As long as we can find the right path, the leaders of Cummins trust that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the original path.”
Stephanie heads back to her desk to document the new ideas she has recommended to the team. She sends an instant message to her Supervisor, who is available on her computer. They have a brief conversation online about the project and begin to brainstorm on the path to move forward.
“We need to think about this project more as a team. These ideas are good and they deserve more time and collaboration. We’ve got this really big idea for global improvement and we’re still trying to figure out how to get there. Innovation isn’t always easy. Often times, our goal is to make improvements to a business or process that is doing well.”
Stephanie appreciates the conversation with her supervisor, who has acted as a mentor in her career development.
Being a Six Sigma Black Belt is a development role at Cummins and she enjoys the exposure while having mentors that can provide insight into the business. Most importantly, she knew she wanted flexibility in her career, to learn continuously and make an impact on Cummins’ business.
“We have a roadmap of how to think about a Six Sigma project, and being a Black Belt means knowing how to make the road meet the project steps. I use that for my career development as well. You have to understand your own personal roadmap and improve along the way.”
At the end of the day, Stephanie begins strategizing about her to-do list for tomorrow and the important meetings in her day. She has an international call scheduled in the morning. She reviews the most recent project notes to begin preparing for the collaboration and examines the voice-of-customer quantitative research to confirm her ideas are on track.
“I really like the feeling of high performing teams working together here. At Cummins, everyone gives you the chance to learn from others and learn how our different business units operate. I love my job because I’m able to look back and see it’s not just the engines; it’s not just the turbos. It’s the people and how we work together to make an impact in the business.”