Alan Shell - August 17, 2022

Alan Shell is the Director of Lean/Continuous Improvement Services at DVIRC. He is responsible for facilitating organizations in their Continuous Improvement journey utilizing his Master Black Belt skills in Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing. This involves on-site training and collaboration, as well as leading public training and education courses and certifications held at DVIRC.

Alan sat down with us to share how he approaches Continuous Improvement and what he sees as the common issues and opportunities facing manufacturers today.

1. Can you describe your average workday as a Continuous Improvement (CI) expert? 

My average work day depends on the customer but my job can be broken down into three main categories:

  • On-client-site consulting
  • On-client-site training
  • Public training at the DVIRC

Over the past year, the bulk of my time has been spent on the client’s site training people in Lean and Six Sigma, both Yellow and Green Belts. Some companies I’ve worked with recently are taking a “train the trainer” approach and seeking to develop their supervisors into Lean and Six Sigma trainers who can, in turn, train other employees in the future.

2. How do you start with a new CI client? 

I always start the same way, by listening to them. There is no magic answer for each client and every client has different needs, challenges, and personalities. Sometimes they know they need help, but don’t even know what to ask from us, other times, they come in with a very specific request. But in either case, I listen to what they are saying and once I’ve heard their story, I ask questions to better hone in on what they really need. I also like to do a tour of the area in question to also get my eyes on the processes in question. 

3. What are some of the issues that clients are dealing with right now? 

First and foremost, I’m hearing that Supply Chain is a huge issue. Some companies are facing serious delays, waiting months for the raw materials they need. 

Another major issue is the lack of workforce available. Companies can no longer just throw bodies at an issue; they need to focus on and make do with what they have. The only way to improve output in a situation where you’re understaffed is to upskill your existing employees and make your processes more efficient. I am hopeful that the supply chain will steady out, but with a slow influx of new talent and a large outflow of retiring talent and leadership, there are not a lot of options for companies to find more skilled labor. Optimizing your processes and people will be the way that companies can stay competitive. 

4. How do you help clients solve these issues? 

Even when I am consulting and fixing client problems myself, I always want to have at least one of my client’s employees with me so they can learn. My greatest joy in life is teaching and, not only do I teach for the DVIRC, but in the evenings I am a Senior Adjunct Professor of Math at Rowan University. I enjoy teaching our clients the importance of Continuous Improvement and inspiring them to constantly look for ways to improve their processes. 

One of the most valuable benefits of Continuous Improvement is direct cost savings. DVIRC measures the value impact for every project / training program we offer.  This is typically a 5x ROI. All of our clients yield far more than the cost of our services. 

I encourage my clients to not look for a single large improvement. Rather, find a whole bunch of smaller solutions. The big savings will flow naturally from the smaller projects. The old adage says, give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats forever applies to what I do. When I teach a client the basics of Lean and Six Sigma, the client will always have the skills and tools necessary to continue making improvements to the business and reducing their costs. 

Thinking about upskilling your people or improving your processes? Contact our Customer Support & Success specialist Teri Grumbrecht or fill out the online contact form here.

Teri Grumbrecht

Customer Success and Support
Phone: 215-287-8378