Blog Posts Continuous Improvement Drives Excellence at Saddle Creek
Service excellence has been one of Saddle Creek’s closely held core values since the company’s inception more than 50 years ago. We are continually striving to enhance the customer experience for our clients. Our Continuous Improvement Program plays a vital role in this process.
Charting a Course Toward Perfection: Quality Q&A
Continuous Improvement Director Cyndee DeMellier has been leading Saddle Creek’s quality management program for the past four years. Here, she shares her perspective on the company’s on-going efforts to optimize operations.
Q: What was the catalyst for Saddle Creek’s Continuous Improvement Program?
A: As a service company, we recognized a need to improve service and drive cost out of operations for our clients. We established our program on a foundation of Lean principles and built on that by incorporating Six Sigma methodology. We have explored other quality programs throughout the years, but the Lean program has really gained traction and delivered results for our clients.
Q: How is the program managed?
A: Our continuous improvement program is guided by our corporate headquarters but owned and managed by each individual location. From the beginning, the program has benefitted from top management buy-in and commitment to creating a learning environment. Associates at every level of the organization participate in Lean training. It has really become part of our corporate culture.
Q: How do you measure the program’s success?
A: The success of the program can be seen through productivity improvements and cost reductions, of course, but there are other, more subtle signs that a continuous improvement mindset has become an integral part of our organization. Quality-focused terminology has crept into our daily vernacular, collaboration between locations and the sharing of best practices has become the norm, and we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of requests for Lean training from our facilities across the country.
Q: What would you say are the keys to sustaining the program?
A: The engagement and support of the leadership team have been invaluable. This clearly signals to all our associates that quality is a core area of concentration for the company. In fact, our continuous improvement program is reflective of our long-standing culture of service excellence. Saddle Creek has always focused on providing the best possible service to our clients and continually seeking out new ways to surpass their expectations.
Q: Can you describe some of the biggest challenges you faced and how you’ve overcome them?
A: Saddle Creek has a long history as a very successful company. There is an entrepreneurial spirit here, as well, that prioritizes responsiveness and flexibility. So when we started on our Lean journey, leaders were somewhat skeptical of the need to approach continuous improvement in a new way.
While true cultural change does not just happen overnight, we’re now seeing the rewards of patient persistence. A clear roadmap, consistent communication, reliable follow-through and documented results have helped to pave the way for this initiative.
Q: What advice would you give to any organization just starting out on the CI journey?
A: Plan your journey and identify key milestones. Be sure to establish executive buy-in up front. Then, stay the course, leading by example, developing others along the way, and persistently communicating the vision so others will join the journey.