SLE’s role in supporting the development of neonatal ventilators for infants, and the positive impact that this has is one of the reasons I came to SLE and have stayed for 14 years. I can make a meaningful difference.
Verified by an engineer
Apeksha Patel trained as an Electronics Engineer in India and joined SLE 14 years ago. SLE specialises in the development of customised neonatal ventilators and was recently acquired by Inspiration Healthcare. Headquartered in Croydon, UK, they research, design and manufacture onsite and have a global distribution network. Their R&D team consists of around 25 engineers covering a variety of disciplines. Since joining SLE, Apeksha has achieved several promotions, currently occupying a technical leadership role. She leads a team of eight people in the validation and verification of SLE’s product range.
Why Six Sigma Yellow Belt?
“As a Lead Engineer in validation and verification, my role is heavily reliant on quality. It's my job to ensure that every product, accessory, and piece of equipment that we sell commercially is up to the right standards. Our users are medical professionals working with some of the most vulnerable infants and we can’t afford to get things wrong.
My manager, the Group Head of R&D, identified the Six Sigma Yellow Belt course after she read an article about businesses battling inefficiency. As an organisation it was decided that we should set up a dedicated course to help us explore our own efficiencies and identify, and crucially implement, some improvement ideas. We have attended IMechE training courses in the past – Root Cause Analysis, Measurement Systems – mostly Operational Excellence courses, and the style has always been engaging and informative. We’ve found that IMechE’s style of training has led to knowledge being applied and our teams are real advocates of the impact it has had.
This course was different to the others I have attended with IMechE as there was an expectation to identify a project to work on to demonstrate return on investment. Six Sigma as a discipline is rooted in financial impact and that became a very important aspect of the learning. We chose to have this accredited by the ISSP for further external recognition.”
What was your experience of the course?
“The trainer was excellent – funny, energetic, supportive, and she told you when things were going wrong. She had a great coaching style and pace which meant everyone stayed focused on their outcomes.
The course itself took longer than planned due to the pandemic. This meant we started off face to face and finished up in a virtual environment. The Six Sigma toolkit is massive. There really are so many useful tools and techniques. My favourites were the KANO and DMAIC model – mainly because they are rooted in good data management. I also enjoyed the session on implementing change which focused solely on how to bring people with you. Whilst the toolkit is applicable to engineers and non-engineers alike, because of the data driven methodologies it’s a great toolkit for manufacturing organisations.
The project requirement kept the tools front of mind and, because it was rooted in our jobs, it didn’t feel like an assessment. My project was around minimising failures and complaints, particularly in validation – which to us is all about meeting users’ needs. One of the challenges was our small sample sizes due to the intermittent low frequency nature of our failures, but I managed to identify a £60k saving which more than pays for the investment SLE has made.”
What are the three reasons why someone should attend a SS Yellow Belt course?
Enhancements of skillset towards
1. Complex Problem-solving using DMAIC strategy
2. Process improvements activities for consistent output, elimination of waste and improved product quality resulting in improved business performance
3. Determining customer needs and developing customer-focused solutions
What’s been the impact?
“So far, the impact has been huge. My directors were delighted! I was one of 11 participants – not everyone achieved the same ROI as me – but some did. And others were reassured that an area they thought needed focus, didn’t. It’s the one piece of advice I’d give to a future delegate – to ensure that you give due attention to your project selection.
I was awarded a “Best Design for six sigma” certificate by the ISSP following the implementation of my project, so there is already a very clear and tangible output. We need to re-run the models after another years’ worth of data, when the sample sizes are larger, which will provide further evidence of the savings my project has had.
My team has noticed a change in me too. Particularly around the formulation of good problem statements. In hindsight, we’d allowed some ambiguous problem statements to seep in and that means we were jumping to the solutions and sometimes solving the wrong problem. We’ve removed our assumptions and focused on repeatability and accuracy, which has improved our relationship with the developers.”
“As an organisation, we’re looking to move into the American market and MDR compliance for full product portfolio, which brings greater regulatory responsibility for me, so that is an area of focus. I am a massive fan of the Six Sigma toolkit and I’d love to become a Black Belt one day (and I do mean one day). My priority though is to focus on becoming Chartered and developing my skills as a strategic manager.”