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Harvesting Results with Continuous Improvement

Working on continuous improvement, the road is not always easy. Much like farming, in order to be successful, there must be a strong foundation set in the soil, intentional and proper seeds planted, watering and cultivation of these seeds, then a process of weeding to fine tune it. At the end of this process, the blossomed flowers — or shall we say financial results — are evident.

Flores Isabelita knows this process all too well — in business and at the farmland.

Flores Isabelita is part of the Falcon Farms group, a fully integrated flower company with farms in Colombia and Ecuador and distribution centers in six US states, and a major player in the supply of flower bouquets into big retailers in the US.

The Colombian-based company was first exposed to the Lean 6 Sigma methodology with EPIC Consultants in 2016. For the past 4 years, Flores Isabelita has been in a "Lean 6 Sigma Continuous Improvement" journey. Their road wasn't easy, but success also doesn’t just fall from the sky.

With a 70% yield optimization of raw material (flowers) and an increase in production capacity of 60%, Flores Isabelita is paving the way to be the premier choice for the manufacturing of mixed bouquets in the US market.

This is their continuous improvement story as told by the Lead Facilitator, Anny Martinez Lopez.

“When we first started, it seemed like everyone but me had some knowledge of Lean 6 Sigma,” said Anny. “This first year of implementation was marked with an environment of many dreams and expectations, and a great deal of learning – disrupting the way I saw and understood processes, systems, and methodologies.”

The first year we achieved a few wins, the first one was the discipline to work as a team. It required a new set of habits to work effectively as a cross functional team. The second one was the ability to quantify processes utilizing new tools such as SIPOC, Process Maps, Value Stream Mapping; therefore, having the ability to visualize and improve those processes. The third one was to allow the team to implement ideas and be accountable for their implementation.

By the second year, we started to see physical changes throughout the plant. The 5s Team was making an impact in key production areas. Standardization led to a reduction of 74% in accidents. We also empowered teams to improve the yield of raw material (flowers) as well as productivity levels. The teams were able to quantify financial gains and the savings were great. Nonetheless, Executives from the group questioned them because the numbers were not validated by a third party.

“Improvements are great, but validated results are better.”

With this, year three was characterized by an obsession with numbers. All cross-functional teams were methodical in tracking their weekly metrics (KPI’s) through the financial statements. It was powerful to see and feel the savings per project: yield optimization, increasing capacity without increasing costs, safety, and Universidad Isabelita. Well, by the end of the year we presented significant savings validated internally and externally: over 6 times the amount invested in the program!

All decisions based on accurate data. No fake news!

On the 4th year, everything just clicked: the Lean 6 Sigma Continuous Improvement Program is a complete success. This methodology has allowed us to have standardized processes, clear KPI’s, empowered personnel, and a system self-sustained by the process owners.

Moreover, this is a Leadership Program. Our secret weapon is that employees are eager to be part of the process improvement on the teams. Perhaps it's the learning or the accomplishment to make changes or maybe the bonus that they receive at the completion of a successful project, perhaps it is a combination of both. It is not by chance that every year this program generates great savings, once more resulting in an ROI of over 5 times the investment on the program's fourth year (closed on 07/2020).

Today, Flores Isabelita is the premier choice for the manufacturing of mixed bouquets in the US market. Its cellular manufacturing (takt / continuous flow / balancing) yields high productivity, low costs and high quality.

Quoting the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Javier Mesa: “The achievements of Flores Isabelita are exemplary. Decisions based on data, continuous improvement culture, professional growth and of course the financial results reflected on the financial statements”

Fortunately, stories like these are not uncommon. Thousands of companies make the commitment to continuous improvement based on the Lean 6 Sigma methodology, reducing waste and maximizing efficiency. With the right focus, great results like these are very achievable!

Once again, we are very proud of the work Flores Isabelita has put into their incredible transformation and we can’t wait to see the results for the upcoming year!

A Lean 6 Sigma Continuous Improvement Program is definitely a great investment!