5S – How elements can be applied to Service related Process Improvement?

Many service related process (e.g. Insurance claims, processing a tax return) can be quite complex and cumbersome. It is only when these processes are mapped and clearly understood that opportunities to eliminate NVA steps and simplify a process become apparent. In many cases, the ‘As-Is Process’ involves navigating, through a maze of screens of different databases and information sources.

To redesign the ‘To-Be Process’, the Sort and Store elements of the 5S can be very useful to improve the process layout and flow e.g.

  • Simplify work screens in a software application or database by removing the unused or non-required work fields (Sort)
  • For those that are left over, create icons or shortcuts that are easy to see and access (Store)

Submitted by Éamon Ó Béarra, SQT Lean Six Sigma tutor


How will BRC Global Food Safety Standard Issue 7 differ from Issue 6?

The BRC project has been on the go since 1998 and there is no doubt that it has improved standards throughout the food manufacturing sector in this period but as with every standard that matures over time is its relevance declining?

ISO9000 suffered such a fate in the food sector as it was surpassed by FSSC which was newer and of greater relevance.  As one who reads many BRC non-conformance reports the same ‘low hanging fruit’ keeps appearing e.g. “No proof that blue plasters were metal detected.”  Do these types of observations really add value to the business with regards to Risk Management?

So what are the major changes to BRC Global Food Safety Standard Issue 7?
Supplier approval has been added to the list of fundamentals.  This was a given due to “horsemeatgate.”  The words fraud and integrity are a bit more prominent and Agents (Traders) are targeted.  There are significant improvements to ensure the integrity of the Supply Chain.  Clause 3.9 traceability has also been expanded with 3.9.3 being a new clause again focussing on raw material suppliers.

Another area significantly enhanced is customer focus and communication.  This is an area where the technical department must step-up.  The role of technical management has changed significantly over the past 24 months.  We need to communicate better both internally and externally so that the business needs of customers/retailers are understood by all in the manufacturing environment.

Learn what need to know about BRC on our one day programme…more

(Blog post based on draft standard of BRC Global Food Safety Standard Issue 7 which  will be published by January 2015. Audits according to the new standard will take place from July 2015)


Much Loved Campaign – show your softer side!

We’re delighted to continue to support to our chosen charity ‘The Blue Box‘ in their new “Much Loved” Campaign.


The Blue Box is a local Limerick charity that does fantastic work with children and young adults helping them to work through issues and traumas through the effective use of music, art & dance therapy. Many local schools sing their praises because of the great work they do, so all help is greatly appreciated.

To donate €4 to the “Much Loved” Campaign just text BEAR to 50300, then post & share a selfie of you and your favourite childhood teddy bear. In addition to raising much needed funds they hope to raise awareness of the need for a stable childhood, for all children.

Here’s our little SQT teddy bear selfie
…ok so he’s not actually our childhood teddy…and none of us are quite sure how he sneaked in to the SQT office but we’ve all got a soft spot for lovable rogues, so we guess he’s here to stay!


25 years and counting

1989 seems life a life-time away, it was the year Samuel Beckett died, Fair City came on the air and the Irish film My Left Foot won a number of Academy Awards.  It was also the year Lily Collison set up a new training company called “Shannon Quality Training” focused solely on the delivery of just one course, ISO 9000 Lead Auditor Training.

In November 1989 the very first SQT public training course was held in The Dromineer Bay Hotel, Nenagh and this is what the first booking system looked like…


Delegate No 3 was me.  Early SQT customers included Kostal, EI Shannon, Irish Cement, Pfizer, Alps Electric, Apple and Dairygold Co-op and I’m delighted to say that all are still valued customers 25 years on.

Obviously very few companies can exist on one product alone so over the years, many more expert tutors from industry have come on board, helping SQT to expand into lots of new areas of learning.

In 2001 Shannon Quality Training officially became SQT Training Ltd and towards the end of that year, I packed my bags as Operations Manager in Dell and proudly joined the SQT team as Managing Director.   Since then the team has grown to 35 very talented and hard-working tutors, all supported by 9 wonderfully dedicated office staff with lots of computerised booking systems.  To date we have trained in excess of 50,000 people from  small to medium companies to large multinationals both here and abroad.  This year so far we have trained in 22 counties in Ireland as well Denmark, UK, Isle of Man, Libya, Spain and USA.

The world of training has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. When SQT started out the overhead projector was in vogue and not a smart phone in sight – now every delegate has at least one device in their pocket with access to vast amounts of free information at the touch of a button.  Back in 1989 the internet was still in its infancy; Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and online learning were not even early concepts.  25 years on the training choices and learning mediums  available to people are truly vast.

However when you really think about it, SQTs’ challenge today is no different to that faced 25 years ago.  As professional trainers our job is still to help you understand the important stuff from the vast amounts of information out there, it’s about making learning real, it’s about engaging with you in a very practical way and empowering you with knowledge and skills to make a difference.

The overhead projector is long gone but we still have highly experience, industry experts delivering up-to-date training through direct communication, collaboration, analyses, critical thinking and problem solving…with the help of some clever technology!.

Not so long ago Mary Robinson said “we have 2 decades to save the world from permanent Climate Change”, so my wish for the next 25 years is for us all to stay cool, keep evolving and learning and together, mind the important stuff so that 25 years on we are all still here….still learning, still sharing.



Thanks for your continued support.


Update: European Union (Energy Efficiency) Regulations 2014


  1. Does your organisation employ more than 250 people directly?
  2. Does your organisation have an annual turnover of more than €50 million per year and/or an annual balance sheet in excess of €43 million?
  3. Are you a public body with individual buildings having a total useful floor area of more than 500m2 or an annual energy spend of more than €35,000?

If you have answered ‘No’ to the above questions, this legislation is voluntary for your organisation.

However, if you have answered ‘Yes’ to any of the above questions, you must complete a high quality energy audit by the 5th December 2015, notify SEAI once complete, and repeat this every four years thereafter.  Alternatively, you can have a certified ISO 50001 Energy Management System in place, which requires you to conduct regular energy audits to maintain certification.

hand-holding-bulbThese are the rules established in the recently published (October 2014) European Union (Energy Efficiency) Regulations 2014, which transpose Article 8 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU).

If your organisation meets the qualification criteria outlined, but is not fully covered by ISO 50001, you will need to conduct a high quality energy audit to comply with the Regulations.

These audits must include energy used by your buildings, industrial processes and transport to identify cost-effective energy saving measures.  The audits must sufficiently represent the overall energy performance of the organisation and the reliable identification of the most significant opportunities for improvement.

Audits are to be conducted with reference to the recently published ISO 50002:2014 or EN 16247 1-4.  Lead auditors conducting the audits must be members of the National Registration Scheme. For your audits, your organisation must:

  1. Calculate its total consumption
  2. Identify its areas of significant energy consumption
  3. Appoint a registered energy auditor
  4. Notify the SEAI
  5. Keep records

In order to comply with the Regulations, the audits must:

  1. Analyse the participant’s energy consumption and energy efficiency
  2. Use life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) instead of Simple Payback Periods (SPP)
  3. Contain detailed and validated calculations for the proposed measures to determine potential savings
  4. Be based on up-to-date, measured, traceable operational data on energy consumption and (for electricity) load profiles

The organisation should be aware that if it does not meet its auditing obligations, for instance by failing to do the required audits or notify SEAI of compliance, it may be prosecuted by the SEAI and is liable on summary conviction to a class A fine.


Find out more about comprehensive lead auditor training necessary for you to conduct your own energy audits here.


Submitted by Ronan O’Sullivan, Antaris Consulting
To read more blogs from Antaris, click here


Collecting Data – The critical importance of an Operation Definition

Let’s be honest about it. In many cases, collecting data (especially when done manually) can be tedious and viewed by some as a ‘pain in the backside’. This is understandable to a degree but imagine a situation where after spending 6 weeks collecting data we find out that it is inaccurate, it can’t be used and is in effect a waste of time. This issue can be due to the fact that we put no thought or effort into how we defined the metric in question.

E.g., a Food Processing Company was trying to baseline the Cleaning in Place (CIP) Process. In order to understand if here a difference in the CIP time by shift, product type, CIP types, etc. they set about collecting data over a 6 week timeline to answer some of these questions.

When the Project Team examined the data after the 6 weeks, they found there were some major differences by shift and the other aforementioned factors. Importantly though, this was not due to a difference in performance but by how the Metric was being measured.

  • Shift A was interpreting the CIP time as ‘from the time the equipment was stopped until it was started again with the CIP complete’
  • Shift B was interpreting the CIP time as ‘from the time the equipment was stopped until an acceptable micro test result for the CIP was back from the Lab allowing the equipment to be restarted’.
  • Shift C had another interpretation altogether

Unfortunately, it was then back to the proverbial drawing board!

The morale of the story is to agree on a very specific Operational Definition for a metric, include it on the Data Collection Sheet and even go as far as to give the Data Collectors a fictional pre-completed data collection form to use as a guideline.


Submitted by Éamon Ó Béarra, SQT Lean Six Sigma tutor



Fundraiser for The Blue Box

In 2013 SQT partnered with The Blue Box Creative Learning Center, a Limerick charity that uses arts therapy to support
Limerick city children and young adults to express themselves throughblue_box music, art and dance.

The Blue Box have a fundraiser event coming up on Thursday October 23rd in Limerick.

Brendan Markham artist in residence for the Blue Box and lead singer of Parliament Square will be performing in Cobblestone Joe’s on Thursday October the 23rd supported by The Fall, The Trip, The Tumble.

The event starts at 9pm in aid of the Blue Box,  Entry is free to the gig and there is a raffle which includes a pair of African Djembe drums. Donations can be made on the night or through the website at Also find them on Facebook.

Promises to be a good night!



Lean Six Sigma Certification

In order to evaluate and compare Lean Six Sigma course offerings it is important to understand the various certification options associated with them. Whilst course curriculums may appear similar, the requirements for certification can often vary dramatically.


There are three general classifications of programmes in terms of certification:

  1. Non-Certified Courses
  2. Academically Certified Courses
  3. Professionally Certified Courses


  1. Non-Certified Courses

Non-certified courses do not carry national recognition, however, there are advantages if gaining a qualification is not a key motivation for completing the training programme. For example:

  • The course can be tailored around a client’s specific training needs which may result in the removal of certain elements of a prescribed curriculum or body of knowledge (BOK) related to a specific belt
  • There is no assessment requirement. However, if a learner is motivated to complete additional self-study they could achieve professional certification by successfully completing relevant examination(s) from one of the professional accreditation bodies such as the ASQ (American Society for Quality) or IASSC (International Association for Six Sigma Certification).
  • Another advantage of non-certified training is that team based projects may be used as a means of assessment, this is generally not acceptable in academically or professionally certified training courses.



  1. Academically Certified Training Courses

Many academic institutions such as technical colleges and universities provide certified Lean Six Sigma programmes within their post-graduate or life-long learning course offerings. The advantage of pursuing such programmes is that they have been validated against prescribed award standards and have undergone a significant element of peer review and oversight by the external awarding body.

The Bologna Process has ensured comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications across European countries. For example, in Ireland, the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) has been designed for the development, recognition and award of qualifications based on standards of knowledge, skill and competence acquired by learners. The Framework consists of 10 levels, from basic learning (level 1) to Doctoral awards (level 10). SQT have agreed Quality Assurance Procedures with QQI, the national agency responsible for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training and validates programmes and makes awards for certain providers in these sectors. SQT Offers QQI Certified Special Purpose Awards at Levels 6, 7 and 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Another major advantage of perusing an academically certified programme (particularly those utilising real projects in the learner assessment) is that there is a deadline for project completion. Sponsoring companies can therefore expect significant benefits to be accrued by the learners in the short term during the course of the delivery and assessment period alone.

There are two main arguments against academic certifications. The first is that academic training providers may be far removed from industry and may tend to focus too much on theory rather than giving practical insight and guidance to learners. Against this argument there are some academically certified training courses which are delivered by private training organisations, such as SQT Training, which have trainers that are in fact current industry Lean Six Sigma experts. The other argument often used against academic certification is that the assessment is purely based on the learners’ knowledge of the theory rather than competency in its application.  In reality this argument doesn’t hold true in many cases as many QQI (formerly HETAC) accredited programmes use real project submissions in the assessment of the leaners. Project management, leadership and change management skills are also assessed. For example, the assessment of SQT’s QQI Certified Green Belt programme is based on the successful delivery of a real work project through all stages of the DMAIC methodology while correctly selecting and applying tools appropriate to the project. Therefore, while academically certified, the actual course delivery has a very practical focus.


A Word of Caution…..

If you are considering perusing academic certification be sure to do the following:

  1. Compare the training curriculum against the ASQ body of knowledge to ensure that no shortcuts have been taken
  2. Check to see what level of recent practical experience the tutor(s) have
  3. Establish if there is a project requirement as part of the assessment
  4. Understand what level the programme has been validated at and the number of credits allocated (Further information relating to levels and credits are available here)


  1. Professionally Certified Training Courses

Prior to 2010 there was only one accepted source of professional certification for Lean Six Sigma practitioners, namely ASQ (American Society for Quality). The ASQ has been at the forefront of professional certification for quality practitioners for over 65 years. It has worldwide recognition and charters all over the globe. Former chairs of the ASQ include some of the who’s who of quality gurus of the past century, including Armand Feigenbaum and Philip Crosby.  Since the emergence of Six Sigma as a global phenomenon in the late nineties, ASQ has been to the forefront in identifying a standardised body of knowledge (BOK) for Six Sigma belts.  In 2010 a new organisation, namely IASSC (International Association of Six Sigma Certification) emerged as an independent third-party certification body.  Both the ASQ and the IASSC rely on knowledge assessments (exams) to determine if learners demonstrate the capacity to be professionally certified.


The two main ASQ exams are the CSSGB (Green Belt) and the CSSBB (Black Belt) exams.  While project based assessment is not included in either of these certifications, the CSSBB does require that a project has been successfully completed, with an affidavit to that effect. It is widely held that the CSSBB is a very challenging exam due to the statistical requirements of Six Sigma. IASSC on the other hand do not require the submission of any project or affidavits, and while the exam format and BOK are almost identical to the ASQ, the IASSC exam is likely to have less statistical and more lean content.


Both the ASQ and IASSC offer certification options to suitable training providers on a fee basis. The ASQ do so in a partnership model to ensure the training is consistent across providers (there are a small number of ASQ partners).  IASSC remain an independent certification body and therefore do not provide training.  Both the ASQ and IASSC exams are open to any applicant regardless of the source of training.


In Summary…

When evaluating a Lean Six Sigma Programme it is wise to remember the following:


  1. Academically certified programmes have undergone a significant level of independent review and oversight by an external awarding body, however, there is still much variance in courses offered. It is vitally important to examine the curriculum, understand the level of the qualification and associated credits, establish the practical experience held by the tutor(s), and finally whether the practical work (in most cases a project) actually forms part of the assessment.
  2. There may be valid reasons to opt for an uncertified programme, this is particularly the case where team based projects and significant customisation is required by the company seeking the training. Large corporations such as Honeywell and GE self-certify according to their own requirements.
  3. Professional bodies such as the ASQ provide the best source for what a ‘belt’ should know (body of knowledge), the exams are open to all learners but a successful result will not verify if the learner has the ability to be a good Green or Black Belt, as no practical work is examined. The professional body IASSC is relatively new and is therefore a little too early to compare with ASQ. Certification for both bodies is exam based only.


Having delivered all three types of programmes described here it is SQT’s experience that the best option both for personal development and company delivery is to choose an academic certification which assesses learner capability via project delivery. This will ensure a win/win for the learner and his/her organisation.


Quality Conference in October

We are happy to draw your attention to the upcoming Quality in Ireland Conference taking place in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway on Tues 21st Oct hosted by NSAI and IT Sligo.

This is an excellent event with many great speakers so worth noting in diaries.

See for more details.



How to transition from Project to Program Management

The world of project management is becoming all too familiar. Yes, there are still challenges and learning to be had but when project management is discussed it is known on how to develop and mature. As a project manager, the biggest driver is being able to deliver under the pressures of time, cost and scope constraints and can be considered to be a balance of project management skills, leadership skills and process management skills.

One of the items that gains continual attention now … is how to transition from project to program. If you are in a PMO, you may have heard the following question, which of the project managers is ready to take on the program of work? This is now the easiest question to answer because first we ask ourselves, what is exactly Program Management and what do we mean by it.
In projects, we talk about planning, team development and process management. Whereas in programs we talk about business delivery, team dependencies and strategic management. They are two different sets of skills and to assume that a project manager can develop these without guidance / structure is a lot to ask. The first step in transitioning from project to program manager is to develop the mind-set for program management. For example, moving from the world of project / timeline delivery to program strategic execution.
My 10-steps or factors that are essential is developing professionals from a project manager’s role into a program management role are: -
  1. Think Business instead of Delivery
  2. Think Dependencies instead of Schedule
  3. Think Escalation instead of Reporting
  4. Think Strategy instead of Scope
  5.  Think conflict instead of Crisis
  6.  Think Governance instead of Teams
  7. Think Transition instead of Transfer
  8. Think Challenge instead of Salary
  9. Think Relaxation instead of Stress
  10. Think Program Triple Constraints (Benefit, Customer, cost)
Why are these different from project management? To answer this question, they are all business related and not one of them are focused on the task mindset that is often evident in project management. This is the subject matter of the paper I will be presenting at PMI® Global Congress 2014—North America on the 27th October in Phoenix, AZ
Liam DillonSubmitted by Liam Dillon, Turlon, SQT Project Management tutor

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