Here’s a story that proves once again that exciting quality applications can occur anywhere in the world.
BHP Billiton operates the EKATI diamond mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories, approximately 200 miles northeast of Yellowknife—just below the Arctic Circle. Arctic winter gear is standard attire during the long winters, when the sun barely rises above the horizon. Although the setting is harsh, it can also be a beautiful place to observe and enjoy a truly unique perspective on nature—on those rare days when the temperatures rise above freezing and there aren’t any grizzly bear problems.
The hardy folk who work at the EKATI mine demand equally hardy and adaptable tools to help them do their jobs and ensure quality. Management at the EKATI mine is proud of its reputation as the safest, lowest-cost producer of quality diamonds in the world. BHP Billiton has a long commitment to quality excellence and improvement, not only in maximizing business efficiencies, but also within the areas of health and safety, environmental stewardship, and community relations.
In 2007, a new management team at the EKATI mine kicked off a lean Six Sigma deployment that utilized a five-year plan to drive breakthrough improvements. However, a key missing piece of the puzzle for BHP Billiton at the EKATI mine, as for so many organizations, was the inability to accurately and easily track several individual quality improvement projects at once. In an environment in which saving just a few dollars per ton of mined diamonds is considered a major success, there is a profound need for the extremely accurate tracking of the financial benefits of projects. Keeping tabs on the mine’s various quality improvement initiatives using spreadsheets was a time-consuming challenge—thus the need for an enterprisewide software tracking system.
“You always need tracking for what’s in existence and what isn’t,” says Aart Broekhuizen, business excellence manager at BHP Billiton’s EKATI mine. “You need to see the different phases of projects, and you want to have some understanding of the past performance of projects in case it’s needed for future reference.”
With this stated objective in mind, and after a diligent search of available options, Broekhuizen and the rest of the mine’s quality excellence team decided to entrust the tracking software portion of their Six Sigma program to EnterpriseTrack from Instantis Inc. of Santa Clara, California. It’s the leading on-demand project portfolio management system used by business process and IT leaders to improve strategy execution and financial performance. The 100-percent web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) application accomplishes this by ensuring that more, higher-value projects can be completed faster with existing resources.
Of course, a location such as this one, in which a visitor from the United States may need to change planes up to four times to get there, presents various obstacles to accomplishing a successful implementation. Instantis, which is an on-demand provider of project management solutions, has approximately 85 percent of it customer base access the system from the company’s carrier-grade hosting facility in California. This was not possible at the mine for one simple reason: No internet access.
“Because of the lack of connectivity up at EKATI, we hosted on their servers at the mine,” says Howard Pujol, strategic engagement manager at Instantis, and the individual responsible for the on-site implementation. “In other words, we actually deployed the application right there on site. We did everything in one trip.”
Adaptability is one of the key features of EnterpriseTrack. “The degree of configurability was a key issue,” says Pujol. “They knew what they wanted, and were very clear on the functionality that they desired.”
For example, mine management quickly discovered that the software helped tie together often disparate elements of the organization into a unified whole. “We designed how best to use the software in a meeting with our Black Belts,” says Broekhuizen. “The whole thing is a process of engagement—the Belts and their teams will work on projects, and the software also brings in the finance department to track accountability.”
EnterpriseTrack has proven handy for document tracking, and users have the ability to sort and find a single project, instantly uncover the status of that project, look at the timeline, and analyze metrics and benchmarks. The user can standardize exactly how he or she wishes to track and handle the granular information uncovered in the analyze phase of a Six Sigma implementation. Ten fully integrated modules—Strategy Manager, Process Manager, Idea Manager, Proposal Manager, Project Manager, Knowledge Manager, Metrics Manager and VoC Manager, all of which plug into EnterPriseTrack’s world-class dashboards and reports—offer a complete view into the deployment, from top to bottom.
“EnterpriseTrack gave us the opportunity for more projects,” says Broekhuizen. “At this point in time, it is playing a big role within our deployment. The tracking software makes the difference.”