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Six Sigma

Optimizing Six Sigma at the Top of the World

A Partnership—BHP Billiton’s EKATI Diamond Mine—Instantis’ EnterpriseTrack Six Sigma Software

Published: Friday, May 22, 2009 - 09:54

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 designed for temperature well below -45°C 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.

EKATI is proud of its commitment to become the safest, lowest-cost pro­ducer of quality diamonds in the world. Employees at EKATI are passionate about creating a safe and sustainable business and thriving communities, as well as developing people. This business strives to select, develop, and retain the right people while extracting value from low-value ores. The business drivers are to create zero harm, increase margin per ton, and create an engaged workforce.

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, as for so many organizations, EKATI was also challenged with accurately and easily tracking and archiving improvement programs. Keeping tabs on and archiving the mine’s various quality improvement initiatives using spreadsheets was a time-consuming challenge—thus the need for an enterprisewide software tracking system.

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 extremely accurate tracking of the financial benefits of proj­ects. Tracking and validating bottom-line value in the current recession is critical and allows for control and the ability to maneuver with a lean Six Sigma work­force.

“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, as well as being able to track and sustain the bottom line and continuously enhance business processes and systems.”

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. Instantis is an on-demand provider of project management solutions, and EnterpriseTrack is a full-featured, web-based solu­tion that allows companies to initiate, track, and manage Six Sigma and other performance initiatives across the entire organization.

Adaptability is one of the key fea­tures of EnterpriseTrack. “The degree of configurability was a key issue,” says Howard Pujol, strategic engagement manager at Instantis. “BHP Billiton EKATI management 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 meetings with our management team, Master Black Belts, and Black Belts,” says Broekhuizen. “The whole thing is a process of engagement and enrol­ment—the belts and their teams will work on projects, and the software also brings in the finance department to track and validate monetary value.”

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, including Strategy Manager, Process Manager, Idea Manager, Proposal Manager, Projects 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.


  • Web-based solution that initiates, tracks, and manages Six Sigma and other per­formance initiatives for organizations in a wide variety of industries.
  • Highly flexible and adaptable
  • Collects inputs from various sectors of the organization and makes it easy to track status of projects





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For 38 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest Daily, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.