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Six Sigma

Fort Wayne’s Six Sigma Success

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 21:00

The city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, used to be typical of a lot of Rust Belt cities: too many boarded-up buildings, insufficient infrastructure, a 37-percent population drop over 50 years, and a flagging downtown area that was in desperate need of revitalization.

That all changed in 2000, when the city’s mayor, Graham Richard, took the reins of the municipality. Soon after he was sworn into office, Richard, a former Indiana state senator and co-founder of the TQM Network, moved to deploy Six Sigma to measure the city services most in need of improvement. He established an executive council that served as the city’s deployment team, and created the position of quality enhancement manager, appointing the city’s first Black Belt to fill it. Subsequently, five more city employees completed Black Belt training, and Green Belt classes were widely attended by department managers.

All the work has led to significant improvements. The city recently announced that it reduced water-main replacement costs by 18 percent, cut the time it takes to fix potholes by 86 percent and slashed the time it takes to issue a building permit from 51 days to just 12. In all, the efforts have saved the city more than $10 million over the last five years. The city was recognized by the Brookings Institution in its annual Gateway Cities report, which examines the economic conditions of cities and towns in Massachusetts. Fort Wayne was cited as a model for struggling Massachusetts cities to follow.

“In Fort Wayne, high-performance governance is creating the social, political and economic capital for major transformative initiatives designed to reduce investment barriers and strengthen the city’s work force,” the report reads. “A streamlined permitting process is making business attraction and expansion easier. And Fort Wayne is working to make sure new jobs are high paying ones through work force development programs that are bridging the digital divide and fostering a culture of learning.”

Read the full report at http://massinc.org/fileadmin/researchreports/gateway_cities/gateway_cities_full.pdf.

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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, 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.