The CooperVision Improvement Framework (based on Lean Six Sigma)

2011 to date

CooperVision is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of soft contact lenses sold in over 100 countries around the world.

Catalyst has helped CooperVision to design and develop an improvement structure and process to deliver projects across the organisation.

A Personal Perspective from the View of the Leader

This Study takes the form of an interview…

Kevin Barrett talks to Martin Brenig-Jones about getting Lean Six Sigma started – being clear about the need and using the approach to support the delivery of key business outcomes. He outlines for us how infrastructures and frameworks were established to make Lean Six Sigma happen, and what the organisation did to gain acceptance for it. This included not calling it Lean Six Sigma. What’s in a name?

Kevin Barrett

Senior Vice President of European Manufacturing Operations

Kevin is responsible for CooperVision manufacturing operations across Europe, including sites in the UK and Hungary, manufacturing contact lenses and lens care solutions.

Lean Six Sigma, why did you start it?


Kevin – I think for me, Lean Six Sigma has always been a toolkit that adds value. Throughout my career I’ve been involved with it and used it as an engineer, so for me it is an obvious tool to help us improve and develop the business. It was a natural progression to move into that  Continuous Improvement approach.


Martin – You had discovered it a while ago?


Kevin – Yes, I remember probably back in the late 70s early 80s doing SPC courses and structured problem solving etc which then became parts of the Lean Six Sigma toolkit and the Toyota Way. I’ve probably been steeped in it all the way through my career really.

How did you get started?


Kevin – Moving into the leadership role in UK manufacturing, there was a very clear need and I think that’s one of the things I would say to anybody: there really must be a clear need i.e., an imperative for improvement. That imperative will then lead to a commitment for improvement. For us there was a very clear need, as there were a couple of product lines at least that were facing some challenges to perform at the required level. They hadn’t been designed well, especially from the manufacturing process perspective, the lines hadn’t been designed for continuous 24/7 production needs. So there was a very clear need to improve and there wasn’t really an improvement structure or an improvement process in place.

To get things going we started with the senior management and getting that team together and talking about ‘hey, we have a clear need to improve here, what methodology, what approach are we going to take?’ It was pretty clear what we had to do, but what wasn’t clear was how we were going to do it? So that was the initial discussion that I brought to the team; what approach are we going to take in order to achieve some of these improvements that we really need to achieve?

How did you get them to buy in to taking on this kind of Lean Six Sigma approach?


Kevin – It was an interesting journey actually, we had a whole mix of people, some who had never heard of it, some people who’d tried it before and didn’t have a good experience with it and therefore didn’t feel it was a good approach and then we had other people who had used it and who were very enthusiastic.

It was a long discussion in the end, lasting several months rather than weeks. We didn’t just jump in and all agree it was Six Sigma, in fact, in the end we didn’t even call it Six Sigma, we called it the CooperVision Improvement Framework, although the basis was Lean Six Sigma. We came to the conclusion “what’s in a name?” It doesn’t matter what you call the approach, it’s whether you commit to it and execute it. That was one of the quirky things that I wasn’t expecting when setting off on the journey, that people would have issues with the name…

…however, we fairly quickly got over that by demonstrating on a few successful projects that improvements could be done and we were taking it seriously this time. We also showed that we weren’t just sheep dipping everybody through a training programme and expecting results, we were putting a framework and a structure in to back this up and sustain it.

What were the great successes as you look back on it?


Kevin – I think the great successes were, in terms of actual numbers, the performance improvements that we made. We turned ourselves from probably being a bit of a business liability to being one of the business’ key strengths.


But the one underlying mantra in it all for me is, it is all about people and we set ourselves this objective of developing confident and competent people across the whole organisation. I use ‘competent and confident’ because one word doesn’t cover it and we’ve got competence everywhere in the business but competence without confidence is a bit like you get what you get, but the people don’t improve because they don’t have the confidence to try something different. If you have confident people who are not competent, and every organisation has a few of those, they are truly dangerous people. But if you’ve got confidence and competence across the organisation, what you see is an organisation that believes in itself and drives for change and drives for improvement and I think that is the greatest success.  So, the 75% improvement in productivity, the 70% reduction in quality defects, all of those things I think are fantastic numbers but they were achieved by building a fantastic team, full of confident and competent people.

Any advice to give to other leaders?


Kevin – My advice is, be clear about the need, and if the need is not imperative that you have to do it, don’t start. If you don’t feel that its an absolute must to do it, you’ll probably fail, so don’t bother. But if you really believe in it and you say this is something we have to do, then realise it’s a journey and set out on the journey.


We use a chart showing that we need to stabilise then improve and breakthrough; don’t try to improve and make breakthroughs before you’re stable, you have to follow the recipe, its like DMAIC, don’t jump into analyse if you haven’t defined your problem, you have to follow the recipe.

Anything else?


Kevin – I would just like to say to everybody, it’s hugely rewarding. It’s not just great for the business, it’s great for the people and its great for yourself to lead a team through that sort of development. it’s our job and when you do your job, and you do it well, the rewards are immense.

This interview case study is an excerpt from our book Lean Six Sigma for Leaders

You can find the book and learn more about Lean Six Sigma on Amazon.

I am pleased to recommend Catalyst Consulting to you. They supported CooperVision Manufacturing limited in deploying our Lean Six Sigma program, including amongst other things; planning the programme, providing training and coaching for our Green and Black Belts training to support the deployment of our Continuous Improvement Framework (CIF).

Catalyst also provided advisory services to our executive leaders, helping us establish our programme governance, employee communications and support to belts in real life projects.

The professionalism, quality and practicality of their people is of a very high standard and we were more than satisfied with their work which greatly complemented the success of our initiatives in this area. I would have no hesitation in recommending Catalyst to support similar programmes.

Kevin Barrett

Senior Vice President – European Manufacturing Operations.  CooperVision


Learn more about achieving results like these…