Medtronic is a global healthcare solutions company committed to improving the lives of people through its medical technologies, services, and solutions. The company, which earns annual revenues over $27 billion, employs more than 85,000 people at more than 460 locations in over 155 countries.
As a medical technology leader, Medtronic emphasizes quality throughout every aspect of its business, combining Six Sigma and Lean methodologies to ensure reliability and quality across its products and services.
Medtronic employs people with a wide array of skills, so the company’s Six Sigma trainees come from a variety of backgrounds. “We get people from manufacturing, marketing, sales, finance, from all of our business units,” says Dayna Cruz, who manages Medtronic’s training program for Six Sigma Black Belts. “Candidates can come from any function, with any level of education.”
That created a challenge: participants entered training sessions with wildly divergent levels of statistical knowledge. Some possessed a great deal of expertise. Some had received preliminary statistics instruction during Green Belt training. And still other candidates entered training with no prior statistical knowledge.
That broad range of understanding made it very difficult for Cruz and her team to deliver effective training. “I needed a way to give everyone coming into the Black Belt program a common level of statistical awareness,” Cruz says.
Cruz found what she needed in Quality Trainer, an e-learning course offered by Minitab, makers of the statistical software used by Medtronic’s quality practitioners. The course teaches professionals the statistics they need to improve quality with animated lessons that bring complex statistical methods to life, and lets them practice what they learn by working through real-world scenarios and data sets. When combined with a license for Minitab Statistical Software, unlimited access to the Quality Trainer course is extremely affordable.
Medtronic’s Black Belt candidates needed an understanding of statistical methods including hypothesis tests, measurement systems analysis, design of experiments, control charts, and capability analysis—all of which are covered in Quality Trainer.
By explaining key statistical concepts, then illustrating how to apply them in Minitab Statistical Software, Quality Trainer ensured that participants would share a common level of knowledge when they reached the classroom. And with the built-in course tracking, managers and trainers could easily verify that all participants completed the appropriate lessons before the start of training.
“When I came across Quality Trainer, I was sold on it right away,” Cruz says. “It was a perfect fit for our needs, and the fact that it also introduced people to Minitab made it even more useful. Now, before students come to training, we ask them to complete the first several lessons in Quality Trainer. Just offering Quality Trainer has helped the people who were really nervous about statistics achieve a certain comfort level before stepping foot into the classroom.”
Medtronic first made Quality Trainer available only to Black Belt candidates, but rising demand soon compelled the company to offer Quality Trainer company-wide. “We have a program called Design for Reliability and Manufacturability (DRM)—which is similar to Design for Six Sigma—and they had a similar need in their training programs,” Cruz says. “So they also started using Quality Trainer as a prerequisite.”
Because Quality Trainer is available through the Web, the trainees can learn at their own speed any time they’re online. Quality Trainer’s simple organization, searchable index, and extensively illustrated statistical glossary make it easy for even experienced quality professionals to quickly refresh their knowledge and brush up on techniques they haven’t used recently.
Cruz says Quality Trainer relieves a lot of stress felt by students, and trainers, too. “Students no longer need to feel like their time in class is their one chance to get trained on a given tool, because they know when they need to use that tool they can always go back and review it in Quality Trainer,” she notes. “And that’s enabled the instructors to refocus the training on the right application of the tools, rather than all of the statistical details.”
Minitab’s e-learning course, Cruz adds, enhances the effectiveness of Medtronic’s own in-house training on quality improvement. “By ensuring they all share a healthy understanding of statistics, Quality Trainer has made it easier to prepare our Lean Six Sigma trainees to solve problems across our business.”