Barloworld Handling is improving the efficiency of its processes, reducing cost and improving customer satisfaction through the introduction of Six Sigma continuous improvement tools and techniques. The materials handling supplier now has 16 black belt and green belt qualified staff and has already completed numerous improvement projects with a positive effect on customer service.

The Six Sigma methodology was first introduced into Barloworld Handling in April 2008, with an initial wave of six employees trained to green belt standard by specialists Paloma Consulting. Six Sigma is a set of tools and techniques seeking to improve the consistency and quality of process outputs. Black and Green Belt certification is only awarded to individuals after successful completion of a comprehensive training program and a number of specific improvement projects.

“One of the main areas of focus for our Six Sigma projects is the improvement of internal processes to achieve customer satisfaction. In addition, we also have a number of projects aimed at improving equipment reliability in the field leading to even better up-time for our customers,” said Phil Marles, a field service manager at Barloworld who is training for his black belt and has led a number of Six Sigma project teams. “We ensure through customer feedback that all current and future projects are in line with what our customers require from us.”

Seven projects were successfully completed by the first wave of six green belts all with direct financial benefit and improved efficiency. As a result, there are fewer breakdowns, faster engineer response times, less waste and the quality of new truck handovers has improved even further with a revised process and checklist.

“One key positive is that we have used the Six Sigma process to strengthen our working relationship with Hyster, helping to improve the reliability of trucks in the field and introduced improvements in both manufacturing and quality testing,” said Marles, explaining that Barloworld is the United Kingdom’s sole distribution partner for Hyster equipment.


These benefits are also acknowledged by Angelo Sarzola, service director of Hyster, who comments: “This initiative, with the tight collaboration between the Barloworld and Hyster teams, has been a great opportunity to have a more comprehensive understanding of the cost of ownership in the life cycle of our product, allowing us to strengthen Hyster’s position as market leader for reliability and service cost of ownership”.

All projects are monitored for a minimum of twelve months after completion to ensure that improvements are controlled and maintained. At the end of July 2009, an additional 10 Barloworld employees achieved their green belt qualification and the company expects to see greater achievements in the future as a result. Future projects will include working in partnership with other key suppliers to further improve the overall service offering.


“At Barloworld, we maintain more than 30,000 forklifts each year in the U.K. through almost 1,000 members of staff and 18 customer support centers,” said Marles. “Our processes are already efficient, but through continuous improvement we will ensure the customer experience exceeds all expectations now and into the future”.

Barloworld is the largest independent distributor of lift trucks in the world with operations covering the U.K., Holland, Belgium, South Africa and the United States (South East). As the U.K.’s exclusive distributor of Hyster equipment since 1956, Barloworld maintains nearly 30,000 lift trucks in all types of UK industry. Barloworld provides a complete range of counterbalance and warehousing equipment with superior support, advice and value added services through its network of 1,000 support staff including 550 engineers nationwide.