Continuous Improvement Expert,

United States, Illinois, Chicago

Business unit: Ethylene & Sulfur Derivatives

About AkzoNobel

AkzoNobel is a leading global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals, with leading market positions and brands in countries around the world. We operate in a number of important market segments ranging from buildings and infrastructure to transport, industrial and consumer goods. We’re also the sector leader in sustainability and are number one in the renowned Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In practical terms, that means our sustainable solutions are in your lives, and those of your friends and family, every day. We’re the people that make it possible for you to do what you need to do.


Our Ethylene and Sulfur Derivatives business unit (BU) is part of the Specialty Chemicals business area. As a major producer of specialty chemicals with leadership positions in many markets, we make sure that industries worldwide are supplied with quality ingredients including chemical intermediates and performance chemicals, such as cellulosic specialties, chelates, ethylene amines, micronutrients, polysulfides and sulfur products. With revenues of 1.2 billion and manufacturing sites in 16 countries and 1,900 employees, we are a truly global business supplying key industrial customers. 
Job Context
BU Ethylene and Sulfur Derivatives has invested in developing a sustainable, long term culture of continuous improvement based on Lean Six Sigma (L6S) principles and methodology. Using this one global system that promotes eliminating waste and reducing variation, BU ESD aims to drive for stronger business performance every day.

Continuous Improvement Experts go on site to lead complex improvement projects that have significant impact on the BU. They operate across business and functional lines to drive change and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of BU operations. They will typically work in their home regions but as required, will lead global projects. Projects vary in size but typically will be six to nine months in length with an average benefit in excess of €400k. Continuous Improvement Experts must be passionate about continuous improvement, effective change agents, and capable team leaders and able to effectively lead Lean Six Sigma projects in whatever environment or setting they are sent into.

This position will be located in Chicago, IL.

Key Objectives / Principal Accountabilities: 
- Takes responsibility for leading teams in the execution of complex Lean Six Sigma projects in manufacturing and business sites that deliver benefits in excess of €400k. Will lead multiple projects simultaneously. 

- Provides those working on the projects with a clear sense of direction, motivating and empowering them to initiative sustainable improvements to their current processes and work environments.  Builds teamwork through engagement and aligns team members by tying to individual and collective goals.

- Helps teams to understand, learn and use Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques for current and future purposes.
- Uses data and all sources of information to break down scenarios to root causes, to find patterns and relationships and to solve problems in a practical, permanent way.
- Maintains a customer focus and uses it to drive for improvement in the BU business and processes.
- Pushes for innovative improvements but understands the need for assessing risks and balancing relative to practicality and compliance. Challenges existing boundaries but does not compromise on legal or safety requirements.
- Works well in a pressurized environment, is a highly capable planner and can prioritize, both at work and to maintain a good work/life balance.
- Travels to BU locations as required fulfilling their overall responsibilities. Travel may be required as much as three to four days per week in some weeks. Typically will be two or three days per week overnight travel.
- Communicates about their activities including weekly Black Belt project progress reports and quick win results, via articles about their projects and L6S subject matter for the BU and local newsletters.
- Is responsible to fully document the status of their active and closed projects then log all projects on the L6S SharePoint. Acts as the key resource for rapid replication of their projects at other sites.
- Acts as a change agent in building a continuous improvement culture in the BU.
- Able to identify improvement opportunities and assist process owners in writing concise project charters to define the problem statement, desired future state and benefit to be achieved.
- Conducts Lean Six Sigma content based workshops and site audits as required to help sites improve their performance.
- Trains and coaches CI Professionals in the details of Lean Six Sigma and the successful execution of local projects. Works with Belts to help them reach certification.
- Assists in the education and training of the BU employee population, including supervisors and management on the fundamentals of Lean Six Sigma.
- Provide general support to the L6S organization and community.
- Provides assistance to the Continuous Improvement Masters, Program Operations Manager and Program Director as required in developing curriculum and resource materials to improve and further build the L6S program in BU.
- Helps in the Continuous Improvement Expert recruitment process, answering questions from potential candidates and acting as community liaisons.
- Actively promotes L6S via presentations to groups, newsletter articles and participation in workshop and conferences (internal and external).
- Supports the Continuous Improvement Master Managers in realizing the goals of the L6S program.
- Supports the L6S Program Manager, as required, to help grow and sustain the program.

Vacancy data


Job characteristics

Closing date

December 31, 2099

Vacancy number



North America


United States





Business unit

Ethylene & Sulfur Derivatives

Job family


Hierarchy level


Full time/part time


Contract type


Job requirements/Candidate profile

Job Requirements:
-  Bachelor’s degree, preference for technical (engineering, chemistry)

- Fundamental understanding of project management
- Basic knowledge of Lean Six Sigma
- Solid awareness of business processes and financial analysis
- Passion for innovation, change and continuous improvement
- Able to impart knowledge to others and to learn quickly
- Proven ability to plan and prioritize work
- Good analytical skills and capacity for statistics
- Demonstrated high performance levels and ability to multi task in a fast paced environment
- Team management skills and the capability to lead change
- Effective communicator
- Able to work effectively across different organizational levels, from operational to management
- English language capable
- Spanish language fluency is strongly desired

Key competencies required for success as a Continuous Improvement Expert:
A combination of leadership and technical capabilities. 
- Project management skills

- Team management skills
- Engaging public speaking skills
- Change management competence
- Analytical capability
- Statistical competence