Tom Kelly, instructor of supply chain at Western Michigan University, shares his experience on the benefits of Lean Six Sigma certification courses, which the Haworth College of Business will begin offering in spring. He has 30 years of experience in purchasing leadership positions with companies such as Dexter Company, Amcor, Conn-Selmer, Whirlpool and Parker Hannifin.
For those who do not know what Lean Six Sigma is, can you describe it?
Lean Six Sigma is a methodology that focuses on improving the performance of an organization by systematically removing waste and reducing variation throughout the organization’s process. It also provides a framework for overall organizational culture change.
Lean Six Sigma changes the mindset of an organization’s employees and managers, shifting perspective to growth, continuous improvement and process optimization that meets or exceeds the customer’s needs.
What does Lean Six Sigma certification do for business professionals and their organizations?
Individuals with certification are knowledgeable in different approaches to generate value and meet customer needs. They know how to optimize business processes and enhance staff involvement. Six Sigma certification makes a professional stand out from the competition.
A study by the Noble Institute of Quality Certification suggests that within the first three to seven years of certification, an individual could see an increase in salary of as much as 30% over a peer who does not have certification.
What is your own experience with Lean Six Sigma—in terms of teaching lean concepts and your own success with applying the methodology?
Prior to joining WMU, I spent more than 30 years in the private sector. During that time, I had the good fortune of working for companies that were industry leaders in their fields. In every case, these companies were in the process of rolling out or had already launched Lean Six Sigma methodology. This methodology was key in helping make these organization No. 1 in their markets.
How does having certified Six Sigma professionals in your organization transform it?
In order to successfully implement Lean Six Sigma, a combination of tools from both lean manufacturing and Six Sigma must be used. Some of these tools include kaizen, value-stream mapping, line balancing, and visual management. Having team members in an organization who can understand and implement these tools allows companies to improve their processes and the quality of their products. In turn, these companies are able to produce more products with less error and higher value. Customer satisfaction thereby increases, which will lead to an increase in customer loyalty.
What is WMU’s track record with teaching lean concepts?
Although this specific program is a new offering at WMU, the concepts and tools of Lean Six Sigma have been taught to our integrated supply management students since the mid-1990s. Our instructors are academics and practitioners. Lean concepts represent a key component in our supply chain program which has consistently been ranked in the top 10 in the country by Gartner. This program will be delivered with the same type of expertise and quality.
Who is the ideal candidate for Lean Six Sigma certification?
What makes our program unique is that it does not focus on a particular type of candidate skill set. Many current Lean Six Sigma programs primarily focus on the analytical elements of business and individuals who possess this skill set. WMU views Lean Six Sigma as a tool kit that can benefit all functions within business. Our focus is to match tools to the candidates and their organizations’ needs.
How will the WMU training sessions be structured?
WMU’s program offers a number of different certification options. We offer the traditional white, yellow, green and black belt levels. We also currently offer a certification in the field of marketing.
Our courses are designed to be modular in nature. The modular design permits candidates to tailor the certification process to their schedules and build on previous certifications. Individuals who have previous exposure or certification to Lean Six Sigma will also be reviewed and considered for the next level of certification.
Because of this modular approach, we offer numerous opportunities throughout the calendar year to get one or all of the certifications.
How is WMU’s program different than other programs?
Our program offers a number of differences over other certification programs on the market:
- The emphasis of the certifications is on the elements used in Lean Six Sigma and how these are applied. Individuals will concentrate on interpretation of information and identification of solutions for improvement.
- Our application of the tools is not just on the manufacturing process, but all processes used in business. Our goal is for participants to be able to successfully apply Lean Six Sigma to customer service or human resources as well as production.
- The modular configuration allows individuals to develop at their own pace and minimizes having to pay for content that is already familiar.
- We offer training at multiple locations as well as potential onsite options, which gives individuals substantial flexibility.
- Our instructors have a combination of private sector and academic experience.