The University of Oklahoma Lean Institute certified five students in the Six Sigma Black Belt course July. The Lean Institute Six Sigma courses teach process improvement and organizational efficiency tailored to fit the specific needs of each client and organization: improving workflow, improving quality, reducing defects and increasing profitability.
The Lean Six Sigma Black Belt class is the “highest level of certification that we currently offer,” said program coordinator Dr. Marc Jensen, who was pleased with the final projects. “Because of the levels of commitment and expertise necessary to participate in process improvement at the black belt level, this certification only attracts the highest caliber of students.”
The Lean Institute has awarded fewer than 70 black belts in its ten-year history; this includes programs at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), the US Postal Service and public classes, but more than 10,000 people have attended the less intensive programs at Tinker alone.
Making a Difference
“Who likes to go somewhere and wait in a line?” asked Ken Rios, a business process engineer with OKDHS, who teaches white and yellow belt classes and is now black belt certified. Rios’ project, which began in February this year, reduces the number of days it takes to process expedited service applications, thus reducing wait time and improving service to needy families. He told a story of how he saw a woman with three children get off the bus and wait in line at one of the facilities, and he said it bothered him that the process had to be that stressful and time-consuming.
Since February, Rios has eliminated waste in business systems, held employees accountable for their time, made processes simpler and more efficient and met his goals in his sample region. Rios looks forward to implementing the new system throughout Oklahoma, he said. OKDHS partnered with OU Lean Institute in 2005, and those who trained with Lean rose in the agency, said, Rios. “Lean helps us create a culture of continuous improvement and education, and we’re thankful for the Lean instructors being coaches and mentors even long after the training is over.” Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Teresa Tobias critiqued the projects and instructed and certified the students. “If you know how to use data, you can make better decisions. That makes a good manager,” she said.
“These students are learning how to use a toolset and demonstrate that they can amplify their analytical skills and back up their research with reliable data,” Jensen said.
“The project was not as painful as I thought. I was scared coming in, but breaking down the process helped the most,” said Candice Hopcus, OKDHS Office of Business Quality project management professional.
“You can find huge waste reductions just by learning what’s going on in the process and working with a team on how we can make this better,” said instructor Joyce Hinton, who came to watch the black belt final projects and support her former green belt students.
“We teach them how to see what we see and run their business better,” said Jensen. “There are intangible benefits from these high-dollar projects.”
“We are continually working to adapt, update and reinvent the Lean toolset, to help people see new applications for it. The achievements possible at the black belt level represent some of the most rigorous work in the field, but very impressive improvements can also be made with simpler tools that lay the groundwork for this. The Lean Institute has programs available that provide practical skills at all levels,” Jensen said.
The next black belt class will begin in February 2015. Green belt certification or equivalent industry experience is a prerequisite for enrollment in the black belt. For more information about the Lean Institute and Six Sigma, visit http://lean.ou.edu.