Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Univ. of Oklahoma's Lean Institute to Extend Program to Private Sector

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Univ. of Oklahoma's Lean Institute to Extend Program to Private Sector

Article excerpt

The University of Oklahoma's Lean Institute, which has been helping Tinker Air Force Base and other government agencies save money through the Lean Six Sigma process for several years, is turning to the private sector.

"With the economy and what businesses are going through, this is a real opportunity for business to look at what they do and say, 'If I want to continue to make profit, I have to do something different,'" said Terry Smith, the institute's program director at Outreach, OU's college of continuing education.

"You can use the same number of resources to bring in additional work or reduce your costs. We don't like to talk about laying off people," she said. "It gives you capacity to do more and be more competitive with the people you have."

Six Sigma is a business management strategy to improve an organization's processes and ultimately the delivery of a product or service. Trained managers use clearly defined assessments, data collection and statistical analysis to trim wasteful behavior.

The name itself refers to a standard deviation of a statistical population, or a very thin margin of acceptable failures approaching a specific goal. Allowing for expected erosion over time, Six Sigma practitioners aim for improvement to between 3.4 and 4.5 defective outcomes per million.

In recent years, Six Sigma training has overlapped so-called Lean production practices, which is based on the broader theory that any expenditure of resources that does not lead to increased value is wasteful. The most well-known early adopter of Lean is automobile giant Toyota, while Motorola is generally credited for developing Six Sigma.

According to the Six Sigma Academy, a leading online content promoter for the industry, the most highly trained corporate practitioners can save their companies about $230,000 per project and dramatically increase their annual project count. General Electric, one of the most successful companies implementing Six Sigma, has reported benefits of about $10 billion over five years of implementation, the Six Sigma Academy said.

People who take formal Lean/Six Sigma courses, earning a green belt or black belt level of certification, often come to realize that the theory and application are largely common sense: If a worker pays careful attention to detail, productivity and profit improve. …

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