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Lean Six Sigma for College Students

    Lean Six Sigma for Students

Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology recognized worldwide in organizations both large and small, across all areas of business. Many companies pay a salary premium for new hires with Lean Six Sigma training.

RIT’s Center for Quality & Applied Statistics (CQAS) offers three levels of certification for Lean Six Sigma practitioners: Yellow Belt, Green Belt and Black Belt. RIT students may pursue these certifications as an additional credential to their degree; however, Black Belt certification is generally not relevant to students because of experiential prerequisites. Here is a summary of the certifications and associated requirements:

  • Yellow Belt – entry level certification.  It provides an excellent introduction to fundamental improvement tools and includes classroom exercises to demonstrate application.  The course is 3 days in length and certification is granted provided that you attend all three days and participate in the classroom exercises.  No academic credit is offered.
     
  • Green Belt – next level of certification.  Green Belt certification qualifies you as a practitioner capable of utilizing a wide range of tools to lead significant improvement projects. This certification is rigorous, requiring 13 full days of training or a full semester academic course, plus successful completion of a significant improvement project on behalf of a sponsor, typically from an external organization. Students are responsible for securing an appropriate project which they will lead.
     
  • Black Belt – highest level of certification.  Black Belt certification builds on Green Belt certification and introduces advanced statistical and data analysis tools.  Certification requires a passing grade on a comprehensive final exam and successful completion of a significant improvement project with an external sponsor.  The Black Belt project typically has a higher return-on-investment than a Green Belt project.  In addition, Black Belt certification requires demonstrated leadership experience; therefore, candidates typically have several years of work experience prior to entering a Black Belt program.  No academic credit is offered.

CQAS offers the following options for students:

  1. Yellow Belt
    1. Take one of our 3-day training programs, offered at special discount rates for students.
      Go to our Yellow Belt page for schedule and registration information and contact Susan Chapman for a coupon code at 585-475-6990 or cqas@rit.edu.
    2. Take our online academic course ISEE-582/682 and earn your Yellow Belt.
  2. Green Belt
    1. Take one of our 13-day training programs, offered at special discount rates for students. Go to our Lean Six Sigma Green Belt page for schedule, pricing, and registration information. Admission requires the identification and approval of a suitable project in advance of training, which you will lead.  Projects that have been initiated prior to training or that are part of other academic coursework are not suitable. See the FAQ’s below for more information.
    2. Take our online academic course ISEE-582/682 (undergraduate/graduate). Satisfy certain performance criteria and we consider you to be green belt “trained.” (You will also receive your Yellow Belt). Green Belt certification also requires the completion of an approved project after completing ISEE-582/682.  You must secure a sponsor and receive CQAS’s approval before starting the project. The project should not be associated with an academic course, including Capstone projects or Senior Design projects. See the FAQ’s below for more information.

      Your Green Belt project must be completed within 2 years of completing ISEE-582/682 (and initiated within 1 year). CQAS will help mentor you through your project.  Contact Us for information on completing your charter and registering for the project.  You will be charged $750 to cover consultation and mentoring with CQAS staff.
  3. Black Belt
    a. Candidates for the Black Belt typically have several years of work experience before entering this program, and all applicants must already have a Green Belt.  If you fit this description, please visit our Lean Six Sigma Black Belt page for more information.
    b. No academic coursework is available for Black Belt certification because of the significant experiential requirement.
  4. RIT also offers the Advanced Certificate in Lean Six Sigma, which consists of four graduate level courses. Go to Advanced Certificate in Lean Six Sigma for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a comprehensive set of tools focused on process improvement. It is a powerful means to achieve continuous improvement and process change. Profit and non-profit organizations alike are committed to Lean Six Sigma as a means of simplifying processes, improving process accuracy, and lowering costs. Lean Six Sigma aims for a goal of 3.4 mistakes per million – this is actually what Six Sigma means. There are three levels of practitioner certification:

  • At CQAS, Yellow Belts train for three days and become proficient enough in LSS tools to be effective team members.
  • At CQAS, Green Belts train for thirteen days (spread out over thirteen weeks) and learn a host of “cognitive” and statistical tools to lead projects, oftentimes with Yellow Belts supporting the team effort. Green Belt certification also requires completion of a sponsored project with significant return-on-investment.
  • Black Belts complete additional training beyond Green Belt certification and are the senior consultants in the world of Lean Six Sigma. They take on large cross-functional projects usually supported by Yellow and Green Belts.
How long has Lean Six Sigma been around?

The underlying philosophy of Lean Six Sigma began with Henry Ford over 100 years ago. After World War II, American experts including Deming and Juran were invited to Japan to help businesses like Toyota. Toyota became one of the first companies in the world to use Lean and Six Sigma techniques to improve business processes with a real emphasis on employee involvement. LSS is not a “fad” – US companies such as GE, Allied Signal, and Motorola were some of the early adopters and have continued to embrace this methodology for many years. Today, nearly all businesses utilize Lean Six Sigma in one form or another to improve their business processes.

What is the benefit of LSS training?

LSS offers a set of tools to solve process issues whether a process is inefficient, too costly, or is not contributing as it should to revenue generation or other business goals. LSS can be used for any process in any field or discipline, and will help you improve your contribution to a current or future employer. The online job placement site Indeed (2014) quotes an employer’s survey which shows a 5-8% salary premium for Lean Six Sigma practitioners.

How do I know if LSS training is right for me?

Do you enjoy fixing processes? Are you frustrated by processes that do not reflect customer needs? Do you find yourself doing work that seems redundant? If so, you will enjoy Lean Six Sigma training and you will gain a great deal from enhancing your ability to influence and impact work processes that bring value to your organization.

How do I start my training?

Most candidates begin with a Yellow Belt to find out whether they have the interest and passion for Lean Six Sigma. The time to complete the Yellow Belt is not significant (3 days) but is a great introduction to LSS and will give you tools that will helpful regardless of whether or not you go further to a Green Belt or even a Black Belt.

Can I earn academic credit for LSS study?

Yes. Upper-class undergraduate and graduate students can take ISEE 582/682, an online course offered by CQAS through the ISEE department in both the fall and spring semesters. In addition to academic credit, you are awarded a Yellow Belt and are considered to be Green Belt “trained” provided that you meet course requirements. If you would like to continue on to a Green Belt, you must then complete a project after course completion.  This requires securing of a sponsor, identification of a suitable project, and approval from CQAS. The project must be completed within 2 years of completing ISEE 582/682 (and initiated within 1 year). Contact cqas@rit.edu for more informa

Are there pre-requisites for ISEE 582/682?

Yes. Admission requires prior completion of a basic course sequence in statistics. At RIT, this could be either STAT 145&146 or STAT 251&252.

What does it cost to get my Green Belt after completing ISEE 582/682?

You will be charged $750 to cover consultation and mentoring with CQAS staff. 

Why is there both an academic path and a training or professional path?

Lean Six Sigma is an industry credential which means that the primary focus of our certification programs is working professionals and organizations. However, CQAS is part of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering at RIT, so it is important that we serve students and help better prepare them for productive careers.

What is involved in completing my Green Belt project?

After securing a sponsor and discussing project ideas with your sponsor, you will prepare a project charter and get approval from both your sponsor and CQAS (including registering for the project and paying $750).  Project execution will follow the DMAIC process, during which you will meet periodically with your sponsor and a CQAS mentor. Your completed project will include a story board of key findings and the Control Plan, and you must also show proof that the sponsor has “signed-off” at all stages of the project. RIT will review all documentation and provide a report back to you. Should there be any issues, you will be told in writing what needs to be addressed. Finally, the sponsor must submit a brief letter in writing that supports completion of the project. Most Green Belt projects take 6-12 months to complete.

Can I use a course project, Senior Design project, or Capstone project as my Green Belt project?

In general, no.  Projects associated with academic coursework, including Capstone projects, have characteristics that don’t lend themselves very well to satisfying Green Belt requirements:

  • Academic projects are time-constrained – bounded by semesters or graduation deadlines – while Green Belt projects have no such constraints and must be completed through the Control phase in order to be certified.
  • Green Belt candidates must lead projects individually.  Team members on academic projects often have similar roles and share responsibilities.
  • Academic projects have distinct requirements that are unrelated or poorly aligned with Green Belt process improvement requirements, and academic priorities may take precedence.  Lean Six Sigma projects must utilize the DMAIC structured approach and be completed through the Control phase.  A Senior Design project, for example, usually follows a product development process and may require disciplinary deliverables that are unrelated to process improvement or don’t use the DMAIC process.  A capstone or thesis project usually involves disciplinary research as well as reporting that is not well aligned with green belt tollgates and the DMAIC process.

After considering these challenges, if you still believe that your academic project can be structured to satisfy Green Belt project requirements, you must put together a draft project charter.  This means that you have identified a sponsor who is on-board with the opportunity/need and is committed to supporting you throughout the life of the project.  Submit your draft charter to us at cqas@rit.edu and we will evaluate its viability as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project.

Can I complete a Green Belt project with my Co-op employer?

In general, no, for many of the same reasons mentioned above for academic projects: time constraints, project leadership requirements which are especially difficult in a co-op position, and misaligned requirements and priorities.  As a co-op student, gaining the necessary level of support to lead a Green Belt project is especially challenging.

Nevertheless, after considering these issues, if you still believe that your academic project can be structured to satisfy Green Belt project requirements, you must put together a draft project charter.  This means that you have identified a sponsor who is on-board with the opportunity/need and is committed to supporting you throughout the life of the project.  Submit your draft charter to us at cqas@rit.edu and we will evaluate its viability as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project.

Does ISEE 582/682 count toward any minor?

Yes, ISEE 582/682 counts toward a minor in Supply Chain Management through the Saunders College of Business. There is no minor in Lean Six Sigma.

Is there a Lean Six Sigma academic program?

Yes, the Advanced Certificate in Lean Six Sigma at the graduate level. This academic program does not include professional certification beyond Yellow Belt certification embedded in ISEE 582/682 because the purpose of the Advanced Certificate is in-depth academic level coverage and not industry-based problem solving.

Can I also get a Black Belt?

CQAS does offer a Black Belt Training program but candidates must have a Green Belt and significant work experience with demonstrated leadership competence before starting the program. Admission also requires the identification and approval of a significant improvement project. No academic coursework is available for Black Belt certification.

Can I get a Master Black Belt?

CQAS offers the Master Black Belt but this is a very advanced credential seldom appropriate for students unless you already have significant work experience with demonstrated leadership competence. Admission also requires Black Belt Certification. Master Black Belt study requires very specific deliverables including a comprehensive exam, project completion with significant financial expectations, training, consultation, and organization design. No academic coursework is available for Master Black Belt certification.

Can I get a belt through CQAS if I have studied somewhere else?

This question only applies to Black Belt Certification since this is the only certification program with pre-requisites.  Most students do not qualify for admission to our Black Belt program because of the experiential requirements.  See our Black Belt website for more information.