RIT established the Center for Quality & Applied Statistics (CQAS) in 1983, naming it for its first leader, John D. Hromi, a Frederick H. Minett Distinguished Professor. The goal was to meet the needs of local manufacturers for applied statisticians and quality professionals. Since then, the mission of CQAS has evolved to keep up with dramatic changes in the economy. Although CQAS staff still work with manufacturers, the diversity of clients now varies from health care to call centers to the service industry to local government entities and community colleges, according to Mark Smith, the center’s director.
“Our mission overall is to help organizations improve their performance by leveraging all the expertise that we have here at RIT in statistical methods, decision sciences, process engineering.”
About 80 to 85 percent of the training offered by CQAS is the Lean Six Sigma methodology, which focuses on a structured problem-solving process to achieve better productivity and efficiency. It’s a team-oriented approach, with participants achieving various levels of expertise, starting with Yellow Belt, then progressing to Green Belt, and finally Black Belt.
Teams of employees hone in on an immediate problem a business faces, Smith said. “We’re not there to teach at them. … We’re trying to get them to incorporate tools and a structured methodology to address real challenges and problems they have.”
CQAS staff meets with interested businesses to tailor programs to their needs, too. Even after the formal training ends, CQAS staff will keep in touch with participants and company sponsors until a project is completed or in the “control phase” of the process.
“We’re not successful until they’re successful,” Smith said.
Smith cited examples of success from companies that have worked with CQAS:
- Reducing inventory cost by 5 to 10 percent for a total annual savings of $200,000 to $300,000;
- Reducing the amount of material that goes to landfills by 50 percent;
- Reducing scrap by 90 percent;
- Reducing the cost of project planning, tracking, and management by 50 percent;
- A hospital’s emergency department reduced by 80 percent the amount of time patients spent on a long spine board, which is very uncomfortable.
CQAS also has a strong commitment to the RIT community, Smith noted. For example, Yellow Belt training is offered for students prior to the beginning of each semester and during spring break. An academic course is also taught that leads to a Yellow Belt and offers the students the opportunity to earn a Green Belt by executing an individual project under the guidance of a sponsor and CQAS. Lean Six Sigma training can help students be more marketable to potential employers, Smith noted.
CQAS works with faculty who need assistance with research, and the center also may connect faculty to companies that need consultation after training.
A variety of other courses are offered by CQAS focusing on improving performance. While most classes are offered at RIT or on-site at an organization, CQAS offers “blended” programs (on-site and online) and will be offering both Green Belt and Black Belt training online later this year, Smith said.
Cost for training ranges from $90 to $350 per person per day, depending on the program. The center usually offers a fixed price to businesses and organizations for training up to 20 people per day, Smith said, with a range of $2,000 to $3,500 per day. While the center consists of a half dozen staff, it is closely affiliated with the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, and it taps into expertise from engineering and statistics and elsewhere around RIT as needed.