BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo student Benjamin Wilson
figured that helping a company improve its operations could only be
a good thing for his resume. Little did the Orchard Park resident
know it would be the entryway to full-time employment.
As the capstone to his pursuit of a bachelor's degree in
industrial engineering at UB, Wilson increased one product line's
consistency and operational efficiency at Saint-Gobain Ceramic
Materials in Wheatfield. The experience -- and the process-engineer
job he accepted at the plant after graduating in December -- was
possible because of UB's Six Sigma Black Belt Student Certification
Program, offered through the Department of Industrial and Systems
Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied
The program was developed and is administered by UB TCIE, the
bridge between the business community and UB's engineering
resources. It pairs companies with one or more students who apply a
problem-solving approach to a company-specific issue. For the
eighth year, Western New York companies have access to a pool of
potential employees by serving as hosts for the 2012-13
Regardless of whether there is intent to hire upon program
completion, hosts reap the benefits of a dedicated resource whose
sole concentration might be on a backburner issue at the company or
even a prominent problem needing a more immediate solution. The
overall goal is to eliminate process variation, ultimately leading
to improved quality and cost savings.
"A lot of times, the focus is put on what's broken," said Sonya
Pegler, manufacturing engineer at Saint-Gobain who served as
internal support for Wilson's project, helping him to navigate
company nuances. "It's on fighting fires, so to say, and not really
focused on improvement. But there's a lot of benefit in focusing on
A UB Master Black Belt mentor with industry experience provides
support and helps the company identify a project with defined
outcomes and achievable results. Student participation is limited
to UB senior and graduate engineering students. They work 12 to 16
hours each week onsite, over two semesters. By program's end, they
are able to lead continuous improvement projects.
Another UB student, Priyanka Kaushal, assisted the Greenwood
Group, a consumer packaged-goods business development organization,
specializing in marketing, sales, logistics and consulting, over
the summer and fall of 2011. She helped the company reduce time
spent on two specific reports: By eliminating activities that had
no value and creating a central hub through Microsoft Share Point,
administrative time decreased by 95 percent. Reports that once took
three to four hours per month now are down to no more than 10
Kaushal has no doubt that her participation in the UB program
was a main factor in the two job offers she received before she
graduated from UB in December with a master's degree in industrial
"I really learned a lot," said Kaushal, who still calls upon the
experience in performing her new role as a business performance
consultant in Peoria, Ill. She praised the professionalism of the
program and specifically her UB mentor: "He had a significant
amount of knowledge and experience. I not only learned from him
about Six Sigma, but about project management, too."
Wilson also credits his UB mentor for having an impact on his
success, for providing the necessary link between classroom
instruction and real business issues.
The Western New York facility where Wilson works is one of 265
North American plants under Paris-based Saint-Gobain, the world's
largest building materials company with operations in 64 countries.
Saint-Gobain Ceramic Materials manufactures abrasive grains used in
sandpaper and grinding wheels.
Company officials were aware that its crushing department --
which crushes varying products into a number of grit sizes -- was
not operating ideally. Wilson was tasked with increasing the yield
of a product's in-demand grain sizes to meet sales needs while
decreasing waste. Machine setting changes were made, which resulted
in an increase in equipment capacity of more than 35 percent, as
well as a 13 percent decrease in the amount of waste.
"We make many different products in the plant," Saint-Gobain's
Pegler said. "The potential going forward is big. We can transfer
this to other product lines."
The cost for serving as a host for the 2012-13 UB Six Sigma
Black Belt Student Certification Program is $4,900 per student.
Interested companies should contact director of business
development Gary Simon at 716-645-8837 or firstname.lastname@example.org by April 2 to
secure one or more students for either a summer or fall start.