This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Six Sigma program begins

Quality methodology now offered to engineering students

Published: February 17, 2005

Contributing Editor

The highly sought-after quality methodology called Six Sigma is now available to students in the Department of Industrial Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

Students enrolled in the new program say they already are seeing increased interest from prospective employers.

Pioneered by Motorola and General Electric and aimed at virtually eliminating defects from processes involved in manufacturing and service organizations, the Six Sigma methodology is one of the most popular quality programs being followed in the corporate workplace today.

"It's a significant area of investment that organizations undertake to develop their workforces," said Harrison W. Kelly III, adjunct professor of industrial engineering, who teaches one of the courses and helps mentor the required industrial projects. Kelly, who is director of quality management systems at Curbell, Inc., is a Six Sigma Black Belt.

He noted that it is not uncommon for corporations to spend more than $15,000 to send a degreed professional for this training.

"The fact that UB is providing Six Sigma certification to its students gives our graduates a significant leg up on the competition," he said.

Kelly noted that in certain industries, individuals with Black Belt certification can command an average of $10,000 more per year than those without it.

Six Sigma focuses on quantitative descriptions of processes that allow for their continual improvement.

"It creates a roadmap that helps companies organize and package analytical techniques in order to solve problems," explained Kelly.

The two-semester UB program is open to seniors or graduate students in the Department of Industrial Engineering.

Black Belt certification requires passage with a "B" or better in IE 408/508 Quality Assurance, which covers statistical methods, and IE 409/509 Six Sigma Quality, which covers interpersonal and management skills. Also required are successful completion of two projects conducted according to Six Sigma principles with local companies and passage of a four-hour comprehensive exam.

Colin Drury, UB Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, noted that the launching of the program serves to reinforce the department's emphasis on quality.

"The industrial engineering department is the natural home of quality programs and processes," said Drury. "By adding Six Sigma certification to the strong foundation we already provide in applied probability, statistics and quality assurance, we are cementing our reputation of teaching both the theory—the statistical tools—and the practice—the hands-on training—that is critical for successful quality-control programs today."

Students conduct their company projects under Black Belt certified mentors through a partnership with the Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE) of the SEAS.

"TCIE has landed the first corporate sponsors for the program and successfully placed eight students with a broad range of area companies, which include a medical-device manufacturer, automotive suppliers, industrial-equipment producers and a health-care provider," said Tim Leyh, TCIE's director of business development. Our model of industry-university partnerships created the framework for effective promotion of this program."

TCIE also supports the program with its staff and Six Sigma consultants, who shepherd the students through their Black Belt projects.

Program administration is provided by Nick Randell, TCIE administrative director.

For more information on Six Sigma certification at UB, contact Leyh at 636-2568, ext. 23.