Oakland University
Monday, December 5, 2011

Lean Diversification Program pilot class earns Black Belt Certificates

The Lean Black Belt class and instructors.
As the fall semester winds down at Oakland University, so too does the new OU Lean Diversification Program at the Macomb-OU INCubator.

After weeks of class, students have been flooded with terms like kaizen, kanban and hoshin kanri. Through their study of the Lean philosophy, terms like these have become a regular part of their vocabulary.

Other areas of study have included Lean culture, the role of leadership, problem solving techniques and process improvement.

To help illustrate these concepts, classes were structured with a combination of lecture, discussion, quizzes and interactive activities.

Homework and online sessions were also used to supplement and reinforce the material learned in class.

The three instructors – Lean professionals Janie Farner, Ravi Lote and Debra Setman– worked together, combining their different areas of expertise to give students a diverse understanding of Lean.

The program also had a unique atmosphere. A small class size, personal, one-on-one instruction and a relaxed environment have helped students confidently learn and actively engage in the course.

“The instructors have been inspirational and insightful on real world situations and the application of Lean,” said Jessica Morales, a participant of the program. “I would encourage anyone, in any position, within any company to participate in such an ambitious and beneficial program."

The students also conducted Lean assessments at two local companies. There, they toured the facilities, interviewed senior management and presented the findings of their assessment to the company management.

“The assessment team was very perceptive, and their findings were spot on,” said Pete Thomopoulos, project manager of ABB Inc., one of the companies evaluated by the Black Belt students. “The assessment reinforced opportunities and benefits for ABB by applying more Lean processes to the way we do business.”

The students finished the course by doing a Lean project within their own companies. They took what they learned in the classroom, and with the support of the instructors, worked to implement Lean in their workplace.

“The participants had the opportunity to do a hands-on, graded project within their own companies,” Farner said. “This is a vital piece of the learning because it allowed them to apply what they have been learning in the classroom to a real situation. It is only through ‘doing’ that they will be able to digest how the theory translates into the, often unpredictable, reality of being an internal Lean consultant.”

The students successfully completed the program and received a Lean Black Belt Certificate, presented to the students at a dinner ceremony Thursday, Dec. 2, after giving their final projects. By earning this certificate, they have learned the skills to be able to analyze and resolve various conflicts in their organizations and work independently on Lean projects.

Prashanth Nagaraju gives his Lean presentation.

This program also gave students the knowledge of how to smoothly and successfully diversify into new areas of industry if applicable by preparing the organization internally first.

"The Lean Black Belt class offers monumental breakthroughs to management systems and beyond,” Morales said. “I have learned how to organize and improve not only my work environment but furthermore, my personal life as well. The Lean program provides a direction, which can take companies to a higher level of management and business operation starting from leadership and cascading to empowerment of employees.”

For more information, visit oakland.edu/diversify.

As the fall semester winds down at Oakland University, so too does the new OU Lean Diversification Program at the Macomb-OU INCubator.

Created by Rachel Zynel (rezynel@oakland.edu) on Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Modified by Rachel Zynel (rezynel@oakland.edu) on Monday, January 23, 2012
Article Start Date: Monday, December 5, 2011