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Arming College Students with Six Sigma Skills Satisfies Companies’ Needs

University of Missouri offers unique global training program for Six Sigma

Sept. 21, 2011

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi,, 573-882-4430

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— In the mid-1980s, Motorola developed a business management strategy that was founded on the principles of finding inefficiencies in manufacturing processes. Known as “Six Sigma,” the strategy has been adopted by businesses throughout the world; yet, not enough college graduates are being certified in Six Sigma. At the University of Missouri, business management professor Daniel Bumblauskas and engineering professor James Noble are collaborating to provide students with opportunities to learn this global management practice, helping them become marketable in the international business world after graduation.

Daniel Bumblauskas, assistant teaching professor of management, is helping students become certified in Six Sigma, a business method to determine the root cause of inefficiencies in companies.

Six Sigma is more than just a business improvement process that is designed to locate inefficiencies; it is a method to determine the root cause of inefficiencies. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of products or services that businesses produce by identifying and removing the causes of defects or errors and minimizing variability in the manufacturing and business processes, Bumblauskas said.

“Businesses that utilize Six Sigma use a set of quality management methods, such as statistical analysis, and employ a team of people within the organization who are experts in this method,” Bumblauskas said. “Each Six Sigma project follows a prescribed set of steps and has defined financial targets, either to reduce cost or to increase profit margins.”

The goal is for businesses to produce products or provide services perfectly (i.e. free of any defects) 99.9997 percent of the time, following the application of the Six Sigma process. Currently, many companies operate at much lower levels of quality.

“Most students have no idea what Six Sigma is, yet it was recently noted as one of the top five job skills that employers would like prospective employees to have,” Bumblauskas said. “At one of our recent career fairs, I spoke with representatives from a large corporation who want to know how to recruit students trained in Six Sigma.”

James Noble, a professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, is working with Bumblauskas to provide students with an educational experience that includes working with companies in Ireland.

Even with the corporate interest in the strategy, not enough students are graduating with the desired Six Sigma skills, Bumblauskas said. Students who are trained in Six Sigma must learn quantitative analytics, statistics, data collection practices and other mathematic equations and strategies.

“For companies to be competitive, having a structured process and proven approach is crucial,” Noble said. “Six Sigma gives you a grounded approach to make improvements to an organization. I often see companies make decisions that are not based on quantitative information. Six Sigma helps people analyze the data systematically and make logical decisions.”

Once MU students have completed their classroom work, they have the opportunity to travel to Ireland and finish their Six Sigma Green Belt certification requirements by working on projects for Irish companies. For the past two years, Bumblauskas and Noble have maintained a partnership with several Irish companies. The unique international experience allows the students to complete a project for their Six Sigma certifications, while the Irish companies benefit by identifying opportunities to improve their production processes.

“We were truly surprised and amazed at how quickly the students identified areas of weakness and got to potential root causes of issues and quantified monetary savings,” said Christy Hayes, former CEO of Novum Overseas Ireland Ltd and consultant to Gaines Europe Ltd. “The student program this year identified €600,000 (approximately $820,860) in savings annualized with a further lost opportunity in revenue of almost €1 million (approximately $1.37 million). The students, in their final submission to senior management, presented their findings complete with a roadmap and a set of actions required to tackle the company’s issues. This is an amazing program and a credit to the MU team who manages and delivers it.”