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“Opportunities for us to get better”: Seniors Achieve Junior Green Belt Certification in Lean Six Sigma

In our time-strapped, resource-limited world, we’re all looking for ways to do things more efficiently.

As Adam Seidenfrau ’19 put it: “Maybe it’s helping a friend on perfecting a process they have for solving a certain math problem, informing our parents about how they can save battery life on their phones, or even finding the right time to brush our teeth. There are always opportunities for us to get better.”

In a first-of-its-kind partnership, Ravenscroft is giving students the opportunity to learn from business and manufacturing sectors how to approach those challenges, as one of only two schools selected to participate in N.C. State’s College of Textiles’ pilot program of the Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt Certification Academy

The partnership aligns with Ravenscroft’s mission to provide students with real-world experience that prepares them for a complex and interdependent world. The tools and processes the program instills in students are cross-functional and can be implemented in almost every aspect of their day-to-day lives.

Six Sigma is a discipline widely employed by many manufacturers and focuses on using data to improve processes and reduce waste (or defects). According to its website, it’s “a two-staged approach which drives continual improvement in organizations and strives towards greater than 99% efficiency, where ‘lean’ refers to maximizing customer value and minimizing the areas of waste in processes; creating enhanced customer satisfaction and less wasted resources.”

Reflecting the importance of Six Sigma to today’s businesses, N.C. State’s Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt Certification Academy provides students with a truncated learning and certification process comprising 27 hours of online course training and an intensive week-long session on campus with Jeff Blessinger, N.C. State’s extension specialist for the College of Textiles.

A part of Ravenscroft’s curriculum for innovation, research and STEM+, the Lean Six Sigma program is overseen by IT specialist and Genius Lab I/II facilitator Chris Michael. This semester, four seniors have participated in the first cohort of the program. As part of the program, the students — Matthew Lang ’19, Emmanuel Petrov ’19, Adam Seidenfrau ’19 and Katherine Shearin ’19 — evaluated the efficiency of Ravenscroft’s dining services from the perspective of their fellow Upper School students. Their capstone project was a presentation of their research, findings, process and recommendations to a panel including Blessinger, members of BioMérieux’s Process Improvement Team and Lean Six Sigma program coordinator Latoya Giles.

While Six Sigma is not a new approach, it is innovative for the program to be introduced to Upper School students.

“The Lean Six Sigma training offers applied and experiential learning that fills an important space in Ravenscroft’s academic and extracurricular programs,” Michael said. “Students with an interest in business, engineering, medicine or any other process-oriented career path will benefit from Lean Six Sigma training and experience.”

Participating students have gained valuable expertise that allow them to stand out with colleges and prospective employers.

Katherine Shearin ’19 said of her experiences:

As a Ravenscroft student, the [Lead From Here] Citizen Leader Framework has helped me to develop characteristics for stronger leadership and teamwork. Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt training gave me the opportunity to put these skills to the test.

Our team worked together to create a healthy work environment, where there was room for collaboration, mistakes and growth. Through thoughtful communication, we were able to complete our project in a short amount of time without sacrificing the quality of work. Our involvement in Lean Six Sigma put my mind to the test, but this experience has shifted my plan for my future. Now, I would like to follow the path of operational research and computer science, as well as continuing my work with the Lean Six Sigma Academy, maybe even gaining my Black Belt one day.

The work that our team completed this summer opened my eyes to a world in which my love for numbers and analysis is combined with efficiency, plus the added bonus of making people’s lives easier. Going into this summer program, we did not know what to expect, but together we were able to overcome the obstacles we faced and bring the lessons we learned into practice inside and outside of the classroom.

Adam Seidenfrau ’19 said Lean Six Sigma has influenced his daily routine and thinking:

Lean Six Sigma allows me to have an eye for process improvement/waste reduction opportunities on a daily basis. For example, I know that I don’t want to waste any time on the drive to school, and I don’t want to be late; by collecting and utilizing data from the time it takes me to get to school from different routes, I can get to school in a timely and efficient manner and know that I have weeded out alternative solutions that might cause me to waste my own time.

In a much more general sense, Lean Six Sigma taught me that there is always a way to improve a process, or reduce waste from a process, in order to make things easier and more efficient for the people who are using a certain process.

Michael plans to continue the partnership and program because he firmly believes in the processes and tools that are instilled in our students.  

“I hope the students continue on this journey of waste reduction and process improvement. These are life and business skills that they will draw from in college and in their careers,” he said.

Adam summarized his key take-away from the Lean Six Sigma program this way: “We have a moral obligation to find places of process improvement and to seize those opportunities.”