KUPCE provides customized on-site Lean Six Sigma training to BioKansas members
Kansas City area employees in the life sciences industry are better equipped with the tools they need to drive and manage process improvement projects in their companies thanks to professional development offered through a partnership with BioKansas and KU Professional & Continuing Education (KUPCE). BioKansas asked KUPCE to customize its Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Green Belt certification program for BioKansas member employees who work in the biotechnology industry. Heather McCain, professor of the practice for KU’s graduate project management degree and certificate programs, taught this in-house training course at BioKansas’s Fairway, Kansas. The training lasted one day a week for five days, ending with an exam on Nov. 8.
“It is always important to have employees with more knowledge and skills to help improve your company,” McCain said. “I think this is a good methodology that combines reducing waste and errors as well as removing variation in processes.”
Alexandra Erwin, director of talent development and STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Mathematics, Medicine) education for BioKansas, said she wanted to bring the training to their member organizations to help improve project management in the industry and to help employees feel supported in their career growth from both a training and community perspective.
“We surveyed our member companies and discovered that process improvement knowledge was a skillset that was highly valued in employees working in our industry,” Erwin said. “In addition to providing the opportunity to gain the process improvement skillset, we wanted to customize the training to focus on life sciences.”
BioKansas offered the professional development course to all of its member organizations at a reduced rate.
“Our member companies were not required to send employees,” Erwin said, “but I think the investment of our member companies in sending employees to this training speaks to the level of commitment that these local employers have in providing support and training for their staff.”
KU Edwards has a well-recognized Lean Six Sigma certification and Erwin said that McCain came highly recommended as an outstanding instructor from multiple people in the community.
“KU is the leader in the region for Lean Six Sigma training,” Erwin said. “Heather not only has a wealth of industry experience but she is also an excellent instructor who uses accessible examples and hands-on activities to maximize understanding of a highly technical topic.”
According to McCain, there are benefits to attending training like the one at BioKansas in person, rather than attempting Lean Six Sigma certifications online.
“I think they get a lot from just interacting with each other and looking at how different people do things,” she said. “You miss that when it’s online because then it's just you and discussion boards.”
Erwin agreed and noted the importance of providing the training customized to her industry.
“Since participants share similar work experiences, they have the added value of sharing challenges and best practices in the context of their field,” Erwin said.
One of the hands-on activities McCain uses to illustrate the ways workers can make mistakes on the job is to have students repeatedly measure Hershey’s Kisses chocolate candy and record results.
“When they are assigned the task, they all think they can do it and that it can't be that hard to measure a Hershey's Kiss,” McCain said. “And then when they have to do it three different times, they start to get tired of it, lose interest and their attention span isn't that great. Soon they realize that for people who have to do this type of work all day long, every day, it gets very monotonous and that's when people make mistakes.”
McCain said the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training is important for all businesses because it gives people a way of thinking about problems that slows down the reaction process. The slowdown gives you time to focus on all the important stakeholders involved in a process, analyze data and work through the best ways to solve the problem — whether it’s to work faster, reduce costs or maintain high standards of consistency and quality.
“People tend to see a problem and jump onto a quick solution without ever really thinking about the ramifications,” she said. “So this is really a methodology to think through a problem and figure out how to permanently solve it instead of just providing a temporary fix.”
Although KUPCE provides both Green Belt and Black Belt Lean Six Sigma Training both in person at KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park campus or online, McCain enjoys working with companies throughout the Kansas City metro area to customize the course for particular industries or occupations.
“I try to figure out what's important to that company and how they might see themselves differently and then I try to incorporate examples,” McCain said. “I'll go out and find websites that have examples or different tools that might be used in that industry or different terminology that is used. I try to put that into the class so that it makes sense to them. If it doesn't make sense then they're not going to use it.”
McCain said Lean Six Sigma is one of those unique programs that is very focused on customers and on teamwork.
“If you’re a company that is looking at a way to improve processes, it's a good way to look at what you're doing and how to make it better,” McCain said.
Erwin said she is excited for those earning their certification to go back to their organizations and help contribute to the success of the biotechnology industry as a whole.
“We were able to partner with KU,” Erwin said, “while involving our members with expertise in this area to shape the training to have maximum relevance for our member companies.”
If your company is interested in bringing Lean Six Sigma certification or any professional development training to employees at your location, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enroll in KUPCE’s next Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training, beginning in January.
BioKansas represents the bioscience continuum from university laboratories to established human health, animal health and plant science companies, and all the entrepreneurial ventures, start-ups and service providers in the heart of the continuum. It was founded in 2004 by the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute and the State of Kansas, who recognized the need to unify Kansas' bioscience industry, academic research institutions and economic development organizations.