From August 14th to August 16th, 2020, I was a lucky attendee of the 2020 Lean Six Sigma Green Belt conference, hosted by York University through the CFES. At first when I learned about this course, I was intrigued, having heard these terms “Lean” and “Six Sigma” before in classes and work terms, but I had never really learned about their origins and their full meaning. Knowing that they could be useful in my future career, I took advantage of the opportunity to attend.
Lean Six Sigma is the combination of “Lean Principles”, that focus on eliminating waste from processes, and “Six Sigma”, which describes a certain quality standard. Waste can be categorized into different categories, such as waiting, over-processing, transportation, and pretty much anything else that does not add value to the customer. Quality is measured in the number of defects that occur, either counted as the number of defective results or the total number of defects (each result can have more than one defect). These are particularly important concepts in the automotive industry, where I hope to work one day, so I was very excited to learn more.
The course delivers its own framework for solving problems using Lean and Six Sigma ideologies, along with a toolbox to pull from for each step of the process. At first glance, it may not seem like it needs a whole conference for a process and some tools, but it requires intuition and careful planning when actually in use. Not all the tools need to be used for every type of problem; some can even lead you in the wrong direction if used improperly. Case studies were used to demonstrate this, and even though the conference was completely virtual, the breakout rooms worked well for collaboration and discussion. In the end, I can say that I took away a lot of useful concepts and strategies for applying the tools we were given and even solving problems in general.
Something interesting that I learned during the course is that despite having origins in automotive and manufacturing, Lean Six Sigma can be applied pretty much wherever there are processes (i.e. anywhere). This could be a doctor’s office, a café kitchen, or bus station. The limitations are endless, adding value to this course and what it could do for any future career that I have!
In terms of satisfaction with the conference itself, the team over at York University did a great job of hosting this virtual conference with the tools they have available, without overcomplicating things. They even made attempts to include traditional elements of an engineering student conference, such as swag trading and social events. The Abacus team also did a great job of including resources to access and follow along with during presentations or when collaborating with other students in the breakout rooms. The template that they provided will also be valuable in the future when applying the skills learned during the course. Overall, it was a great conference, and the virtual aspect did not take away from the learning portion, only the traditional fun parts of attending a conference with other students were affected.
I am fortunate to have taken this course this year. I would recommend this course to any engineering student at McMaster, both for the resume asset, and the problem-solving techniques they can apply everywhere and anywhere.
Written by: Andrew Aslanidis