News & Stories

Lean Six Sigma Establishes Stronghold at NEOMED

Back in the ‘90s, a business methodology known as Lean caught the attention of businesses around the world for its employee-empowered practices of trimming waste at Toyota. A book called The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production — Toyota’s Secret Weapon in the Global Car Wars That Is Now Revolutionizing World Industry brought Toyota’s lean production system to global attention.

Paired with a complementary set of principles called Six Sigma (a system devoted to eliminating manufacturing defects, popularized by General Electric’s Jack Welch) Lean Six Sigma has since found a place in other settings as well — including academia.

One ardent Lean Six Sigma proponent, with a Black Belt to prove it, is John T. Langell, M.D., Ph.D., who since becoming the president of Northeast Ohio Medical University a year ago has worked to make training available to faculty and staff. Things got rolling with introductory courses offered to those employees (and some community members, too – clinical partners, philanthropic entities, business owners and individuals) who needed productive work to do offsite when suddenly kept at home by the pandemic last March.

As the year progressed, senior process engineer Sara Briechle ramped up the offerings to include certificate-level training at the Yellow Belt level. In a Zoom ceremony November 18, 63 NEOMED employees were recognized for earning Yellow Belts through the training they have taken, free of charge and on NEOMED time.

“These individuals really have invested in both our University community as well as their own professional development through their learning with the Lean Six Sigma training program this fall,” said Briechle (shown in photo), who taught the classes.

During five weeks of Yellow Belt training, participants worked individually or in groups on projects that they chose to help them improve in their own work areas. At the Yellow Belt ceremony, Jami Brewer, program assistant for the BeST Center in the Department of Psychiatry and a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt recipient, presented the details of her project as one example.

Brewer focused on streamlining communications and creating new systems to improve operations for the many individuals, internal and externally, who are involved with NEOMED’s Project ECHO.  The new process ensures several important things: “We know who is responsible for each step; where the handoffs are; and who is making the decisions at each stage,” said Brewer.

Her presentation was one example of how employees learned to define, measure, analyze, improve and control in order to eliminate wasteful practices in the workplace.

Those who are ready for more can advance to the Green Belt training at NEOMED.

Learn more about Lean Six Sigma at NEOMED.