By Lindsay Emery
PAE has reached a milestone through the development of its own nationally and internationally accredited curriculum for Lean Six Sigma. The Lean Six Sigma program focuses on making processes more efficient by eliminating waste and reworking programs to be more productive and profitable through continuous improvement. Continuous improvement encourages employees to develop better processes for clients and themselves through various projects.
Over the past three and a half years, Director of Continuous Improvement John Bennett created a globally recognized curriculum for all levels of Lean Six Sigma and trained more than 300 Green Belts, three Master Black Belts and six Black Belts at PAE.
"Many companies in our business sector have some type of a Lean Six Sigma training program, but it's usually limited to the Green Belt level only and they usually outsource their Black Belt training online or through other programs," Bennett said. "I'm really proud of the fact that we've been able to [develop and launch this program] in such a short timeline and it brings a great capacity to PAE to foster continuous improvement, which is all about trying to make our processes more efficient and make our programs more profitable."
Green Belts are the first level of Lean Six Sigma where members can begin to run their own projects, followed by Black Belts. These members have advanced expertise of Lean Six Sigma and can begin to train fellow Green Belts. Master Black Belts are the highest level and are encouraged to implement Lean Six Sigma values across the company by talking to members of Senior Leadership and creating solutions resulting in larger cost savings and efficiency.
All trainings and the curriculum have been developed in-house at PAE, which not only provides cost savings but also ensures that the program is high quality.
"I have seen other companies where their implementation journeys usually take like five to ten years and extensive capital paid to third party consultants to get them to the point where they're internally training and we did it in three and a half years with no external consultants," Bennett said.
Instead of spending time and resources to find third-party consultants, Bennett and his team were able to conduct trainings internally. The curriculum they developed has been accredited by both the Council for Six Sigma Certification and the International Association of Six Sigma Certifications.
Master Black Belts help train Black Belts to help prove their mentoring proficiency, which is a requirement for certification. In addition, the new Black Belts will be able to train more Green Belts.
"The Lean Six Sigma training gives employees invaluable insight on problem-solving," Bennett said. "I always try to tell Green Belts and Black Belts when they're doing their certification project not to make a project extra work but make the project your work and just make your work better."
Bennett received his Black Belt through a training with ITT industries in 2008. In 2010, he helped rewrite the ITT Lean Six Sigma curriculum in coordination with the University of Michigan Engineering department. This background brought him to PAE, where he has developed the curriculum for Lean Six Sigma.
Both the Master Black Belt and Black Belt classes require 160 hours of training, equivalent to one week a month over four months. Meanwhile, the Green Belt class is 40 hours and takes a week to complete. To become Black Belt-certified, employees must complete a project or multiple projects that save the company at least $1 million.
This year, the final two weeks of the Master Black Belt training and the week of Black Belt training were in-person at Fort Worth Training Center. Bennett found that having the trainings in-person was valuable to the attendees.
"I think that the Black Belts—even now after post-training—still Skype or have a Teams site and still openly talk about the problems that they're facing with programs back and forth," Bennett said. "So having that training in-person and seeing the different functions and meeting different peer groups within the company is very beneficial, especially after COVID."
The newly certified Black Belts are International Logistics and Stabilization Project Manager Jourdan Tobias, Director of Business Operations for GMS Brian Schock, Continuous Improvement Manager for NSS Michael "Slice" Roberts, Program Projects Senior Manager Bryan Tripp and Occupational Health and Safety Manager Ralph Brugueras. The newly certified Master Black Belts are Director of Program Quality and Analysis for NSS Charles "Chip" Bjork, Continuous Improvement Analyst Michael J. Newbeck and Program Quality and Senior Manager of B48 Project and Process Improvement William "Sonny" Parkman.