What can students possibly teach an experienced chemical company about how to better run its operations? No one knows for sure, yet, but the important thing is that a New York state chemical company wanted to find out.

The ASK Chemical location in Alfred Station, New York, is allowing students from Alfred University to visit the company, research its operations and make recommendations on how the company can make improvements.

For Professor Amanda Jadwin, project manager at the Center for Advanced Ceramics Technology (CACT) at Alfred University, this is the first time she has done this with a class. Before this year, the University had not offered the Manufacturing Statistics class that includes Six Sigma training.

Jadwin told the Evening Tribune in Hornell that Six Sigma certification “is something students can include on their resumes. They will stand apart from graduates of other schools who don’t have access to training in process improvement.”

What the Students Will Do

Jadwin said six students, all seniors, will earn a Six Sigma Yellow Belt at the end of training. The project with ASK Chemical is part of the overall experience. Yellow Belt is the level of instruction that gives students foundational knowledge in the concepts, jargon, tools and techniques used in Six Sigma.

ASK Chemicals set the project in motion when leaders from the business contacted the CACT and asked about the Six Sigma program. Jadwin suggested the Yellow Belt students partner with the company for real-world experience.

The ASK Chemical facility employs 90 people. The plant manufactures custom ceramic filters.

Students will visit the ASK facility weekly, discussing their observations regularly in the classroom and developing recommendations for process improvements in the ASK operations. As part of the Six Project, students will create a project charter and use tools such as process mapping to compile data, identify areas of waste and conduct a failure mode and effects analysis.

“We will meet with the management team at ASK and present our findings at the end of the semester,” Jadwin said.

A Sign of the Times

The decision by the chemical company and the school to partner for a Six Sigma project shows the value educators place on using theoretical knowledge in real-world situations and the value an increasing number of companies put in Six Sigma.

That’s been happening often the past few years. Some of the best examples have come recently from students doing Six Sigma projects for companies or for local government agencies.

At another New York school, students who had earned Lean Six Sigma Green Belts launched three projects at local hospitals that reduced time spent on transferring patients between hospitals and between the emergency room and ICU. They also completed a project that improved the accuracy of patient information taken at check in.

And in Canada, a University of Calgary professor worked directly with future lawyers on implementing Lean Six Sigma principles to make their operations run more smoothly.