WCTC course demonstrates cost savings

Waukesha County Technical College redesigned its Six Sigma Continuous Quality Improvement Initiative last year, and has helped area manufacturers find more than $2.1 million in cost savings as a result.
The WCTC’s corporate and community training department has offered the six sigma course, which trains manufacturing employees in finding and reducing defects within the production process, for 10 years, said Joseph Weitzer, dean of corporate and communication training. Six sigma certifications are achieved through belt designations, like in martial arts.
Previously, WCTC focused on training several employees from a large organization to become green belts. But companies became wary of the certification when they invested in training and then the employee used those skills to move to another employer, Weitzer said.
In addition, small business owners explained they could not compete on cost from foreign competitors.
“We looked at that and said ‘Well, but you can compete on quality,'” he said, which could in turn lead to cost savings.
The revamped six sigma course encourages a sustainable quality improvement project at each participating company that can help improve quality and will continue even if a newly trained green belt leaves the business, he said.
Now, one employee is trained to be a green belt, plus three to four white belts are trained to support the processes the leader implements. In addition, top and middle level managers are trained in the basics of the six sigma processes so they can provide the needed resources to help the green and white belts succeed, Weitzer said.
Of the 58 projects that originated from the course last year, 26 have been completed for a $2.1 hard cost savings and a $90,000 soft cost savings, he said. Two of those companies each saved more than $200,000.
“It’s a good return on their investment,” Weitzer said. “It’s really been one of those that we’ve focused a lot of energy (on) because we believe it’s really one of those programs that can help an organization turn the corner.”
Weitzer hopes more small companies will get involved in the program this year, because cost savings can make such a large difference for them and, in turn, lead to economic reinvestments.
“We know that the greatest capacity for growth is among the small businesses and there are more of them,” he said. “If we can increase their hiring by 10 percent, that’s going to have a significant impact on job creation.”

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