— Submitted By Dr. Carol Marchetti

My day job is professor of statistics at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), teaching a variety of courses including one on statistical quality control. This class focuses on managing and improving quality through statistical analysis. I often see people’s eyes glaze over as I give this explanation, but it’s much more straightforward (and interesting) than you might think.  It’s simply using data to drive business decisions about products and processes.

Every year I bring in guest lecturers from Xerox and other local businesses to discuss Lean Six Sigma and how this methodology goes hand in hand with statistics. My own interest was piqued and I wanted more than a once-a-year lecture. I wanted to immerse myself in Lean Six Sigma to better understand how quality is implemented in business, how I could bring this information to my courses, and how some Lean Six Sigma tools might be modified for use in academia. And thus began my year with Xerox while on academic sabbatical…

For those of you outside the Lean Six Sigma realm, let me give a quick introduction: Lean Six Sigma is a set of tools and procedures used to identify opportunities and implement actions aimed at improving what we do. The methodology can help cut unnecessary steps in an invoice process or spot and fix product design flaws. There are different levels of training in the use of these tools – Yellow Belt, Green Belt or Black Belt. And that’s where I started with Xerox, by attending Green Belt and Black Belt trainings.

Once I had the training under my belt, pun intended, I worked on a variety of improvement projects, from outlining ways to better track Xerox Lean Six Sigma projects to improving the pricing strategy for Xerox service parts. I also tapped into my teaching experience to provide input to Xerox’s Black Belt curriculum, tutor several Black Belts and master Black Belts and co-present several Black Belt statistics refresher sessions.

My time at Xerox has been very rewarding and I just have a few weeks left until I go back to my full time faculty responsibilities at RIT; my sabbatical will officially end in July.  This year has laid the groundwork for my teaching and research in the years to come.  I hope to continue my relationship with Xerox, looking for additional academic and corporate opportunities and to maintain the personal relationships that have resulted from this partnership.

Lean Six Sigma and statistics are sometimes misunderstood (and often under-appreciated!). But in a world where resources are at a premium – time, money, energy – I think we can all benefit from programs, processes, and tools that help us make sound decisions.  We may not be able to solve world peace, but we can improve the way we work, making our every day practices faster and easier.  And that’s something everyone can appreciate.

—   Dr. Carol Marchetti