Lean Six Sigma Black Belt projects prove value in industries beyond manufacturing


With roots as a process improvement program designed to revolutionize a uniform manufacturing system, Paritosh Bhondele wasn’t sure if Lean Six Sigma Black Belt was a good fit for his role as a director at a global learning and performance software company.

Bhondele questioned whether the program, which got its start more than two centuries ago following an earned government contract for the mass production of 10,000 muskets, would provide the tools that could improve operations and productivity for his high-tech organization – even if promised discoveries of $100,000 in returned investment.

Ric Van Der Linden, who teaches the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certificate program at UC San Diego Extension, encouraged Bhondele to stick with the course despite his doubts. His pitch was simple and based on the numerous successful projects he has helped mentor as part of the certificate program. From human resources to life sciences to hospitality and the military, Van Der Linden has witnessed professionals finding success throughout a number of industries.

“You have to trust the tools, trust the process,” said Van Der Linden.

ric-van-der-linden.jpg  Ric Van Der Linden

An essential component of that process is the course project, which is designed to allow students to apply Lean Six Sigma approaches and operating principles to real-world problems.

Bhondele’s project, for instance, revealed ways his team could increase productivity by revamping its quality assurance process and also demonstrated the ongoing importance of statistical analysis for any business model. Not only was Bhondele able to reduce the time it took to complete prioritized programming tasks, he was able to implement technical fixes that could prevent future defects that could delay production – a project manager’s dream.

Bhondele says he is glad he stuck with the project.

“I quickly learned by completing the project that it’s really working. People sometimes only look at process improvement when the business is struggling. You have to ‘make hay when the sun is shining,’” he said.

Bhondele is by no means the only one to discover process improvements through Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. City of San Diego employees developed ways to help reduce 911 response times and potentially save lives.

These results prove how Lean Six Sigma is more than just a quality control system or a process improvement program and some students have showcased how their efforts help drive innovations in health and wellness.

Jeanne Skinner, an advanced manufacturing engineer of General Dynamics Mission Systems of San Diego, learned how even small changes to workers’ health can enhance productivity and improve lives.


Skinner set a goal to limit the number of defective products her company manufactured by reducing carpal tunnel syndrome. Her efforts gained a two percent increase in production – and that’s a big deal concerning productivity issues.

While such efforts continue to expand the program to other industries, other students continue to prove strength and progression within manufacturing.

Andy Cox, an operational excellence regional manager of Ventura Foods, made the commute from Orange County to attend the 12-week certificate program. Although some nights the traffic was tough, Cox says the opportunity to network and learn from other students was well worth it.

Cox used Lean Six Sigma at Ventra Foods, a leading manufacturer of food products, to uncover improvements that generated an annual projected return on investment of close to half a million. His work also transformed one of its worst performing products into one of its best performing.

The experiences of Bhondele, Skinner and Cox show that no matter the industry when it comes to Six Sigma, the proof is in the process.

Want to learn how to use the tools and techniques of Six Sigma? Extension has designed its process improvement certificate opportunities to help professionals continually evolve alongside Six Sigma and its rich history, offering Yellow, Green and Black belt learning options. Learn how Lean Six Sigma can benefit your organization by visiting extension.ucsd.edu/leansixsigma.

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