Can a Six Sigma Green Belt Help Your Small Business?

Small Business Owner
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Cecelia Delander began taking a Six Sigma Green Belt certification course because she wanted to enhance her skills for her day job with a medical device contract manufacturer. She is also the co-founder of Salsa Fetish in Los Angeles, California. She discovered that the lessons learned in the course helped her small business as well.

In her role as customer service manager and project manager with the contract manufacturer, Cecelia is responsible for making sure the voice of the customer is heard within her organization.

That means that she knows the manufacturing and inventory status of legacy products and new products — how much her company has, how long it’s going to take to make more of them, how much that will cost and what impact that manufacturing has on the other products being made in her facility.

Because of her in-depth working relationships with operations, supply chain, and engineering, Cecelia decided to study for her Six Sigma Green Belt certification. The certification course work has certainly provided her with tools and insights that have allowed her to work with those other functions, but it’s also helping her in “unexpected” ways. 

Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Course

The Six Sigma Green Belt certification course that Cecelia is taking is five months long. She meets once per week for four hours with about a dozen other professionals. The course is sponsored as part of the State of California’s professional development programs.

 

The dozen other professionals in her class are primarily engineers. But there are also quality control inspectors, machine shop operators, project managers and even a real estate agent. Kudos to the real estate agent for recognizing how applicable the concept of eliminating waste from processes is across multiple disciplines.

At the end of the five months of Cecelia’s course work, she’ll receive a certificate of completion and will be eligible to take the certification exam. Even if she decides not to take the certification exam, Cecelia feels like what she’s learned in the course has been worth it. 

The fundamentals of Six Sigma — removing waste from processes and optimizing the flow of goods — that is directly correlated to her role as customer service manager and project manager at that medical device contract manufacturer. She’s been able to use the tools she’s learning to not just understand the how’s and why’s of her company’s manufacturing processes — but also how to improve throughput, reduce costs and meet customer’s expectations

Unexpected Lessons Learned From the Six Sigma Green Belt Course

And if that were all that the Six Sigma Green Belt course work has taught her, that would be enough.  However, she’s surprised how useful the “unexpected” lessons have been — not just at the medical device contract manufacturer, or in her daily life, but also in her condiments venture Salsa Fetish.

One of the first unexpected surprises was how much participation is expected in the class. As Cecelia puts it, “When I started the course, I would have rather chewed on a mouthful of razor blades than get up in speak in front of the class.” To say that public speaking isn’t one of Cecelia’s favorite activities would be an understatement.

 

At a recent company-wide management meeting, Cecelia had to stand up in front of over 80 managers and introduce herself. While she later admitted to an increased heart rate and collapsing into her seat afterward, others in the room stated that she showed no sign of nervousness and, in fact, appeared poised and professional.

Cecelia credits the Six Sigma Green Belt certification course for that. The amount of interaction with the other students and the presenting of projects has become a matter of course. That comfort with public speaking has also had an added benefit at the medical device contract manufacturer. According to her co-workers and peers, Cecelia is now more likely to speak her mind in group settings and meetings. This has allowed for even an even more robust integration of customer service and the voice of the customer in the priority setting at the medical device contract manufacturer.

And that has allowed for less waste in the manufacturing processes and increased on-time delivery and customer satisfaction — all valuable metrics.

Compassion for Management Developed in Six Sigma Green Belt Course

Her newfound voice can also be attributed to another unexpected benefit of the Six Sigma Green Belt certification course. This other unexpected benefit might best be described as “compassion for management.” As odd as that sounds, that’s how Cecelia describes it. 

Before the Six Sigma Green Belt certification course, Cecelia found herself frustrated by what she felt was a lack of management’s grasp of the day-to-day details of the product flow at the medical device contract manufacturer. But during her very first class, she claims to have had an insight that has helped her work with other managers and senior managers in a whole new light. 

By mapping out processes and looking for the waste in them, Cecelia saw what management was looking for, and the course gave her access to not just how they looked at the company — but access to the language they use. With her already extensive knowledge of the manufacturing and customer details, the course gave her the management view toward running the company. She now understands how to voice the needs of the customers in a way that management finds compelling — and is more willing to hear her and act. 

Take-Home Benefits for a Small Business From Six Sigma Green Belt Course

If optimizing her company’s workflow and integrating herself into management decision making were all that the Six Sigma Green Belt course work has taught her, that would be enough. But the real joy that the course has brought into her life has been in the way it has helped drive the success of Salsa Fetish. 

Salsa Fetish is a condiment brand that Cecelia co-founded. She and her partner used to sell it at farmers’ markets and swap meets and food festivals, but they had bigger plans for their three salsa flavors — Mild(ish), Smokin’ Hot and Full Throttle. You can now purchase Salsa Fetish at six stores in Eugene, Oregon and be on the lookout for it in Portland. In one of those stores, you can find it on the top shelf — with the cheese! 

When Cecelia saw a photo of Salsa Fetish on the top shelf, her exclamation of joy was one many small business owners can relate to. The fact that Salsa Fetish is available at retail locations is a testament to the focus, hard work and determination of Cecelia and the Salsa Fetish team. It is a success story that small business owners will root for. Cecelia credits her experience in the Six Sigma Green Belt certification course for helping achieve that success. 

At Salsa Fetish, they knew they had a good product, but they struggled to make production quantities of it. By using Six Sigma tools, they were able to optimize their manufacturing process, save money while making more of it and increase their yields and lower their cost of goods. Some of this was the result of painstaking trial and error. But the rigor and discipline of Six Sigma allowed them to map their processes and find continuous improvements (and validate them and make them repeatable). 

The reason they’re able to meet their new customers’ needs and do that with a positive gross margin is in large part due to the unexpected benefits of Cecelia’s Six Sigma Green Belt training. Optimizing a manufacturing and customer delivery process ultimately means that you’re delivering what your customers want, when they want it — and accomplishing that by spending as little money as possible

Cecelia may have started off as a Mild(ish) Green Belt in training — but she and her team are now taking a Smokin’ Hot product and charging forward Full Throttle. Don’t be surprised to see Salsa Fetish next to the cheese in a store near you one day soon.