Monthly Archives: June 2015

What the Silver Lean Certification Means to Me

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.  Connie continues to talk about certification.

At the time of renewal for the Lean Bronze Certificate from SME/AME, I thought, I’ll just go for the silver – how hard could it be. Two and a half years later, I finally accomplished the goal.

In 2007, my retiring boss was being generous, so I took advantage and had him buy the entire suite of books for all the lean levels (bronze, silver and gold). I even gave them as Christmas presents to my entire staff. They all acted excited but in truth there aren’t many people who get excited about lean books. They claimed they would go for the lean certification but nobody did.

However, I was stoked. I love books, I love lean, and so what is there not to love?

The Lean Bronze Certification Package consists of:
• Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy, Second Edition
• Lean Production Simplified: Plain-Language Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Production System
• Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation
• Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate MUDA

The Lean Silver Certification Package consists of the following six books:
• The Lean Design Guidebook
• Office Kaizen: Transforming Office Operations into a Strategic Competitive Advantage
• Practical Lean Accounting: A Proven System for Measuring and Managing the Lean Enterprise
• Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization
• The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer
• Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

The Lean Gold Certification Package contains these five books:
• Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Third Edition
• Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth
• Lean Transformation: How to Change Your Business into a Lean Enterprise
• Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
• Today & Tomorrow: Commemorative Edition of Ford’s 1926 Classic

I read the books, I took the test and passed and then the portfolio had to be written. That is a long boring story which resulted in working with the certification team and updating their entire system including the portfolio, scoring and results.

According to the certification leaders at SME “Lean Certification candidates will now encounter an improved program and more streamlined process in achieving certification. The hierarchical requirements – Bronze, then Silver, then Gold – have been eliminated. This allows candidates to obtain certification at the rank that is most appropriate to their career, knowledge, and experience. For more information go to Lean Certification Program Process Improvements Webpage.”

But back to the books – at the silver level, the books take you to another level of lean that none of us may ever see in our lifetimes but it is good to know it is out there. The subject some of us dread – Accounting. There were two books (see above – Practical Lean Accounting and Real Numbers) that dealt with how to lean out the accounting system. And this is the real revolutionary, transformational aspect to lean. Get rid of accounts payable, accounts receivable, all the systems that require us to do stupid things that aren’t lean, – that stop the flow of ideas from concept through to realization. The value stream is expanded to include EVERYTHING. The value stream has the material delivered to the location of the work, the material is reordered by the value stream, invoices are paid as material is consumed, and customers are billed as product is shipped.

So much of what we do in corporate life is related to how financials are measured and is our biggest roadblock. These ideas are what really cuts the costs and increases quality. This is what makes it transformational in my mind.

The Value of Certifications in Our Industry

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.

What is the value of certification in general? There are lots of people, old and young alike, who think that if they get a certification, they’ll get a job!

First of all, this is wrong. It might get your resume looked at, if it is a prerequisite to get through the screening process, but you have to know what you are doing. At this point with all of the certifications floating around, it is fairly easy to get a certificate by not telling the truth about the projects you have completed and just studying and passing the test.

On the other hand, if you know what you are doing and do it well and nobody outside of yourself has recognized that, then a certificate can help get you recognized.

I have a project management professional (PMP), Six Sigma Black Belt from ASQ and have just gotten my Silver Lean Certification from AME/SME. I am most proud of the Lean certificate. It was really hard – no cake walk. They dug deep to find out if I knew what I was talking about.

At first I got my PMP so that I could get a better job. I found that it did get me past the first gate of keyword search by the computer. Then I got my Black Belt through ASQ but I had the backing of the GE Healthcare University to help me with the projects and studying the material. The test was harrowing. I had a pile of books 3 feet high with sticky notes attached to the pages where I could flip to different sections as needed. I did study questions for hours and hours on the weekend. I spent much of my personal time to prepare. I did this mid-career and this is what I found.

It was very helpful for me to get back into the practice of test taking – to read carefully and slow down before answering the questions. I actually learned a lot in both the PMP and the Black belt literature. Did I use it in my work? Some of it. To be honest, not very much. But I had the foundation and the backbone to know when I could use something and when it didn’t apply. Unless you are working in construction or defense, the project management professional roadmap doesn’t apply. Hardly anybody uses Earned Value System. Six Sigma is useful if you work in a company that has lots of data and ability to affect the variability.

However, lean is another story. I find it applies to everything I do both personally and professionally.  Who can’t apply 5S to the cabinets and drawers in the bathroom? Who can’t use visual systems to allow others to see the progress of their work?

But AME/SME (the certification is actually backed by SME, AME, ASQ and Shingo prize – so it has prestigious companies behind it) lean certifications are very different. The books that you have to read really give you the picture of how revolutionary lean can be. Based on the Toyota Production System and authors like Womack, Liker and Dennis, you are getting exposed to the very difficult path of transformation. It has led me to Mike Rother and Toyota Kata which I think is needed to change the way we think. Liker has teamed with Rother in his Kata Summit to explain that without a way to learn new behavior we are forever stuck in using tools and not having success in implementing lean.

In the end, what is the value of a certification? For me, it meant reaching a personal milestone, having the ability to get the agreement from others in the business that I know the material and have proven it in the workplace and maybe it will help me to get a job that is satisfying and rewarding.