Six Sigma Certification Offered at Speed School for First Time

Sept. 21, 2020

Dr. Elizabeth Gentry is a Black Belt in Internationally Recognized Process Improvement Program, Six Sigma

Dr. Elizabeth Gentry is a black belt level certification in the internationally recognized process improvement program, Six Sigma

Dr. Elizabeth Gentry, Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of the Masters of Engineering in Engineering Management (MEEM) Online Program, didn’t initially realize she was even interested in industrial engineering. “When I thought of engineering, I always thought of the typical like electrical, computer, or mechanical. But when I heard about engineering that was about applying statistics to things and improving processes, that excited me,” she said.

Her affinity for mathematical stats and applied engineering led her naturally to a passion for process improvement, and Gentry received her black belt in Six Sigma from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers. She has taught yellow, green, and black belt Six Sigma classes, known as the gold standard in process improvement and efficiency, for years.

Starting Fall 2020, UofL began offering the first two courses of the full Six Sigma certification program. Gentry said 25 to 35 students are enrolled. The MEEM program has required the first two Six Sigma courses for graduation, but now for just two more classes at no additional cost, students can get Six Sigma black belt certification. The second two courses will be offered in Spring 2021, and the first group will test for certification with a four-hour test in April 2021.

Gentry said she is excited about teaching Six Sigma at Speed School this year, and hopes to partner with organizations in healthcare, logistics, and many more to begin offering a certificate in Fall 2021 to offer to non-engineer and engineers

A Louisville native who received all three academic degrees, bachelor’s through doctorate, from Speed School, Gentry said Six Sigma is based on data analysis that determines where the defects in the processes are that add to waste and non-value-added time, and reduces them as much as possible.

“This certification is in demand. I’ve seen it in numerous industries from Boeing to hospitals to the Coast Guard and Army,” said Gentry. “Every field is using it. When students get certified it’s going to help them be able to lead more projects, get a management title. Six Sigma is universally recognized by non-engineers as well.”

One of the aspects of the program that Gentry thinks is most helpful is using real world experience to explain the process, something she can do readily from her previous experience in the healthcare industry in Dallas. “Yes, it is theory but they have to do a project in it and use real world examples to process improve,” she said.

Using healthcare as an example, Gentry said a project might be looking at how to improve the time you wait in the emergency room, or wait to have surgery.

“Many times, surgeries get delayed more throughout the day, so how can you process improve that? Gentry asked. “It’s also important in order to reduce the rate of hospital-acquired infections during surgery. It’s about reducing the defects in a process to make it more efficient. It’s interesting to be able to apply industrial engineering tools to that,” she said.

Named a Faculty Favorite in 2018-19, Gentry said she originally expected to use her engineering education only in industry, but her former time as a PhD student tutoring UofL athletes, including basketball player Gorgui Dieng (who now plays in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies) gave her the teaching bug. “I was teaching them many math concepts, and seeing them get the concepts and get excited about it, I knew I still wanted to teach in some capacity,” she said. “I like to make a difference in people’s lives, and this is one way that I can do it.”