University of South Carolina

Moore School scholar earns highest Six Sigma level

By Clair Boatwright, Darla Moore School of Business,

Sanjay Ahire, a management science professor in the Darla Moore School of Business, has earned the Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma and joins fewer than 50 industry professionals nationwide who have attained that level of certification through the American Society of Quality (ASQ).

Lean Six Sigma refers to a globally recognized process improvement approach that helps any organization meet customer needs effectively and efficiently. Ahire’s excellence in practice and leadership on more than 75 Lean Six Sigma projects is what earned him the rank of Master Black Belt, the highest Lean Six Sigma expertise level one can achieve.

ASQ announced in its July 2012 issue of “Quality Progress” magazine that Ahire is the first academic to have been accorded this honor from the flagship quality management organization. ASQ has been the world’s premier association of quality leaders and professionals for more than 65 years, and has registered members in more than 140 countries.

"Obtaining ASQ’s Master Black Belt certification is a rigorous process designed only for those individuals who have strong leadership ability and possess a strong commitment to the advancement of quality," said James J. Rooney, chairman of the board for ASQ.

Rooney cited Ahire for having an impressive portfolio of consulting projects with leading organizations like General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and Walmart and substantial experience in mentoring and training. He said most noteworthy, however, is that Ahire is the first university professor to earn ASQ’s Master Black Belt certification.

"Dr. Ahire has demonstrated dedication to the future of quality through a rare blend of consulting, mentoring, training and research expertise in Lean and Six Sigma,” Rooney said.

Ahire joined the Darla Moore School of Business in 2006 as a professor of management science in the USC-Global Supply Chain and Operations Management Program and the companion USC-Global Supply Chain and Process Management Center (GSCPM), which works with leading organizations in and beyond South Carolina to identify and solve business challenges.

Ahire, along with GSCPM center director Manoj Malhotra and other management science professors, conducts six sigma projects with global and local firms, and mentors student teams in executing these projects. Partners and projects are identified through evaluation of organization's operations improvement challenges and their customers' needs.

Ahire has led numerous projects in aerospace, automotive, banking, chemical, consumer products, healthcare, insurance, pharmaceutical, retail and nuclear sectors.

Although he has just received the highest standing from ASQ for Lean Six Sigma, he said that he always has worked to “directly contribute ‘here and now’ to manufacturing and service industry performance and more importantly, to students’ success.”

“That is really what drives me,” Ahire said. “This validation by ASQ highlights the immediate and concrete value that university professors can impart to current and future business industry practitioners.”

He said consulting projects benefit businesses and the public and particularly, students.

“I have always believed in contributing to community and industry through academically-based consulting that leads to win-win-win: for our graduates, for the community and partner organizations as well as for the school and university,” Ahire said. “What gratifies me most is the direct value of the project to our graduates in securing jobs in leading global firms around the country and beyond. Of course, the partner organizations benefit from direct project savings and first access to our graduates.”

About Six Sigma:

Six Sigma originated as a set of practices designed to improve manufacturing processes and eliminate defects, but its application was subsequently extended to other types of business processes. It was first championed by Motorola in 1980s and was later promoted by General Electric under the leadership of Jack Welch. Six Sigma implementation entails organization-wide projects that are conducted using a hierarchy of specialists (typically, green belts, black belts and master black belts). Lean principles, focused on eliminating waste in business processes, have been applied for more than 50 years and were initiated by Toyota and Honda. Over the last decade, the two approaches have merged into the blended approach of Lean Six Sigma. These approaches have been implemented by numerous organizations across all economic sectors, and when applied correctly, they can help any organization improve their processes, products and services and overall business performance. ASQ’s Master Black Belt certification evaluates candidates for exceptional mastery and leadership in the Lean Six Sigma approach.

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Posted: 08/09/12 @ 5:15 PM | Updated: 08/28/12 @ 9:35 AM | Permalink