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Friday, August 18, 2006

Healthy, wealthy and wise

By Claude Solnik for Long Island Business News

Farmingdale State offers efficiency training to Altana
The Farmingdale State University of New York's Center for Innovation in Lean and Six Sigma is teaching executives from pharmaceuticals firm Altana Inc. how to increase efficiency.Altana is the second major company to receive the specialized training, which is based on systems made famous by some of the world's best-known firms. Fifteen senior managers from Forest Laboratories previously undertook the training program, which launched last July.

Twelve managers from the Altana's manufacturing, engineering and quality control departments in Hicksville and Melville are being trained on-site during the three-and-a-half month program. Farmingdale State plans to welcome Brookhaven National Laboratory employees for a training program beginning this fall.

"Lean and Six Sigma are management approaches for continuous improvement in companies," said Lisa Braverman, executive director of the school's office of corporate and professional development. Six Sigma is a system – made famous by General Electric under Jack Welch's leadership – in which companies examine operations carefully to obtain even slight efficiencies. Via a statistical approach, companies using Six Sigma cut time from operations, save money and improve productivity.

Lean, made famous by Toyota, reduces redundancy and waste by streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary procedural steps.

"It improves employee moral and profitability," Braverman said of the systems. "They're using it now in financial institutions, hospitals and service organizations."

Forest is operating more efficiently and increasing its focus on training, Braverman added. "Companies retain their competitive edge to the degree to which they stimulate employee innovation and organizational learning," she said. "When we learn in our jobs as employees, we perform at a much higher level."

While Six Sigma is statistically based, Lean seeks to identify and remove measures that don't add value for the customer. Large companies, for instance, may store more inventory than they need.