Supply Chain Expertise

By Matt Hawkins
May 26, 2015

Three Bradley students mingled with Caterpillar employees, dealers, customers and U.S. Army members for Lean Six Sigma training, held during a May Interim week. A partnership between Caterpillar Inc. and the Foster College of Business gave students timely business knowledge as they prepared for internships and jobs.

Students received Six Sigma green belts at the end of the class. Green belts are the second of four steps in the training process; black belts and master black belts are the final steps. 

Class participant David Lieber ’15, a marketing major from Labadie, Missouri, will start his career at Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Deerfield, Illinois, later this summer. The employer wants employees to go through 6 Sigma training, so Lieber will be a step ahead.

“It’s good to get an understanding of real-world operations,” he said. “The green belt will further my professional development and will go a long way in my career.”

Students took advantage of the week to learn from and network with Caterpillar and Caterpillar extended enterprise employees, who provided an inside glance at the region’s largest employer. Students admitted surprise that a Fortune 500 company still was trying to iron out issues in its supply chain processes.

For Karim Elrafie  ‘16, an electrical engineering major from Normal, Illinois, conversations showed new approaches to learning and solving problems.

“I tend to be a one-dimensional thinker,” he said. “But working with professionals has given me insight into how they think. They’re showing me new ways to look at situations, and that’s enlightened me.”

Todd Ballou, one of the Caterpillar master black belt instructors, appreciated the unique blend of employees and college students. He said that mix generated new perspectives for those in the corporate world.

“Bradley students bring enthusiasm and inquisitiveness that’s different than the folks at Caterpillar,” he said. “For insiders, we’re getting a great variety of input and questions we could only get from the students’ perspective.

This is the third time the Six Sigma course was offered to Bradley students, with the previous two offerings during January Interim.