KEP Hosts University of Akron Students to Share Lessons of Lean Improvement

The sign on our wall says “We put our Hearts in our Parts,” but our high standards extend beyond the final products. We also proactively seek out lean practices that guarantee highly efficient storage and timely delivery. We believe this is of the utmost importance to not only practice, but to pass along to the next generation of business professionals.

College Students Attend Our Tours Each Semester

Extrusion Operations Director Greg Graham works at KEP’s Mogadore facility. Greg works alongside Quality Assurance Director Beverly Kiglics. In addition to being a Six Sigma Black Belt, Beverly is also Lean Master and ASQ-CQA certified. Beverly’s job is to meet internal, customer and third party requirements by implementing and maintaining systems in the Mogadore facility.  

Each semester since 2011, Greg and Beverly have provided tours of the Mogadore facility to students from the University of Akron’s Bachelor of Organizational Supervision program. The tour provides a first-hand look at KEP’s ongoing Lean journey with an emphasis on the foundational elements of the Lean Six Sigma Methodology practiced in our organization.

The course is taught by Dr. Georgia Pinis, a professor at the the University of Akron’s College of Applied Science and Technology. The Bachelor of Organizational Supervision degree helps students strengthen their organizational leadership and supervisory skills, positioning students to take positions of responsibility in many fields.  

KEP’s tours complement the students’ classroom learning and are a valuable resource for reinforcing their knowledge with applied, hands-on demonstrations and real-world applications.

What do the students gain?

The university students experience the melding of theory and real-life application. Six Sigma and the DMAIC process (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) are methodologies for quality management that the students are learning in class, but seeing how they are used in real-world applications gives the students a more comprehensive understanding of these methodologies.

Part of mastering Six Sigma is becoming knowledgeable in the quality management methods implemented to increase customer satisfaction, reduce process cycle time, reduce pollution, reduce costs, and increase profits.

Our bi-yearly tours allow the students to see how KEP has used Six Sigma and Lean methodology to make continuous improvements to our processes and products, improving the end product for our customers, our impact on the environment, the experience for our employees, and more.

We encourage ideas from our employees in all our facilities. This is how we stay on the path of continuous Lean improvements. We also teach the visiting university students about our organized Kaizen events, which bring teams of our employees together to come up with ideas for improvement. One is our Stand in a Circle activity. This is a challenge to each of our employees to stand for 30 minutes and examine the facility to find and address any process issues or opportunities for improvement, and more.

The University of Akron students learn about the type of employees we seek—hard working, dedicated, problem-solvers—and also about how our employees advance. This opportunity to learn what employers look for from the point of view of an employer in the field they will be entering is very beneficial for the students.

Passionate About Our Journey and Passing On What We’ve Learned

Our Lean improvement journey began in 2007 with a company wide decision to dedicate ourselves to continuous improvements throughout our facilities. Since then our facilities have undergone many changes.

The steps we’ve taken to ensure quality products are produced efficiency by happy employees are valuable lessons for students studying the field of organizational supervision and looking to land a job after graduation in the manufacturing, technical and medical fields.

In our tours the students learn about several of the ways KEP has contributed to our Lean improvement journey, from reducing water usage and waste to finding ways to increase process efficiency.

Since the knowledge they gain on our tours complements their classroom learning, this combination of experience makes them Six Sigma Yellow Belts upon graduation. This foundation is useful for preparing these students for the expectations after graduation in a wide range of manufacturing, technical and medical fields, which separates them from their competition in job interviews.

KEP appreciates this opportunity to pass on our experience and knowledge to the next generation of professionals. It is an investment in the future and an inspiration for us to continue on our journey to be more productive, efficient and resourceful.

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