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Managing Process Improvement

Course Code: MGMT 317

Instructor (s)

Lieven Demeester

Practice Assistant Professor of Operations Management, Lee Kong Chian School of Business

Email: ldemeester@smu.edu.sg


Course Description

All firms have processes, most of which can be improved or optimised.  Some of these processes include innovation, development, manufacturing, services, internal and external processes. The ability of managers to define, measure, improve and control processes is a key skill set and, combined with leadership, can enhance the success of a firm. 

In this course, students will develop a practical understanding of appropriate tool use and project management skills to effectively change and improve important processes. Students will also gain a strong theoretical and practical understanding of six sigma deployment and will achieve “Greenbelt” certification (recognised by the industry). Students will learn the DMAIC methodology (Design, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) and apply it in real projects. These projects will be sponsored by local SME’s and MNC’s.

Learning Objectives

Students will be trained in Six Sigma to the level of Greenbelt and will achieve certification of their Green Belt status (recognised by the industry). After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the different elements of Six Sigma Deployment, including the change and leadership components necessary
  • Explain the basics of LEAN improvements methods including simple value-stream mapping and identification of process waste
  • Define, lead and manage small to medium-size process improvement projects using the DMAIC (Design, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) and DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) methods
  • Identify and apply appropriate six-sigma and project management tools to effectively improve processes
  • Operate within teams and within organisations to drive effective process improvements

Instructional Methods

  • Methodologies
    • DMAIC (methods for improving existing processes)
    • Deployment of Six Sigma
  • Projects
    • Students will embark on a project in teams of four to five students to be completed within the 15-week term.  Project will use the tools as they are taught. 
  • Case Studies
    • Deployment cases (3M global deployment)
  • Leadership guidance
    • Change Management
    • Leadership Essentials for Project Results
    • Deployment Leadership
  • Process Improvment Tools - Lectures
    • Project Charter
    • KJ Analysis
    • Process Observation/ Mapping
    • Statistics Basic Review
    • Measurement System Analysis
    • Statistical Process Control
    • Process Capability Analysis
    • Minitab intro and practice sessions
    • Cause & Effect Matrix
    • Failure Modes and Effects Analysis
    • Variation Analysis
    • Solution Evaluation Matrices
    • Design of Experiments
    • Control Plans

Projects Done

Students have completed projects from various partner companies from the consumer electronics, F&B, healthcare, luxury goods, manaufacturing and shipping sectors. 

Partner organisations who have participated in this course include



EITHER Introductory Statistics OR Introduction to Statistical Theory

What participating organisations say about MGMT 317

“We had a great experience working with the SMU students. I really enjoyed the energy level, the data-based approach and both the theoretical but also the practical application of what they learnt over their semester in the operation section. The project that we looked at was a waste elimination project, we tested some hypothesis and we used the DMAIC approach and not only getting the benefits for our company but also giving us benefit in terms of changing the way that we work within the organisation. It was an excellent experience and we thoroughly enjoyed it” – Mr. Martin Gaard Christiansen, Executive Vice President, Wrist Far East (Singapore) Pte Ltd 

What students say about MGMT 317

“Usually in class we are given ‘made-up’ problems to solve. But in SMU-X classes, it was a real problem that a client, a small company, faced. We have to come up with a more efficient way to purchase materials for its manufacturing process and keep costs low. When we learnt something new from our professor, we applied it to the project. So we could immediately see the relevance.” – Zack Chan, Lee Kong Chian School of Business  

“This SMU-X course is very beneficial. It allows us to create value for the SME we are working for and it allows us to consolidate whatever that we learnt from classroom into a practical solution. It also allows us to understand a business environment that a SME is operating in and thus have a deeper insight in the SME environment in Singapore.” – Student Group that worked with Wain Industries (Pere Ocean)

Offering Term(s): 
AY 17/18 Term 2