Megan Waite Honored with Chancellor’s Award for Work in Lean Six Sigma

Every year, Syracuse University’s Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service hosts the Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship to honor a select group of students and faculty who are contributing outstanding work to the community. This year, Whitman graduate Megan Waite ’14 MS was one of the recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Innovation in Academic Engagement, recognizing her work in SCM 755: Lean Six Sigma. Waite began this project in 2013 while enrolled in Whitman’s LOGTECH MS in Supply Chain Management program, and has continued to work on it since graduating in 2014.

Waite worked as an item manager for the U.S. Air Force at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, where she first had the idea for developing a more efficient system of tracking parts history. Previously, item managers were required to document all purchases and inventory on a large index card called a 318, updating the card with each new purchase. With hundreds of thousands of items to manage, this system was tedious and labor-intensive. Even as a new electronic system was introduced, Air Force regulations still required the cards to be updated regularly. Seeing room for improvement, Waite hoped to eliminate redundancies through her research project.

In Lean Six Sigma, Waite worked with Professor Gary LaPoint to analyze the current card system and develop a new electronic system. After presenting this new system to the U.S. Air Force’s headquarters at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, it was accepted and is now being implemented as a best practice throughout the Air Force once the regulations requiring the cards to be manually updated are waived. Waite’s work is projected to save thousands of man hours annually and several millions of dollars in cost avoidance.

Although Waite graduated from Whitman in 2014, her work has continued well beyond that point into her career. “I think that’s one of the ways that successful Lean Six Sigma projects happen,” explained LaPoint, who has overseen dozens of projects through this course. Many of these projects have gone on to provide incredible benefits to the community, saving millions of dollars through process improvement. Waite’s project is no exception.

In fact, either an individual student from LaPoint’s class or the Lean Six Sigma class as a whole has been recognized with a Chancellor’s Award every year since 2010. The awards are intended to recognize faculty and students who are contributing to the community through scholarship and engagement, going beyond the scope of the classroom to learn through experience. This year, Waite was the only student in the entire university to receive an individual award for Innovation in Academic Engagement, a significant achievement.

Professor Fran Tucker, the academic director of the LOGTECH MS in Supply Chain Management program, noted that many of these projects are focused on the Upstate New York region. However, like Waite, students in LOGTECH and Syracuse’s other distance learning programs have the opportunity to work all around the world. These programs allow Syracuse University to truly serve the global community, wherever its students are housed.