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Lean Certification Standard Sought


New certification will provide transportable credentials in lean manufacturing

By Brian J.Hogan



The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), and the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing are collaborating with industry and academia to develop a new industry standard for Lean certification. Scheduled for launch before the end of 2005, this certification is intended for manufacturing professionals who want credible, transportable credentials that illustrate their knowledge of Lean principles and tools.

These are the components of the proposed certification program:

  • Mentoring: Each applicant receives a qualified mentor to guide him/her through the certification process.
  • Experience portfolio: This portfolio demonstrates application of Lean principles, results achieved, and lessons learned by the applicant. It shows that the individual is capable of applying Lean knowledge in any organization undergoing Lean transformation or operating to a Lean model.   
  • Continuing education: Appropriate courses, seminars, etc.
  • Experience: Real-world use of Lean principles.        
  • Four certification levels: These range from an introductory level through true expertise.
  • Limited duration: After three years, the certification expires and must be renewed.

The decision by the participating organizations to pursue the Lean certification program was based on a survey of more than 1100 manufacturing industry respondents. Of the persons surveyed, 77% said it was likely they would pursue Lean certification. Fully 83% said it was critical, very important, or important that professional societies and organizations, in conjunction with industry, universities, and Lean consulting professionals collaborate with the goal of developing an industry standard for Lean certification. In addition, 60% of those surveyed said key Lean leaders at their supplier companies should earn Lean manufacturing certification.

SME is the organization that awards the Lean certification, and the Society is held to rigorous standards to ensure that the certification has value. Every question on every certification exam will be routinely, thoroughly evaluated for relevance, currency, performance, and integrity by the partners in this program. Questions will be added to examinations only after evaluation, rating, referencing, and mapping to elements of the body of knowledge required by Lean practitioners. In turn, the body of knowledge for each level of the certification is periodically evaluated and updated in a process of continuous improvement, making the certification nationally normed regardless of location.

The four certification levels measure the individual's Lean knowledge. At the first level, the applicant must pass an examination that measures knowledge of Lean principles. Those who want to reach the second level of certification should demonstrate that they can apply Lean principles and tools to drive improvements and show measurable results. This is not intended as an introduction to Lean, or an evaluation of Lean knowledge.

Lean practitioners at the third level are expected to be senior employees or team leaders who should be able to apply Lean principles and tools to drive improvements and show measurable results, plus orchestrate the transformation of a complete value stream. At the fourth and highest level of Lean certification, the practitioner holds a position of authority and influence over assets, processes and people, and has demonstrated an understanding of all aspects of Lean transformation across an entire enterprise.    

Manufacturing leaders involved in SME's Technical Community Network, specifically the Product and Process Design Management Community, along with SME's Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee, were instrumental in initiating, discussing, and developing the collaborative process for this new program.

For more information on the Lean certification program, visit, or call the SME Resource Center at 800-733-4763.


This article was first published in the September 2005 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 


Published Date : 9/1/2005

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