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SME Certification


Certification Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What is certification?

A professional certification is a voluntary process by which candidates are assessed against predetermined and standardized criteria for knowledge, skills, competencies, and/or abilities required of a profession. Those successfully completing certification requirements are granted a time-limited credential. To retain your certification, recertification is required after a finite period and involves continuing training and development.

Why become certified?

Whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned professional, certification can help you become a high-value commodity to your employer and be among the most sought-after individuals in your industry. Certifications not only help you attain knowledge, they prove it. Certifications are a recognized and respected industry credential.

  • Validates your knowledge against industry standards.
  • Provides a portable, industry-recognized credential that travels with you throughout your career.
  • Enhances your career opportunities — certification can provide a competitive advantage in the job market.
  • Improves your marketability by demonstrating your commitment to continuous learning.

What are SME’s certification standards?

As a certifying body, SME is held to rigorous standards to ensure certification integrity. SME’s Certification Oversight & Appeals Committee, comprised of member volunteers representing industry and academia, works to ensure that every question on each exam is routinely evaluated for its performance, relevance, currency, and integrity.

In the case of Lean Certification, the portfolio and interview process is also routinely evaluated for performance, objectivity, and integrity. Additionally, the bodies of knowledge for every certification are periodically evaluated by industry-at-large through a significant qualitative and quantitative study, and updated as indicated by the market. This ensures certifications are “normed,” meaning they are relevant regardless of geographic location. This continuous improvement process and norming is what differentiates a true certification from a certificate program.

What is the Certification Oversight & Appeals Committee?

Each certification program has an oversight body comprised of no fewer than five practitioners and subject matter experts from industry and academia. The oversight bodies evaluate the exam performance on a yearly basis making sure that each item is performing accurately. They are responsible for responding to all requests for certification appeals. The oversight body comprised also ensures that candidates are offered proper tools needed to prepare for the examination and makes recommendations for the development of said tools.

How is the Body of Knowledge developed?

To create a Body of Knowledge (BOK), extensive research is conducted including role delineation studies, job task analyses, and knowledge requirements to perform specified job functions, from which a body of knowledge is derived and validated through further industry research.

How do I list a certification credential?

Once you successfully achieve your certification, the credential may be added after your name as follows:

    Certfied Manufacturing Technologist (CMfgT): John Smith, CMfgT
    Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE): John Smith, CMfgE
    Lean Bronze Certified (LBC): John Smith, LBC or John Smith, LBC-sensei
    Lean Silver Certified (LSC): John Smith, LSC or John Smith, LSC-sensei
    Lean Gold Certified (LGC): John Smith, LGC or John Smith, LGC-sensei

Can I use my certification towards an undergraduate program?

SME and the University of Phoenix have established an articulation agreement through which certification holders may qualify for specific college credits toward a degree program with the university. Those earning a Lean Certification, Certified Manufacturing Technologist (CMfgT) and/or Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) qualify. To learn more about this opportunity, check out the Apollo Quick List (PDF) webpage.

Where can I find resources to prepare for the certification exams?

You can find a list of preparation resources for Lean Certification, Certified Manufacturing Technologist, and Certified Manufacturing Engineer at

Prepare for the exam by assessing your knowledge and demonstrating your understanding of the Body of Knowledge (BOK) for your specific certification, certificate, or outcome assessment. The BOK provides an outline and weightings of the topics you will be assessed on during the exam.

SME provides a list of recommended reading resources that can be used to prepare for the exam. Each certification, certificate, or outcome assessment offers different preparation methods such as online review programs, self-assessment practice tests, competency models, and more. Visit and the program webpages for available preparation resources.

What are some tips for taking the certification exams?

Note: Technical support is only available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST for online exams. Although we do not anticipate any technical difficulty, we recommend you schedule your exam when technical support is available if possible.

What is the cost for certification?

What is the cost for recertification?

Note: At this time, you cannot pay your recertification fee online. You can also contact SME Customer Care at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000 to request this information.

What work experience requirements do I need for certification?

Experience requirements are specific to each certification, certificate, and outcome assessment program.
Unfortunately, to challenge for a certification, certificate, or outcome assessment, you must meet the requirements stated.

How do I apply for certification and schedule an exam?

You can apply online or by mailing/faxing the completed paper application to:
    One SME Drive
    Dearborn, MI 48128-2408

Purchase online or download application forms:

Once you have applied for and purchased your exam, you will receive an email with instructions on scheduling your exam and completing your Proctor Form and Agreement.

Note: Technical support is only available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST for online exams. Although we do not anticipate any technical difficulty, we recommend you schedule your exam when technical support is available if possible.

Do I have to be a member of SME to become certified?

You do not have to be a member of SME to become certified. Members of SME receive significant savings on the cost of the exam, recertification fees, books, videos, and other training and development opportunities that can apply toward your recertification.

Lean Certification partner organizations (AME, ASQ, and the Shingo Institute) receive the SME member rate for the Lean Bronze, Lean Silver, and Lean Gold Certification programs (exam and recertification fees).

What happens after I apply for the exam?

You will receive a notification from SME once your application is processed. Your confirmation will include details on your next steps, along with hyperlinks to an exam Proctor Form and Agreement that you provide to your exam proctor to complete.

Who may proctor my exam?

Your exam proctor can be your manager, supervisor, Human Resources representative, or a key administrator. They can also be a member of an SME chapter, ASQ section, or AME region, staff at your local college/university, library, or an authorized facilitator at the exam after a review program. All exam proctors must be approved by SME in advance.

What are the roles and responsibilities of an exam proctor?

All exam proctors must be approved by SME in advance. The exam proctor must complete and sign the Proctor Form and Agreement designated for the certification/assessment he/she is administering. In addition, the exam proctor must complete and follow the guidelines in the Proctor Guide:

Do you offer certification exams in other languages?

The Lean Bronze Certification paper/pencil exam is the only exam available in North American Spanish and Continental French. The translations are not available for online testing. SME uses a professional translation service that complies with the American Translation Association guidelines for translation.

What is the policy for a refund?

You must submit a written request for a refund to SME, which must be received less than one year from the date you purchased the exam. Refunds will be issued less a $50 processing fee. Mail your written request to:

    Attn: Certification
    One SME Drive
    Dearborn, MI 48128-2408

What is the exam cancellation policy?

If you wish to cancel a scheduled exam sitting, you must notify both SME and your exam proctor within 10 business days of your examination date. You may reschedule your exam within one year from purchasing your exam (application) by coordinating a mutually agreeable date with your exam proctor and SME.

What is the policy for rescheduling an exam?

If you would like to reschedule your exam, it must be within one year from the purchase of your exam (application date). You must coordinate your new exam date with both SME and your exam proctor and provide SME with a new Proctor Form and Agreement. SME will confirm your new date with both you and your proctor.

In what formats is the exam available?

What are the computer requirements to take an online exam?

You must have a Windows or Apple laptop or desktop computer to take an online exam. At this time, you cannot take the exam on a smart phone, tablet, wearable computer, netbook, or similar. Test your computer by clicking Get Computer Ready for Testing.

What level of computer skills are required to take the online exam?

General keyboarding skills are required to take the online exam.

With the online exam, can I mark questions?

You will have the ability to mark questions that you want to revisit. At any time during the exam, you can click summary to revisit the questions you marked.

How do I get my pencil/paper exam?

The paper/pencil exam will be mailed directly to your exam proctor. Your proctor will provide you with your exam and answer sheet on the day and time you are scheduled to take the exam. Once your exam is complete, your proctor is responsible for mailing the materials back to SME for grading. SME will mail your results within 30 days from receiving the exam from your proctor.

When can I sit for a certification exam?

SME allows individuals or groups to take the exam anywhere, anytime, at a predefined set of recommended locations. Candidates are required to secure an exam proctor, which can be a manager, supervisor, human resources representative, key administrator, instructor, college professor, or staff at a local library, local college, SME chapter, ASQ section, AME region, or at the end of a classroom review program.

Once you have secured a proctor, schedule an exam date that works for both of you. SME must receive your completed Proctor Form and Agreement at least two weeks prior to your selected exam date.

What time does the exam start? Is there a time limit?

The exam starts after your proctor has provided you with your exam materials and has provided you with clear instruction. Your proctor will time your paper/pencil exam and provide periodic updates of time remaining. For online exams, your time begins once you click the button to start the exam. All exams except the Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) allow three hours for completion. The CMfgE allows four hours for completion.

If you have special needs and need more time granted to complete the exam please email us or call us at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000. Special needs include, but are not limited to, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, dyslexia, or other cognitive conditions.

Note: Technical support is only available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST for online exams. Although we do not anticipate any technical difficulty, we recommend you schedule your exam when technical support is available if possible.

How many questions are on the exam?

Below is an approximate number of multiple-choice questions on the various exams.

  • Certified Manufacturing Technologist (CMfgT) – 130
  • Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) – 180
  • Lean Bronze – 165
  • Lean Silver – 150
  • Lean Gold – 150
  • Green Manufacturing Specialist Certificate – 120
  • Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technology (EET) – 120

What can I bring to the exam?

You must bring your own materials to the exam. Sharing of books, notes, and other materials is not permitted.

Lean Certification Exams
  • Core reference materials
  • Notes
  • Several #2 pencils, pencil sharpener, and an eraser for taking the paper/pencil exam
  • A basic calculator can be used as long as it is quiet, hand-held, and non-broadcasting or receiving. All programmable memory must be cleared before and after the exam.

Technical Exams (CMfgT and CMfgE)
  • Recommended review books
  • Notes
  • Several #2 pencils, pencil sharpener, and an eraser for taking the paper/pencil exam
  • A basic calculator can be used as long as it is quiet, hand-held, and non-broadcasting or receiving. All programmable memory must be cleared before and after the exam.

Note: Technical support is only available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST for online exams. Although we do not anticipate any technical difficulty, we recommend you schedule your exam when technical support is available if possible.

Is the exam open book?

Yes, the exams are open book and open notes.

I do not live in the United States; can I be certified in my country?

Yes, our certification programs are internationally recognized.

What are the benefits of groups sitting for the exams?

If you are part of a corporate group, college, university, or SME chapter and would like to schedule a group setting to sit for the exam, please email or call SME Customer Care at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000 to schedule.

If you are involved in evaluating or developing a workforce, you understand the importance of having credible data on knowledge and competency. Certification and assessment programs can help identify knowledge gaps and aid in developing continuing education plans. Each exam provides reporting, both at a group and an individual level, that will help identify strengths and areas of improvement for your students and/or workforce. Ultimately, it will help tailor training opportunities and development plans.

Quick feedback is provided after the exam, which includes documented evidence of an individual's strengths and weaknesses (pending waiver). When used for larger groups of employees, you will gain an overall picture of your workforce’s performance. After an individual or group of individuals completes the certification exam, a detailed report provides a breakdown of the results by key knowledge area. Use the exam results to make decisions about your workforce's professional development. Your examination analysis report will inform you about opportunities for future learning and development.

How will I find out my exam results?

If you take the online exam, you will learn your results immediately. If you take the paper/pencil exam, your results will be mailed within 30 days from SME receiving the exam from your proctor. Regardless of exam type, you will receive a letter and a detailed score report in the mail. Upon passing, you will receive your certificate.

Once your scores are uploaded, you can log into your SME account and view your score in the “My Certification” area. Your score will appear in your online account within ten business days of being scored for paper/pencil exams and within three business days for online exams.

What are the passing scores for the exams?

  • Lean Bronze – 75%
  • Lean Silver – 75%
  • Lean Gold – 75%
  • Certified Manufacturing Technologist (CMfgT) – 60%
  • Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE) – 60%
  • Green Manufacturing Specialist – 70%
  • Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technology (EET) – All candidates sitting the exam receive a certificate of completion

Note: Exam scores are not rounded.

What is the exam grading process?

If you sit for the paper/pencil exam, your proctor is required to return the exam to SME within 24 hours. Once we receive the exam, we will perform a quality check and then send the exam for scoring. Online exams are scored and results provided immediately.

If I do not pass the exam, how soon may I retake it?

If you do not pass your exam you may retake it 30 days from your original exam date. Candidates may use this time to study and prepare for the retake. There is a reduced fee each time your retake the exam. If you take the online exam, you will learn your results immediately. If you take the paper/pencil exam, your results will be mailed within 30 days from SME receiving the exam from your proctor. Regardless of exam type, you will receive a letter and a detailed score report in the mail.

When do I get a certificate?

You will receive your wall certificate within 30 days of completing your certification requirements.

Will you mail my certificate to my home or work?

Your certificate will be mailed to the preferred mailing address you provide on your exam application.

How can I get a new certificate if there is an error, if I lose it, or if I want my name changed?

Email us or call SME Customer Care at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000 to request changes and a new certificate.

What is recertification?

Recertification involves participating in continuing education to accumulate recertification credits. Credits are earned through a multitude of educational activities. Each certification program has its own recertification requirements and fees.

The educational requirements of certification are both a prerequisite and requirement for recertification. Your certification shows employers you are a leader in your field and are committed to continuing your growth and professional development. Note: At this time, you cannot pay your recertification fee online.

How do I check my certification status and expiration date?

Log into your SME account to view your certifications. This will allow you to view your status, exam results, portfolio details, and certification expiration date(s). You may also add your recertification continuing education activities here. Note: At this time, you cannot pay your recertification fee online.

Will I be notified that my certification is expiring?

SME will mail you a statement informing you of your expiration date, the number of credits you have accumulated toward recertification, your recertification fee, directions for logging into your SME account, and directions to upload your recertification activities. Note: At this time, you cannot pay your recertification fee online. You can also contact SME Customer Care at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000 to request this information.

How will I know if I need to recertify by exam?

The only time you will need to retake the exam to recertify is if you have not acquired the necessary recertification activities needed for recertification or you have let your certification lapse.

What are recertification activities and when should I submit mine?

A variety of activities for recertification credits are accepted. You are certified for a three-year period and can submit recertification activities at any time during that period. All recertification activities must align to the certification's Body of Knowledge.

Note: At this time, you cannot pay your recertification fee online.

What if I do not have enough recertification credits to recertify by my expiration date?

You will be granted a three-month grace period to submit your recertification credits and payment. If you do not recertify within that timeframe, you will have the option to retake and pass the exam to recertify.

When should I expect my new certification certificate for recertifying?

Within approximately 30 days of recertifying SME will mail you a copy of your new certificate with your new expiration date.

What is the history of the Lean Certification model?

This industry-leading certification program is the result of an alliance between SME, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Shingo Institute, and the American Society for Quality (ASQ). These organizations partnered to create the Lean Certification program to set the globally recognized standard for lean principles and practices. As a result, the Lean Certification program provides individuals, companies, and educators with a benchmark for achievements and a common roadmap for continuous improvement and workforce development.

The Shingo Institute model was used as a basis for the Body of Knowledge (PDF) (BOK), modified for an approach to individual professional development. This approach to the BOK was validated through research and continually evolves with the profession.

What does Lean Certification assess?

Lean Certification assesses:

  • What candidates “know” about the principles and tools of lean through examinations
  • How candidates practice lean through a portfolio of experience
  • How candidates mentor/coach others in lean at the Silver and Gold Levels
  • How candidates embody lean through a comprehensive interview at the Gold Level.

Is there a source of information I can reference to understand what knowledge, skills, and abilities a lean candidate should possess?

Yes, refer to the Lean Competencies and Behavior Model (PDF) document.

As part of the development of the Lean Certification criteria and process, the practitioners involved took on the substantial task of describing lean practitioners. The resulting Competencies and Behavior Model (PDF) has been a staple to individuals seeking Lean Certification. The model presents descriptions of skills and behaviors associated with each certification level (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) and their relationship to the Lean Certification Body of Knowledge (PDF). Combined with the exam and portfolio, the model provides candidates with a complete picture for lean success. The exam covers knowledge, the portfolio covers application, and the model provides the picture of how effective use of those can result in transformation.

Is there a specific sequence I need to follow to acquire Lean Certification?

Lean Certification is a build forward model, beginning at the Bronze Level and progressing to the desired level of Lean Certification.

I am operating at the Lean Certification Silver Level. Can I skip the Bronze Level and move right into the Silver Level?

We recognize that there are many lean professionals who qualify for the Silver or Gold Levels of certification. A candidate may apply for any level of certification, at any time. If a candidate has not been certified at the previous level (e.g. Bronze, Silver), they must complete all requirements for the previous levels in order to earn their desired level of certification. For example, if a candidate is applying directly for the Gold Level of certification and did not previously earn a Bronze and Silver Level certification, the candidate will need to complete the Bronze and Silver Levels of certification before proceeding to the Gold Level.

What happens after I pass my Lean Bronze exam?

After passing the Lean Bronze exam you will receive a Lean Knowledge Certificate, which is valid for three years. You then have these three years to assemble and submit your Bronze Level portfolio for review. If your portfolio is not submitted within the required timeframe you will be required to start the process over again by retaking the exam. The same rules apply when completing the Silver and Gold Levels.

What is a Lean Certification portfolio?

Whether you are striving for Lean Bronze, Silver, or Gold certification, submitting a comprehensive experiential portfolio is critical to the process. While passing the exams demonstrates your knowledge, the portfolio is the most tangible, and most important, evidence of your lean experience and practice. Reviewers utilize the portfolio as verification of practical, hands-on application of the knowledge you demonstrated by passing the exams.

Is there an online platform to meet with other lean practitioners that have gone through the Lean Certification process?

Yes, we have a Lean Registry social networking platform where you can connect with other practitioners, search for more experienced mentors, join groups, set up blogs, engage in lean discussions, and more. This is a great tool to connect with those who have gone through the process.

How long do I have to submit my Lean Certification portfolio?

You will have three years after passing your exam to submit your lean portfolio (regardless of the level).

What if I cannot complete my Lean Certification portfolio in time?

Please email SME or call us at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000 and provide us with your name, certification number, and reason for not submitting your portfolio on time. Include evidence of hardship. Evidence includes, but is not limited to, extended unemployment, prolonged medical issues, military deployment, and return to active duty. Your request for a hardship extension will be forwarded to the Certification Oversight & Appeals Committee for approval.

I am unemployed and cannot complete my portfolio. What should I do?

If you are unemployed and are seeking guidance on getting involved with projects please email SME or call us at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000. Many project opportunities exist for unemployed candidates, including lean projects with volunteer organizations, schools, chapters, and other volunteer-related activities.

Do you have a Lean Certification portfolio example or writing tips to help me throughout the process?

Portfolio writing tips are available along with other preparation resources. You may also want to review the Lean Certification Portfolio Information and Instructions (PDF).

How do I submit my Lean Certification portfolio?

You can upload your portfolio through your SME account. View page six of the Lean Certification Portfolio Information and Instructions (PDF) for directions.

SME will send you an email confirming that your portfolio was successfully received.

How will my Lean Certification portfolio be reviewed and scored?

This is a peer review process conducted by a volunteer reviewer certified minimally to the level of portfolio they are reviewing. Each reviewer follows a strict set of reviewer instructions while reviewing a portfolio. The reviewer will provide a score on each project submitted, along with feedback to help you rewrite or revise your portfolio if needed.

How many reviewers evaluate my Lean Certification portfolio?

Bronze portfolios have one reviewer per portfolio. Silver portfolios have two reviewers that reach consensus to provide a combined score. Gold portfolios have three reviewers that reach consensus to provide a combined score.

What happens when I pass my Lean Certification portfolio review?

Once your portfolio passes at the Bronze or Silver Level you are fully certified. You will receive informal notification via email. Your official notification and certificate will be sent within 10 business days of your successful completion of the portfolio. If you are challenging for the Gold Level, you will be notified that your portfolio has been accepted (or needs a revision). If your portfolio is accepted, an interview date will then be scheduled.

What happens if I do not pass my Lean Certification portfolio review?

If your portfolio does not pass on the first submission, you will receive a score sheet with feedback from your reviewer. Your scores will clearly indicate areas of deficiency to be addressed, and the reviewer will provide constructive feedback specific to the deficiencies. Comments are intended to assist you with your revision. At this point, SME can connect you with your reviewer to discuss his/her feedback. Because this is a volunteer effort, please be sensitive and patient with the response time from your reviewer. They are open to working with you on your portfolio but please note there may be time constraints. This is not a mentoring/coaching opportunity but rather an open dialogue pertaining to the comments of the failed portions of the portfolio. The Lean Registry is also available to set up a mentoring relationship with fellow lean practitioners.

You have one opportunity to revise and resubmit your portfolio with no penalty. Upon resubmission, if your portfolio does not pass at the second submission, your portfolio will be automatically sent to one or more Lean Certification Oversight & Appeals Committee members for final review and decision. If the committee member(s) also fails those sections, the fail will stand. To continue the certification process, you will have to wait one year from your original portfolio submission date. At that time, you may resubmit your portfolio for an additional portfolio review fee. This waiting period is intended for you to engage in additional projects that may replace the ones that did not pass.

How much time do I have to resubmit my Lean Certification portfolio?

We recommend that you resubmit your portfolio within four to six months while it is still fresh with the reviewer.

What is the process for submitting a revised Lean Certification portfolio?

If you are submitting a revised portfolio we will send it to your original reviewer since your revisions are based on his/her feedback. If your original reviewer is currently scoring another portfolio, they must complete the scoring of that portfolio before they begin rescoring your resubmission. Your reviewer will then only rescore the revised sections of your portfolio.

What will I receive with my Lean Certification portfolio results?

You will receive an email from SME with your attached portfolio score sheet that contains your score for each project and final reflection. You will also receive feedback from the reviewer of areas to address and potential future professional development considerations for your continuous improvement process.

Can I become a Lean Certification portfolio reviewer?

Yes, you must be certified at the level of the portfolio you are reviewing. For example, to review a Lean Bronze portfolio, you must be at least Lean Bronze certified. If you are Lean Silver certified, you can review both Bronze and Silver Level portfolios. Once you decide you would like to become a reviewer, SME will provide you with a set of reviewer instructions. You can accept or deny a portfolio if you are unable to review it at that time submitted. For each portfolio you review you will receive two credits that you can use towards your continue education for recertification. Email SME or call us at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000 if you are interested in becoming a portfolio reviewer.

What if I need additional information?

Complete the online inquiry, email us, or call SME Customer Care at 800.733.4763 or 313.425.3000.