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Lean Gold Certification Emerges

Jeff Lytle has some unique bragging rights. He entered manufacturing-excellence record books by recently receiving the first-ever Lean Gold Certification.

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That achievement capped an almost two-year journey for the Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with Omnova Solutions Inc. (, a Fairlawn, Ohio-based maker of commercial wallcoverings, upholstery fabrics, laminates and other polymer products.  

His Gold Certification, which focuses on strategic transformation of the enterprise, is the highest level of Lean Certification. This peer-reviewed recognition comes through the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME,, at whose Web site the certification’s requirements can be found, as well as the Association for Manufacturing Excellence ( and the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing (  

Gold seekers must already possess those organization’s Lean Bronze and Silver Certifications. Once they’ve applied for Lean Gold, the hopefuls get a comprehensive kit that helps them prepare
for pursuit of the Gold. This will require them to substantiate appropriate levels of education, knowledge, experience and mentoring before taking a final exam.  

As part of their proof, candidates must establish their comprehension of the Lean Certification Body of Knowledge ( It contains the checklist of what candidates should understand and the weight that items carry. A sampling of them shows the significance of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Toyota Production System (TPS, autonomation, or jidoka, which Toyota indicates might be translated as “automation with a human touch;” continuous improvement, or kaizen; customer demand pace, or takt time; load leveling, or heijunka; mistake proofing, or poka-yoke; and pull systems, or kanban.  

Bryan Lund, chair of SME’s Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee, recommends that certification candidates educate themselves about TPS’ origins—“and the trials and tribulations experienced over the past 60 years by this Lean company (Toyota).” Reflecting on Toyota’s experience helps candidates understand the meaning behind the Lean principles and tools as they use them, says Lund, who is also Lean Coordinator in entered manufacturing-excellence record the Global Lean Office of Energizer Battery, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings Inc. (  

Through an experience portfolio, Lean Gold candidates must verify their leadership of an ongoing business Lean transformation. That means submitting records of value-stream transformations in each of four areas. One is demand. Two others are delivery and development. The fourth is support, including post-delivery customer support. “The portfolio is the heart of the Lean Certification process. This step requires deep reflection of past experience and robust planning of their future professional development,” Lund states.  

Develop strategy  

Besides experience and knowledge, Lean Gold candidates must also confirm that they’ve developed a training strategy and delivery for Knowledge Certificate holders and/or Bronze- or
Silver-level Lean practitioners. Even the candidate’s organization undergoes scrutiny. According to SME, it “will be examined to the Shingo Prize Criteria independently or in conjunction with a recognized Shingo Prize partner.”  

After submitting their portfolios, candidates must successfully pass a three-hour, open-book, 150-question exam. Questions are based on six specific recommended readings. SME offers those books for sale individually or in a pre-packaged set.  

“The certification process represents the application of this foundational element of Lean: standardization,” asserts Tim Pettry, member of the Shingo Prize Board of Examiners and SME’s Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals Committee. “Organizations looking for Lean resource
assistance can now be assured that people possessing this credential have been certified by a very rigorous process. Individuals earning certification are now afforded a credential that is portable and recognized internationally,” adds Pettry, also production-system coach with Dearborn,
Mich.-headquartered Ford Motor Co.’s ( Powertrain Operations.  

Lytle’s Gold is valid for three years, meaning he’ll have to continue updating
his portfolio.

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