ASQ - Six Sigma Forum

Scott Thor, vice president organizational excellence, Lortz Manufacturing Co.

Scott Thor

Scott Thor, an ASQ member since 2001, works for Lortz Manufacturing Co. in Bakersfield, CA, where he is vice president of organizational excellence. In this position, he is a part of the senior leadership team and has a primary focus on leadership and associate development, strategic planning, data systems, performance measurement and customer focus initiatives. Lortz provides engineered solutions to the oil and gas, aerospace, construction, and power generation industries.

Thor earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from the University of Nebraska and an MBA from the University of Sioux Falls. He is currently working on a doctoral degree in management at George Fox University. He is an ASQ certified quality engineer, manager of quality/organizational excellence and Six Sigma Black Belt. 

Thor recently answered questions about the importance of Six Sigma and gave some advice to those new to quality.

What do you think is most important in implementing a Six Sigma project?
The most important aspect of implementing a Six Sigma project is having a clear definition of the problem. Without clear problem definition, projects tend to have scope creep and become unmanageable.

Also critical to implementation is having the right team members. Often, Six Sigma projects require a unique set of individuals (Black and green belts, process owners, etc.) to make the project successful.

A final aspect to project success is management support. This must not only include upper management, but also—and maybe even more importantly—middle management. I believe middle management is often overlooked in regard to Six Sigma projects. Sure, upper management has to support the overall program, but middle management is where the real action takes place. The quickest way to sink a Six Sigma program is to have a lack of middle management commitment.

Why do you think Six Sigma is important?
Six Sigma is important for a number of reasons: it delivers bottom-line results, improves customer satisfaction, uses a structured approach and ensures the improvements survive long after the project ends.

Why do you think quality is important?
Quality is a basic requirement that an organization must have to simply survive. Without quality, an organization cannot exist.

What’s your favorite benefit of quality?
From a career standpoint, the best benefit is how flexible the quality field is. The skills one learns in quality improvement methods such as Six Sigma transfer to practically all professions. Quality also gives you an opportunity to always be working on improvement that leads to better results.

Why did you choose to go into the quality field?
In some ways I didn’t choose the quality field—it chose me. I began in manufacturing engineering and, after finishing a master’s degree, I was asked to join the quality department at the division headquarters for the company I worked for at the time. I’ve since chosen to continue in the quality field. Because of the versatility of the quality profession, I have been able to expand the value I can now provide to any type of organization, from service to manufacturing industries.

What’s your best advice to someone new to quality?
There are several actions those new to quality can take to become successful in the field. The best advice I can offer is to find a mentor from whom you can learn. He or she can be found in a variety of ways using the internet, but perhaps the best method is to find someone you can work with face to face. The local ASQ sections offer a perfect avenue to find your mentor.

Another suggestion is to consider an ASQ certification. Much of what I learned early on came from studying for ASQ exams. I was lucky enough to work for an organization where I could not only study the body of knowledge, but could also apply it to real problems, which helped significantly in passing the difficult exams.


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