What is Six Sigma training and how can it help my business?
Developed by Motorola, Six Sigma helps businesses increase the quality of their output by decreasing variation during the production process
Six Sigma is a business management strategy that helps businesses improve the quality of their products and services, by successfully identifying and removing the causes of variation within the manufacturing process.
In minimising variation, businesses can ensure a consist standard of quality in their output, and as a result, will increase profits by saving money on returns and the cost of re-production – as well as improving overall customer satisfaction.
An example of variation within a manufacturing process could be a business that makes high-end wool jumpers. However, a small oversight in the production channel means 5% of the jumpers have frayed wool and are returned by customers – costing the business both money and reputation.
Once a company has implemented Six Sigma, constant monitoring is essential in ensuring improvements are sustained.
Six Sigma is characterised by the acronym DMAIC – usually pronounced “duh-may-ik” – which describes the five distinct segments of the process. These are: Define, measure, analyse, improve and control.
The Six Sigma theory says that defects and deviations within production process are overwhelming down to inadequate systems – rather than employee negligence.
The maturity of a manufacturing process can be described by a Sigma rating, indicating its yield, or, the percentage of defect-free products it creates.
In fixing these processes and procedures, businesses use a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and create a special infrastructure of employees within their organisation who hold Six Sigma certification.
Employees trained in Six Sigma can hold varying degrees of expertise, pending on what type and what amount of training they receive.
However, it’s important to note that certification can only be granted by accredited training courses – which we’ll discuss below.
Like martial arts, Six Sigma is divided into different levels of experience, and graded via a belt system.
There are four core belts, that work from beginner to master, which are:
- White Belt
- Yellow Belt
- Green Belt
- Black Belt
Aside from the main ones above, there are also different sub-sections of Six Sigma belts, including Lean varieties as well as Champion and Master titles.
Developed by engineer Bill Smith in 1986 while he was working at Motorola, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Jack Welch made Six Sigma central to the multinational business strategy in 1995.
Applicable to pretty much any sector imaginable, other household names who use Six Sigma include Amazon, Boeing, Credit Suisse, Dell, Ford Motor Company, Shop Direct, and the United States Army.
How much does Six Sigma training cost?
Pending on the provider, Six Sigma training courses can normally be completed either online, in-house or externally.
With training courses running continuously throughout the year at venues throughout the UK, courses are often best suited to individuals or small groups.
However, providers offering in-house sessions (those that take place at your own office) can offer more tailored sessions to suit the number of employees you want to attend.
Much like the size of participants, Six Sigma training can also vary in length as with each belt progression, the requirements for progression become that much harder.
Beginner courses for White Belts can be completed in a single morning, whilst Master Black Belts can take many months of work to attain.
Six Sigma training costs can vary by belt and by course type, with Lean courses generally being a bit more expensive.
You can expect courses to cost in the region of:
- White Belt: £200+
- Yellow Belt: £600+
- Green Belt: £2,000+
- Black Belt: £3,500+
Different types of Six Sigma training
Much like in martial arts, the White Belt in Six Sigma training is the lowest and most basic of all belts and serves as primarily an introductory level. Upon completion, employees should be able to solve small pre-existing issues in the workflow process.
A trained Six Sigma White Belt holder will:
- Possess an understanding of the history and rationale Six Sigma processes
- Understand the basic structure of a Six Sigma project
- Have an understanding of customer voices
- Be able to use DMAIC Processes (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control)
- Improve customer satisfaction through process waste minimisation
First things first, you don’t need to earn a White Belt prior to undertaking training for a Yellow Belt so you or your employees can start at this point if you so wish. A much more thorough introduction to Six Sigma than White Belt training, a Yellow Belt often participates as a team member and acts as a supporter to the Six Sigma project leader.
A trained Six Sigma Yellow Belt holder will have:
- A deep comprehension of Six Sigma and the fundamentals of the Six Sigma process
- A familiarity with the fundamentals of variation and how it affects business processes
- An understanding of how to effectively utilise the DMAIC methodology
- The necessary tools for improving processes
Like the Yellow Belt, Six Sigma Green Belt training courses have no prerequisites and will normally include Yellow Built material. However, Green belt training courses can last for up to five days – and it can sometimes take people up to three years to become fully qualified. To be a certified Green Belt, you’ll need to complete the training course, pass the exam and carry out your own improvement project.
A trained Six Sigma Yellow Belt holder will help you or your employees:
- Develop strategies that streamline and re-align your business
- Design and develop Six Sigma projects
- Successfully apply the DMAIC methodology to your work process
- Perform basic statistical analysis on process measurements
- Gain confidence in planning and executing projects
- Become familiar with root cause analysis
- Increase company profits
- Select the best statistical tools to implement in your projects
Obtaining a Six Sigma Black Belt indicates that you are a Six Sigma project leader – that you are comfortable using a variety of statistical tools to measure and analyse processes, identify problems and plan improvements. Black Belt courses generally last for 16 to 20 days and end with a four hour open book examination.
A trained Six Sigma Black Belt holder can:
- Comfortably lead and educate a team in Six Sigma methodologies
- Expertly analyse process statistics and identify where waste can be reduced
- Manage Six Sigma projects and efficiently lead them to a successful completion
- Utilise a wide range of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ process improvement skills and techniques
Potential drawback of Six Sigma training
The only potential drawback of implementing Six Sigma, is that you become so focussed on internal processes and improvements, and saving money on production and buying costs, that you ultimately lose focus on growing top line sales.
Six Sigma training quotes
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