The modern business environment demands not only that every company, director, manager and employee is working at optimum efficiency at all times but also that the efficiency is measurable and demonstrable.
Six Sigma methodologies provide a framework for the measurement and analysis of key business processes, enabling positive decision making based on verifiable data and the introduction of improvements whose impact can be tracked and checked through well chosen metrics.
Six Sigma training provides employees at any level within an organisation with the knowledge they need to understand and implement Six Sigma projects.
Six Sigma practices offer proven performance improvements and profit boosts
Six Sigma Training: An Introduction
Electronics manufacturer Motorola developed Six Sigma as a business management strategy in 1986. The name Six Sigma derives from statistical techniques used to model manufacturing processes. A six sigma process would be expected to produce only 3.4 defects per million.
By redefining a ‘defect’ as anything that didn't match customer expectations, the Six Sigma measure of efficiency and its associated methodologies were adapted for use in any type of business. The following guiding principles emerged as the most popular and effective for those practising Six Sigma techniques:
- All business processes have features that can be measured and analysed
- Continuous improvement through the minimisation of defects and reduced variability of outcomes is essential
- All projects to improve processes must show a measurable financial return
- Strong leadership is essential to implement process improvements and a tired hierarchy of Six Sigma Champions is the most effective way of ensuring this
DMAIC and PDCA
Two new project methodologies were also derived to support the Six Sigma methodology. The first was DMAIC, a clearly defined, improvement process that stands for:
The second was PDCA, which is a more general overview of the improvement process and stands for:
Each is process guides the practitioner through the project using defined measurement, statistical and analytical techniques to ensure the accomplishment of well-defined project goals.
To find out more about DMAIC and PDCA processes, we recommend the following page:
Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma is a more progressive form of Six Sigma that embraces lean manufacturing processes to further reduce waste and increase profits. It is heavily focussed on trimming the fat from weighty workplace processes, as well as streamlining overall time management across an entire team.
For more information on Lean Six Sigma methodologies, we recommend the following:
Could you benefit from using DMAIC, PDCA or Lean processes at work?
Six Sigma Training Options
A vast array of Six Sigma training options are available to both organisations and individuals. The hierarchical tiers of Six Sigma are broken up into different belts, much like karate is. Practitioners start at White Belt and progress towards Black Belt and Master Black Belt through further training and project completion:
It is not uncommon to achieve White Belt after completing a one day introductory course, which educates the trainee in the fundamental concepts, tools and techniques of Six Sigma projects. For further information on White Belt training, we recommend our Approved Overview.
Sometimes also called a Foundation Green Belt, the Yellow Belt course provides a more in depth study of the Six Sigma project structure and provides some of the basic, non-statistical tools required for measurement and analysis. You’ll find more information on courses and content in our Approved Overview of Six Sigma Yellow Belts.
Six Sigma Green Belts are essential for team leaders who are going to be implementing Six Sigma projects. Courses can last up to two weeks and require evidence of completed Six Sigma projects to progress further. Our Approved Overview of Six Sigma Green Belts will tell you everything you need to know.
The Black Belt course looks in depth at the five stages of the DMAIC programme and also provides sophisticated statistical tools and techniques for data management and analysis. It also offers the ‘soft’ tools required for real life management of a Six Sigma project team. You can read more about Six Sigma Black Belts in our in-depth Approved Overview.
Master Black Belt
The highest achievable level of Six Sigma belt, the Master Black Belt refines practitioners knowledge of Six Sigma tools and management techniques and equips them with the knowledge to carry out Six Sigma projects on an enterprise wide level. Master Black Belts have the skills, knowledge and techniques required to train and mentor Black Belts and Green Belts working underneath them.
The content of courses varies between different training companies, so be careful to compare course outlines carefully.
Six Sigma Certification
There is no single body or authority that administrates or regulates Six Sigma certification. Various organisations exist that provide Six Sigma certification and these are recognised and respected by the business community at large to different degrees. The two main certifying bodies in the UK are the British Quality Foundation and BSI Group, both of which are widely recognised.
Green Belt and Black Belt certification both involve taking open book exams and completing work based projects.
Comparing Six Sigma Providers
When deciding upon a company to deliver your Six Sigma training a number of factors need to be taken into consideration. Whether you’re looking for open courses for one or two people or tailored in-house training for a number of people within your organisation you need to consider carefully:
- Course content - Does the course on offer provide all the content with which you need familiarity? Is the learning backed up by practical exercises which reinforce key concepts and demonstrate team dynamics or is it all lecture and book based?
- Software - Is the statistical software provided or will you need to purchase programmes like Minitab separately? Is a discount available from the training provider?
- Duration - Is the course long enough to allow the concepts to sink in? Is it unnecessarily long to justify extra expense?
- Certification - Is certification included in the price? If not, how much will it cost to purchase separately? Bear in mind that different provider’s courses are geared towards different certification bodies’ exams, so purchasing the two together is usually wisest.
For Open Courses:
- Location - Where is the training delivered? What are the implications for travel and accommodation for the trainees?
- Size of class - Is the class size small enough to allow each trainee sufficient attention?
For In-house courses:
- Tailoring - How specific can the training company make the training to your organisation? Will they alter course content accordingly? Is this something you require or would you prefer candidates to pick up more transferable skills?
- Expenses - Check for hidden charges like the trainer’s expenses.
Approved Index offers a fast and free price comparison of top UK Six Sigma providers
External Six Sigma Training
Six Sigma certification is normally purchased at the same time as training and supervised by the training company according to the accrediting body’s guidelines. Certification normally requires the sitting of an open book exam.
British Quality Foundation Lean Six Sigma Certification -The BQF is a not-for-profit corporate membership organisation which was founded in 1993 by the UK Government and leading UK businesses. They offer both training and certification in Lean Six Sigma – the variety of Six Sigma that incorporates Lean Manufacturing methodologies aimed at reducing the waste that results from business processes – and they also provide certification via third party training companies.
Chartered Quality Institute Lean Six Sigma Certification -Established in 1919, the CQI is a chartered body for quality management professionals. They offer Lean Six Sigma training and certification via their partner companies. The Green Belt certification process involves sitting an online e-exam. Black belt certification with the CQI involves sitting a part closed book, part open book exam and presenting a qualifying Six Sigma project.
BSI Group Lean Six Sigma Certification -BSI is a global independent business services organisation which offers Lean training and certification to ISO 13053 standards. They offer training courses tailored to manufacturing or service industry requirements to Green and Black Belt levels.
Online Six Sigma Training
E-learning options are available from a number of sources, as are ‘blended learning’ solutions that combine online learning with class room based workshops.
The main advantage of taking your Six Sigma course online is the convenience. Most people who undertake Six Sigma training have full-time jobs thus the ability to do the course as and when they are free is a big plus.
When you sign up for a Six Sigma certification course, you will be given access to online learning materials. Some course providers will send you textbooks on top of the online materials. You will also be given access to your instructors (normally Master Black Belts) who will check your exams and answer whatever questions you have. Some certification processes involve over-the-phone interviews with a Master Black Belt.
You will be given a set period of time within which to finish your course. The length of this period depends on the training provider. Some allow students up to a year to finish their training.
The costs for online Six Sigma courses vary with each provider. Yellow Belt and Champion training can cost as little as £200, while Green Belt and Black Belt courses start at £1,000.