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What Is a Six Sigma Black Belt?

By defining, measuring, and analyzing a business's processes, the Six Sigma strategy can improve the effectiveness of a business's operations.
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  • Written By: Page Coleman
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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A six sigma black belt is a quality management professional with six sigma training, sometimes including certification. People in this role execute quality initiatives aimed at improving manufacturing and other business processes. The six sigma black belt is frequently a consultant who is assigned full time to the execution of projects that focus on the improvement of business processes and manufacturing processes. This professional typically works under the direction of a Master Black Belt. Other than the role of black belt, six sigma methodology roles include that of Executive Leadership, Champions, and Green Belts.

Six sigma process improvement methodologies evolved from other quality management programs, such as Total Quality Management (TQM). The methodology was developed in 1986 by Motorola engineer Bill Smith. The term six sigma is from the field of statistics. In statistics, the term refers to the number of standard deviations from the mean, usually indicating that virtually all samples meet product or process specifications.

Lean manufacturing may use six sigma process improvement methodologies in a quest to reduce waste, for example. One of the six sigma process goals is to reduce defects to fewer than 3.4 defects per million over the long term. By decreasing the frequency of defects, which are waste, businesses that apply these quality improvement methods hope to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.

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Six sigma also supports two project methodologies. One is used for creating new process or product designs and may be referred to as Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) or DMADV. Its steps are: define goals of the design, measure and establish critical quality elements, analyze, design details, and verify the design. The other methodology is known as DMAIC, and it is for improving established business processed. DMAIC steps are: define the problem, measure, analyze, improve, and control.

People who are interested in the role of six sigma black belt may attend six sigma training sessions offered by employers, colleges, universities or other educational facilities. The training may be offered in person or online. Depending on the student’s career goals, training by itself, with no six sigma certification, may be sufficient. If a student should decide to pursue six sigma black belt certification, he will want to investigate various certifying bodies to identify which one is respected in his industry, and which meets his budget and time constraints.

Skills that are important to six sigma black belts include an extensive knowledge of quality management, manufacturing processes and process management. This quality control professional should have a thorough understanding of business management, and his business training should include learning about the business processes. The six sigma black belt frequently oversees the work of Green Belts, who are employees that are assisting with six sigma manufacturing or business processes improvement. In these cases, the six sigma black belt should have supervising and mentoring skills.

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