Understanding the Lean Six Sigma Tiered Belt System

category-badge-OPEXEvery manufacturing company has a desire to reduce costs and increase revenue. One of the best ways to do that is to take a hard look at the company’s processes and find out where they can be improved. But identifying process defects within a constantly buzzing manufacturing environment is not always so easy. If you do happen to identify a few of them, tackling them singularly or in a haphazard manner will only lead to frustration, both for you and your workers. Your solution to this lies in Lean Six Sigma (LSS) training.

LSS was designed to help you measure the number of defects you have in your processes and give you a line of attack to systematically eliminate them. When using LSS, the goal is to get as close to zero defects as possible. In order to be considered Six Sigma caliber, your process should be at 3.4 or less defects per million opportunities.

To deploy LSS within a company, its employees must be trained using Six Sigma’s hierarchical process, which is a colored belt tier system. The Belts indicate the level of LSS training achieved and range from White Belt for core training up to Master Black Belt for those with the most expertise and experience. In order for LSS to be successful, training must occur for all levels of the organization.

In all, there are five Six Sigma Belts—White, Yellow, Green, Black and Master Black—and what is known as a Champion. Many people wonder why there are tiers in LSS training, and what the differences are between them. Can’t everyone just get a core of LSS training and make it work? The short answer is no. Just as there are differences in the work responsibilities of each employee to ensure the company operates smoothly, there are differences in the responsibilities of each Belt.

The below graphic gives an overview of a few of the primary responsibilities of the Lean Six Sigma Belts (click the image to enlarge).



Let’s take a deeper look at the roles and responsibilities of each of the Belts and you will see how they are all necessary to the development of a successful LSS culture.

Six Sigma White Belt

White is the inaugural level of the LSS certification process and involves training to understand the fundamental concepts of Six Sigma. White Belts tackle problems at the local level by joining with professionals who possess Green or Black Belts. Training is generally quick because it is focused only on imparting a basic working knowledge of Six Sigma principles. Competent White Belts are valuable as support for higher Belts because they are able to collect data and offer insight into how processes are working.

Six Sigma Yellow Belt

While White Belts are trained in the core concepts of Six Sigma, Yellow Belts are trained in the specifics of the Six Sigma process. They are trained to understand what the process is, how it works and how the disciplines can be applied to their workplace. They are also able to identify the best areas in which to concentrate their time as they continue to learn the process specifics. As they become knowledgeable in all aspects contained in the phases of Define, Measure and Control (D-M-C), Yellow Belts are just getting into the excitement of eliminating defects within their systems.

Six Sigma Green Belt

Green Belts are the next certification in line after Yellow in the LSS tiered belt system. These are the individuals who are best described as the workhorses of a company, and the keys to creating a culture shift. They analyze and solve quality problems, assist with quality improvement projects, and aid in reviewing data and suggestions presented to them by White and Yellow Belts. Green Belts are able to apply Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC) tools to everyday problems and assist with teams and team projects that provide measurable improvement to their company. While they primarily act in support of Black Belts, Green Belts may on occasion lead and manage projects of their own where their experience and expertise permits. Positions frequently held by Green Belts are: Compliance Structural Engineer, Lead Manufacturing Engineer, Operating Systems Specialist, Project Engineer, and Senior IT Project Manager.

Six Sigma Black Belt

If you’re looking for the agents of change within an organization, look no further than the professionals with Black Belt certification. These individuals possess a complete comprehension of the philosophies and principles as well as the systems and tools of Six Sigma. Additionally, they understand all aspects of the DMAIC model as it applies to LSS principles. When it comes to demonstrating leadership, Black Belts know all about team dynamics and how to assign roles and responsibilities to team members. The ultimate goal for a Black Belt is to increase their company’s overall quality and profitability. Positions frequently held by Black Belts are: Project Manager, Vice President of Operations, and Manager of Manufacturing.

Six Sigma Master Black Belt

For those individuals who have demonstrated a penchant for solving difficult problems, are both self-reliant and self-starters, and have put in the time appropriate to their tasks, they have what it takes to receive additional training and be certified as a Master Black Belt. These professionals are the LSS and Black Belt subject matter experts. Master Black Belts have vast experience in coaching, teaching and mentoring in addition to their technical experience and ability to innovate. Positions often held by Master Black Belts are: Senior Project Manager, Senior Process Engineer, and Lean Transformation Expert.

Six Sigma Champion

Champions are vital to successful LSS initiatives. They sponsor projects and mentor teams and act as a bridge between Black Belts and organization management. Because they are typically executives or leaders, they are in a position to neutralize issues that may arise between a Black Belt and any another person within the company. If the issue is with someone in a higher formal position within the company, it is even more important that there is a Champion available to defuse the situation, allowing the Black Belt to focus on the project rather than waste time engaging in a frivolous struggle. While it’s not required that Champions be experts in LSS tools and techniques, they do need to be highly proficient in facilitation, collaboration and conflict resolution.

We’re Here to Help

If reducing costs and increasing revenue sounds good to you, and you’re interested in implementing LSS into your organization, PolymerOhio Manufacturing Solutions has the experts and experience to guide you. We can help you identify process defects and provide the appropriate Six Sigma training for your employees, just as we did for Allied Mineral. If you would like to learn more, get in touch with us today.

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Jill Jones

Marketing Communications Manager at PolymerOhio Inc.

Jill is a formally trained graphic and web designer and writer who has been employed as such for more than 18 years. Her experience includes long-term employment with a Columbus-based technology consulting firm that worked closely for years with the State and Federal government, and the Human Resources & Engagement Department of Honda North America. She manages both of PolymerOhio's websites, their social media, blog writing and editing of guest posts, and marketing materials.
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