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What is Six Sigma and How Can it Help You?

Have you heard the term Six Sigma tossed around in business conversations and secretly wondered what it meant? You’re not the only one. This article will introduce you to the concept of Six Sigma and tell you how you can advance your career with a Six Sigma certification.

What Is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a collection of tools, strategies, and practices designed to help businesses improve their operations. Most often applied to manufacturing, Six Sigma aims to increase customer satisfaction and profits by reducing time, errors, pollution, and costs. Imagine you live in a house with old windows. Your windows are so inefficient that it’s hard to keep the temperature inside your house steady. You spend lots of money on heat and air conditioning just to keep the air at a comfortable temperature. One day you get tired of wasting so much money on heating and cooling your house, so you have the windows replaced. Now you’re happy because the heat and air conditioning work much better and you’re spending far less money on energy costs. Now imagine that house is a large corporation, the old windows are the corporation’s business processes, and all that heat and air conditioning are time, errors, pollution, and costs. Six Sigma, then, is the window replacement.

The History of Six Sigma

Originally developed by Motorola in 1985 to drive manufacturing improvements, Six Sigma was made famous in the mid-1990s when General Electric made it a central business focus. Since then, Fortune 500 companies have saved hundreds of billions of dollars using Six Sigma practices.

The Basics of Six Sigma

The core of the Six Sigma methodology is the DMAIC model, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. This model guides Six Sigma experts in their work to continuously improve business processes.

Six Sigma Certification

People who want to be recognized as Six Sigma experts need to take and pass a certification exam. This may sound a little daunting, but getting certified is worth it – the average Six Sigma Green Belt earns an annual salary of $72,000. Even better, your employer may pay for you to take the courses and the certification exam.

Certification Levels

There are three levels of certification for Six Sigma experts in the United States. A Six Sigma Green Belt is awarded to individuals who have been trained in the DMAIC model and other essential concepts. Green Belts participate in Six Sigma projects but typically don’t assume leadership roles. You can sit for a Six Sigma Green Belt qualifying exam after completing an eight-week online training course. Most certified Six Sigma experts in the US are green belts. A Six Sigma Black Belt is awarded to individuals who complete a sixteen-week training course and pass a qualifying exam. Black Belts can lead Six Sigma projects and train Green Belts and aspiring belt holders. A Six Sigma Master Black Belt must score a 70% or higher on the Black Belt qualifying exam and submit a Master Black Belt project. Master Black Belts provide training and mentoring to Green Belts and Black Belts. This is a rare certification – only a select few are Master Black Belts. In Europe, the Lean Six Sigma Academy combines the principles of Six Sigma with Lean Manufacturing, another process improvement framework pioneered by Toyota. In addition to awarding green and black belts, the LSSA also offers yellow and orange belt certification.

Certification Programs

There are numerous Six Sigma certifying bodies in the United States, but one of the largest and most respected is the American Society for Quality. This organization awards green, black, and master black belts along with numerous other quality control certifications.

Is Six Sigma Certification Right For You?

Six Sigma certification isn’t for everybody, but if you decide to pursue it you’ll join an elite group of professionals who are committed to improving business performance and customer satisfaction. If you’re interested in making a meaningful contribution to your company and you enjoy analytical work, a Six Sigma certification can be a rewarding and lucrative career move.    

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