Before we go into details lets remind ourselves that Six Sigma includes tools and techniques for process improvement and reduction of defects. With Six Sigma you improve quality when you remove causes of defects. You also minimize variations in processes.
Certification programs support Six Sigma programs so let’s look closer now at the levels for Lean certification. Lean Manufacturing or Lean is a method of eliminating waste within a process and can tie into a Six Sigma approach.
As part of Six Sigma programs companies such as Motorola and General Electric developed certification programs. In the 1990s the number of organizations offering certification grew. Today you can get certification through a professional association, university, or for-profit organization or company. Not all programs are the same as there is no standard exam you must pass to get a certification. Some groups such as the American Society for Quality require that you pass a written exam to get a Black Belt certification. You must also have completed projects and have practical experience.
Another group that offers certification is the Institute of Industrial Engineers. Schools that offer certification include Dartmouth, George Washington, Cornell, Cleveland State, Case Western Reserve, The Ohio State University, Rutgers, Purdue, Kent State, and San Jose State.
Terminology and Levels
Six Sigma programs use terminology similar to a Judo martial arts system to define the level of certification.
• Master Black Belts are at the top level. They act as coaches and devote all of their time in their job to continuous improvement efforts.
• Black Belts work with Master Black Belts as they put into reality for a specific project the principles of Six Sigma. Black Belts typically work on a project while Master Black Belts work more on functions and identification of new projects.
• Green Belts implement projects and typically have another job such as engineer.
• Yellow Belts are recognized in some organizations. These individuals can have basic training and participate in project work.
• Orange Belts and White Belts are also recognized in some organizations. For example, an Orange Belt or White Belt could be trained for special projects.
Examples of certification programs today include achieving a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in Healthcare, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in Finance, and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in Services. Each program has a focus on how to increase efficiency and reduce waste.
We just looked at an explanation of levels of certification in Lean Six Sigma. Certification is tied to Lean Six Sigma Belts. A belt shows your level of knowledge and experience. These belts are similar to what you see in Judo where the darker the color of the belt, the more experience, skill, and training you have. Black Belts are a level higher than a Green Belt or Yellow Belt.
You can get certification from the American Society for Quality, a school, or another organization or consulting group. In short, a Black Belt is an expert. A Green Belt could work with a Black Belt to lead a simple project. A Yellow Belt could assist a Green Belt in a project and provide data collection as one example of their work. A White Belt knows the basics and could be in management or have a staff position where knowing the basics will help the organization.