What is Six Sigma? Sigma certifications and how to get them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Organisations may need tools that can help them streamline their processes and increase profit. Many organisations have used the Six Sigma tools to ensure they remove all the defects in their processes. The main focus of Six Sigma is to assist an organisation in terms of quality management. In this article, we discuss what Six Sigma is, outline the steps of Six Sigma, and describe Six Sigma certification and its benefits.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a set of quality-control techniques, developed in 1986 by a Motorola engineer named Bill Smith, that companies can use to reduce flaws and optimise processes to maximise profitability. Sigma is a Greek letter that symbolises one standard deviation from the mean on a Bell curve. If a process falls within three standard deviations above or below the mean, defects are low. Six Sigma strives to improve the efficiency of quality control in manufacturing and commercial processes so that there's little or no variance.

Related: What is an agile project manager? (Plus how to become one)

How to use Six Sigma techniques

Follow these steps when using Six Sigma techniques:

1. Definition

The defining stage aims to gather all the knowledge required to break down a project, challenge or process into manageable parts. This stage includes drafting a problem statement, developing a project charter, reviewing client requirements and outlining a process map. This is a crucial phase in which the team defines the project's aim and the organisation's leadership. In this stage, you can use tools such as Pareto charts and suppliers, inputs, process, output and customers (SIPOC).

2. Measuring

Measuring involves quantifying the problem by measuring the current process performance. As the team collects data, it concentrates on the process and the metrics that matter to customers. In this phase, you can utilise many tools, including benchmarking, process flowcharts, run charts and Gage repeatability and reproducibility (GR&R). The two techniques you can use in this phase are process sigma and defect per million opportunities (DPMO).

3. Analysis

The main purpose of this phase is to pinpoint the origin of inefficiency in the company. It highlights the gap between actual and desired performance, together with causes and solutions. This phase begins with a thorough examination of all origins of the main issue. Using statistical tools and hypotheses, the team can then evaluate and validate root causes to address. Tools you can use for analysis include brainstorming, fishbone diagrams, histograms and scatterplots.

4. Improvement

This stage improves the process by discovering potential solutions, establishing how to put them into practice and then testing and applying them for improvement. During this phase, the team consults owners to suggest how to further improve the system. The tools the team uses include prototyping, the Pugh matrix and simulation software.

5. Control

The primary purpose of this phase is to develop a detailed solution-monitoring policy. This strategy ensures that the team meets the required level of performance and set standards. It creates and assesses the monitoring system, guidelines and procedures, confirms benefits and maximises profit and communication with the company. The most important aspect of this phase is providing training to all key stakeholders regarding recent developments.

During this process, the team examines the post-implementation results, determines the progress and integrates the changes. The tools the team may use in this phase include process sigma calculation, control charts and cost-saving calculation.

Six Sigma certification levels

Here are the levels of Six Sigma certification:

White Belt

This is a basic-level certification. This certificate equips you with basic knowledge about Six Sigma. In the organisation, White Belts aid projects by assisting with change management. They collaborate with local problem-solving groups to achieve their objectives.

Yellow Belt

Yellow Belt training covers a broad range of Six Sigma concepts and applications, such as management roles, essential statistical tools and the define, measure, analyse, improve and control (DMAIC) method. The Yellow Belt Six Sigma credential denotes an organisation's awareness of the root cause, problem-solving and application of proper data-gathering tools and methodologies to minimise the defect rate. Yellow Belts might contribute to project teams, and managers with higher belts may benefit from their assistance.

Green Belt

Green Belt is a Six Sigma intermediate certification available to manufacturing companies. Those who pass this level can enrol in a comprehensive training program that teaches them how to develop process-improvement techniques, statistical tools and data modelling. Green Belts can manage projects and help Black Belts in gathering and analysing data.

Black Belt

Certified Six Sigma Black Belt experts can teach Six Sigma principles, support systems and technologies. A Black Belt can lead a team, comprehend working relationships and assign roles and tasks to team members. Black Belts also have a comprehensive understanding of all parts of the DMAIC model.

Master Black Belt

This level of certification is the top certification in Six Sigma. A Master Black Belt holder is a skilled and competent leader with exceptional problem-solving capabilities. A Black Belt Master is a Six Sigma leader who can help organisations maximise revenues by eliminating waste and defects.

Related: Project lead vs. project manager: definitions and differences

Importance of Six Sigma certifications

Here's a list of significant benefits of having Six Sigma certifications:

Career boost

The most typical reason to obtain a certification is to advance in your profession. Having a certification in Six Sigma lets employers know that you have the required knowledge and skills that may help streamline their business. This enables you to stand out from other candidates, increasing your chances of securing the job.

Increase in salary

Having an extra qualification in your field may increase your salary. The increase may depend on the number and levels of certifications you take. Other elements that would affect your pay include the type of company you're applying to and your years of experience.

Related: Salary increment: What it is and how you can negotiate it

Organisation growth

Applying the skills and knowledge in Six Sigma may help the organisation grow and achieve its goals. An organisation that has a workforce with these skills may find it easier to work on projects that improve processes and increase productivity. Team members may perform analyses to determine the cause of a problem and identify an efficient solution.

Gaining a clear understanding

Additional certification helps you gain more skills and knowledge that may assist you in developing your career. Certifications may equip you with the skills to apply methodologies in your duties. By gaining this, you may be able to analyse problems and find the correct solution.

How to get a Six Sigma certification

Here are the steps involved in acquiring a Six Sigma certification:

1. Examine your current position and professional objectives

Before choosing the proper accreditation, consider what you're doing in your career and whether the various certificates apply to your goals. This method helps you to set priorities and network with professionals. This increases your chances of working your way up a career path to work in a particular position.

2. Choose the certification program

You could choose a certification that fits your passion and background. Determine the best certification course for you based on your expertise and the type of job you desire. The different Six Sigma certifications may require you to have specific experience to take them.

You may begin searching for the certification appropriate for your skills and level of experience. Search online for a suitable certificate or consult other professionals in the field to advise you.

3. Pass your written exams

After completing your course, you can take and pass the Six Sigma certification exams. Six Sigma certification has a different duration before doing your exams. The passing score for written exams is 70%.

4. Complete your certification program's final project

As part of the training program, you may complete several projects. A final project is a requirement to receive the certification. Completing the project may help you sharpen your skills and increase the chance of securing a job opportunity.

Industries using Six Sigma

Most of the manufacturing industries use Six Sigma to achieve their success. Some of the industries that have adopted Six Sigma include:

  • consumer electronics

  • food and beverage

  • transportation

  • general consumer goods

  • energy

  • construction

  • heavy machinery and industrial equipment

  • automotive

  • mining

Frequently asked questions about Six Sigma

These are examples of frequently asked questions about Six Sigma:

1. How long does it take to complete a Six Sigma certification?

On average, it may take up to seven weeks to complete a Six Sigma certification. The examination includes 100 true-or-false and multiple-choice questions. The exam may take up to two hours, and you can do it online from any place.

2. What is the requirement for the Black Belt Six Sigma?

The Six Sigma Black Belt requires three years of work experience to qualify for the training. In addition, you may need additional skills, such as creative thinking, superb communication skills and leadership ability. Other institutions require two projects with affidavits or one project, a signed affidavit and three years of experience.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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