Glass Week Presenter Provides Detailed Look at Six Sigma Methodology

Black belt, green belt and champions were all discussed by Alan Leigh of DuPont during a presentation he gave yesterday during Glass Week-and he was not speaking about the winners of a martial arts competition. Black belts, green belts and champions are just three of the roles and responsibilities of Six Sigma, a business management process that, ultimately, is designed to help businesses reduce waste and excess costs.

Leigh explained that with Six Sigma, a company would have only 3.4 defects per million opportunities; a two sigma would have 308,537 defects per million opportunities.

Six Sigma was developed in 1987 by Motorola and since that time numerous other companies have adopted the practice, including DuPont in 1999. Leigh said that in DuPont's first Six Sigma year there was 1,100 active projects with $150 million value; but 2002 there were more than 10,000 projects valued in billions.

To explain the Six Sigma methodology, Leigh used the acronym DMAIC:

  • Define: Agree on the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be addressed
  • Measure: Set the improvement target, including the current data available and the additional data needed
  • Analyze: Gather input, or "the voice" of the customer, analyze that data and decide what is critical
  • Improve: Prioritize improvement opportunities and generate action plans for the most improvement
  • Control: Implement the improvement plans and monitor the process to ensure the benefits are locked in

He also talked about the types of projects for which Six Sigma works best, and those for which it is not good.

An "ugly" project would be world hunger, as its scope is too large and the goal is "amorphous." Bad projects are those that have team members without time enough to commit, involve too much capital, no management support or without a strong measurement system.

A good Six Sigma project has accessible historical and current data, strong support and sponsorship; there is also no capital investment and is achievable in four to six months.

Five of the key roles in Six Sigma are:

  • Champions: These people are managers. They identify the black belts, establish project selection processes and project review processes, set financial targets for benefits, remove organizational barriers, they include six sigma in the budget process and reward results. It is either a part or full time position.
  • Master Black Belts: These are the "guardians of technology." They provide the technology and methodology leadership, develop and deliver training, they coach and counsel black belts and green belts and ensure the success of "mission-critical" projects. It is a 100-percent assigned role.
  • Black Belts: These people are recognized by peers as top performers, are skilled in project management and team leadership, lead and complete four to six projects a year at $175 million per projects and also mentor green belts. It is also a 100-percent assigned role.
  • Green Belts: This area is more of a competency rather than a role and is a certification achieved while doing your normal job. It is a personal goal for all leadership and requires seven to nine days of training as well as completion of a Six-Sigma project.

Leigh summarized by saying Six Sigma is simply a methodology for strategy to improve business. It focuses on the voice of the customer, data and measurement, using improvement tools and results from a project-by-project approach.

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