Six Sigma–How Many Black Belts does a Company Need?

In the eleventh chapter of their book SIx Sigma:  The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations, the authors Mikel Harry, Ph.d., and Richard Schroeder discuss the role of the Black Belts, who are the project managers who run Six Sigma projects.

In the last section of this chapter the authors discuss what training people need to become black belts.   But how many black belts does a company need?

This is based on discussions about how much Black Belts can save a company for each Six Sigma project.   Companies can reap at least $150,000-$175,000 and, on average, around $230,000 per project.    A fully trained Black Belt will be able to do one project every two to three months.   So if you multiply the range per project times the number of projects per year (four to six), you can an range of a minimum of $400,000 to well over $1,000,000 in direct cost savings and productivity improvements.

Thus, a company can use the following simple calculation to figure out how many black belts a company needs:

Revenues / $1,000,000 = # of Black Belts


# of Black Belts / 10 = # of Master of Black Belts

So a company with $100 million in annual revenues would need 100 Black Belts and 10 Master Black Belts.

Now this simple calculation can be adjusted by several factors, such as

  • geographic location of factories (are they in a small area or are they spread across the country)
  • how company is laid out (divided by product or by location)
  • why company is implementing Six Sigma (to remove defects, to improve customer satisfaction, and/or to improve delivery time)

In the next post, we discuss whether a company should train its own black belts or hire them from outside the company.


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