PLC Training Courses

Industrial Training - The Best for Less

PLC Training

LEAN Maintenance Six Sigma Black Belt


Why there are not Six Sigma Black Belts in your Lean maintenance department.

Lean Maintenance

Lean Maintenance Management


The LEAN Maintenance Six Sigma Black Belt article explores why are there so few Six Sigma black belts in Six Sigma maintenance departments. In the manufacturing future, there will be less humans and more automation, thus more focus on Lean maintenance management.

Ever increasing automation and the need for six sigma maintenance reliability capitalizing on lean maintenance principles and practices will bring about six sigma black belts jobs in the maintenance department. Just like relatively recently, maintenance planner jobs have sprung up. Most likely the first phase of this evolution will be Six Sigma black belts as maintenance managers. Then the industry will realize the effective lean maintenance management is to get maintenance technicians six sigma black belt training.

Now is the time to explore barriers to why there are not Six Sigma Black Belts in your Lean Maintenance department...


  • Six sigma training tends to drive newly minted black belts into a consulting role. Six sigma green belts in industrial maintenance who become black belts are then rotated between corporate departments and travel among work sites. While a 6 sigma black belt or TPM professional work on problems in the industrial maintenance department, black belts are deemed to valuable to focus only industrial maintenance. Hence, it is rare to find a black belt in industrial maintenance unless it is for a narrowly focused project.
  • Industrial maintenance staff like mechanics, maintenance technicians and electricians initially received no six sigma or advanced TPM training. Only when six sigma professionals realized that the best ideas came from those on the front lines and the production did six sigma training in the form of yellow and white belt courses start to reach those outside of the office. There is still not a widespread recognition of the value of training industrial maintenance black belt professionals.
  • Industrial engineers who complete six sigma certifications, TPM training and TPM certification often graduate to full time management instead of remaining in the industrial maintenance group. Advanced certifications become tickets to management, instead of improving the industrial maintenance group.
  • Industrial maintenance management may be its own department. More often than not, it is part of the engineering department. In these cases, maintenance managers are relegated to a second tier in the organization. They put out fires, literally and figuratively, while engineers focus on designing new production facilities or radically revamping existing ones. There is little thought of applying 6 sigma concepts and predictive models to maintenance while it is implemented on the production line.
  • When there are six sigma experts or TPM consultants in the facility, they tend to focus on production, not maintenance, despite the dramatic cost savings an improved facility maintenance and asset management can bring. A professional with TPM certification is more often brought in as a temporary consultant with a few grand ideas like redesigning maintenance procedures, work order processes, implementing data collection, and putting channels in place so that good ideas and problem reports reach management in a timely manner.
  • Maintenance planning and scheduling is more often based on a calendar than the number of hours the equipment has run. Maintenance is shifted to accommodate human schedules. Managers schedule work to minimize overtime or force staff to work over the Christmas holidays. There is a failure to optimize the cost of ongoing maintenance against the reduced risk of equipment failure and its extended operational life.
  • Process improvement projects in the industrial maintenance area need data, so that it can be used to make decisions. However, the necessary records to properly plan the labor hours for maintenance and repairs may be lacking. There may not be a full accounting of the critical skill sets necessary to do maintenance. More people may be assigned to the task than required to ensure the necessary skill sets are all present, and work may still take longer than planned when the one person who knows how to complete a job is busy. When paper forms are used for repair work orders, managers fail to capture the environmental variables that may have caused the failure.
  • Statistical process control charts and run charts have become standard on the shop floor. Employees regularly record key metrics and report any deviating trends toward management. While industrial maintenance planning and scheduling software has come out, it focuses on the scheduling of people and tools, not metrics on how long each team takes to perform the work. While industrial maintenance management software tracks which equipment breaks down often, it may not capture information that reveals why it failed. Correlating information such as which maintenance procedures and personal variations of these work practices result in faster turnarounds and longer operating periods may be a painful manual exercise compared to an SPC chart analysis.
  • When there are too many outages and shutdowns, preventative maintenance too often falls by the wayside. Unfortunately, there is little expertise in identifying methods to move from a reactive maintenance environment to a preventative one short of hiring far more maintenance staff or replacing used equipment with new equipment.
  • Plant managers and maintenance supervisors who have risen to this level from the maintenance department rarely have the statistical training such as 6 sigma training adopt predictive maintenance.


Related Training ...

 Autonomous Maintenance Training Program (Phase II)

 Total Productive Maintenance Management Course - TPM PowerPoint [PowerPoints]

 OEE - Total Productive Maintenance Objectives - TPM Tool [Ebook]

 True Down Time Costs Analysis - ROCE accounting [EBook]

Next Article ...
 Total Productive Maintenance definition, married to TPM



Don Fitchett  - Business Industrial Network  (BIN) -
About the Author: Don Fitchett founded the activity based costing system called "True Downtime Cost" (TDC), authored books and speaks at conventions on the topic and is president of BIN. Don has been in the industrial training sector for over two decades, setting up training programs around the world, and still conducts training seminars to this day.

Business Industrial Network delivers instructor based industrial training as well as software and on-line industrial training.
(You may copy and distribute this article as long as all credits, including this paragraph are included and all links are active and distribution is not for profit. You may reference portions of this article as long as active link back to original article webpage at is present. Otherwise this material is copyright protected.)