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Departments: Quality Applications

Air Academy Associates’ Training programs


Sensor Product’s Pressurex Film and Topaq Image Analysis System

Six Sigma Training with an Edge
Air Academy Associates’ Training programs

ATMI, based in Danbury, Connecticut, is a leading supplier of high- purity semiconductor materials and handling-delivery solutions to the world’s top chipmakers.

The year 2000 was the best ever for the semiconductor industry: Demand was abundant, revenues were through the roof, and business was great. Unfortunately, by 2001, the industry had shrunk by 30 percent. It was during this period that ATMI’s president (now CEO) Doug Neugold, along with his executive team, assessed the company’s position in the global marketplace and created a vision for ATMI to become “The Source of Semiconductor Process Efficiency” for its customers. This required achieving the strategic imperative of world-class product quality and internal efficiency in new-product introduction, manufacturing, and business processes in the shortest possible time. Implementation of breakthrough Six Sigma methodology became the necessary next step.

ATMI began its Six Sigma knowledge-based management (KBM) program in November 2000 with a fundamental executive training course, which prepared executives to select the best deployment strategy of the Six Sigma methodology.

Considering the company’s size and geographic spread, ATMI made the difficult decision to move away from traditional full-time Black Belt Six Sigma deployment to a riskier part-time approach. The strategy pairs critical business projects with employees already working in corresponding areas, providing them with high-quality training and real-time technical coaching from Six Sigma experts.

Since the pilot launch of 10 Black Belt candidates and projects in November 2000, ATMI has applied Six Sigma principles to its KBM deployment process. The company’s KBM leadership team analyzes performance data, including project success rate, financial effects, and feedback from candidates and mentors, to select the best course of action in further ATMI KBM design.

From lessons learned during the initial years of KBM deployment, ATMI, together with Air Academy Associates of Colorado Springs, Colorado, developed a unique Six Sigma educational system, which now includes the following seven interrelated training programs:

The Executive Leadership Program is intended to provide continuous education on traditional and innovative Six Sigma business improvement methodologies.

The Green Belt Training Program , for senior and middle managers, is focused on the fundamentals of the Six Sigma methodology and basic statistical tools.

The Black Belt Program , for researchers and engineers, is focused on the advanced statistical tools required for solving difficult technical problems.

The Voice of Customer (VOC) Workshop , for marketing, sales, and engineering employees, is focused on the VOC process and the tools required for understanding and translating customer needs into product engineering specifications.

The Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) Program , for cross-functional teams, is focused on new product design and introduction to the marketplace.

The Brown Belt Program , for manufacturing managers and supervisors, is focused on those responsible for implementation and sustainability of technical solutions found in Brown Belt and DFSS projects.

The Yellow Belt Six Sigma Awareness Course is an online introductory course for all ATMI employees.


KBM candidate training starts with classroom instruction and exercises provided by a Six Sigma professional. Training continues in a work environment where candidates apply Six Sigma principles to assigned projects. As the project advances, progress reports are published and reviewed regularly by a mentor and management.

Throughout each project, candidates receive real-time coaching and technical support from their KBM-certified colleagues. The most effective mentors are KBM graduates who have demonstrated their Six Sigma expertise and ability to lead a team. Additionally, mentoring gives them an opportunity to exercise their technical and leadership skills to accelerate development toward Master Black Belt certification. ATMI’s cross-functional approach to mentoring facilitates exposure to different areas of the business and promotes the KBM culture throughout the organization.

Today, the KBM pipeline includes 93 active projects. The data-based, decision-making mindset is being naturally absorbed into all areas of ATMI as candidates and graduates integrate Six Sigma and lean techniques into their everyday tasks alongside their colleagues.

“Our business improvement teams have found and implemented solutions to difficult internal and customer problems by using Six Sigma tools,” says Neugold. “These solutions not only have saved ATMI millions of dollars, but also have delivered value to our customers and made us more competitive in the marketplace.”

In recognition of ATMI’s success with its Six Sigma KBM training, they were honored with an award for Best Achievement in Design for Six Sigma and Innovation at WCBF’s 2007 Global Six Sigma Awards. For more information about WCBF’s 2008 awards program, visit online at www.tgssa.com.


Air Academy Associates Training


  • Flexibility to design Six Sigma educational systems to fit individual organizational cultures
  • Training for various levels of expertise, from Yellow Belts to Master Black Belts
  • Training is based on enhancing productivity, improving efficiency, and increasing profitability.