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SEOUL — Nineteen 8th Army members became “black belts” on Friday as part of a U.S. Army-wide program to save money and make operations more efficient.

Those black belts are part of Lean Six Sigma, a management science program now in its third year at U.S. Forces Korea. Graduates are called “black belts” and “green belts,” depending on which of two training programs they attend.

By looking for ways to reduce errors and make a process faster or smoother, LSS graduates can save tens of thousands of dollars or more per project, said Ron Rezek, a special assistant to the Secretary of the Army who works in business transformation.

The 8th Army has completed 51 Lean Six Sigma projects, saving about $51 million.

He said such major corporations as Toyota, General Electric, Caterpiller Inc. and Motorola have used similar programs to streamline their operations, but the Army is the largest group ever to apply a management science program.

He estimated it cost about $80,000 to train the current class of 8th Army graduates in a 13-week course, including nine weeks spent working on projects recommended by their commanders.

This year’s class includes enlisted soldiers, officers and a civilian.

Eighth Army spent about $350,000 of its training budget to begin the program in 2006. Those graduates carry their management science knowledge to their future jobs, Rezek said.

“People have left and arrived and taken this skill set with them across the Army,” he said.

Rezek said U.S. Forces Korea’s Lean Six Sigma program is “at the front of the pack” Army-wide, and students get an unusually high amount of support from their commanders.

The “lean” comes from a manufacturing philosophy created by Asian companies and adopted by American factories in the past two decades. “Six sigma” is a math term that refers to the error percentage acceptable in the semi-conductor industry, a ratio of three errors to every million tasks.

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