The DMAIC Improvement Process

DMAIC refers to a data-driven improvement cycle used for improving, optimizing and stabilizing business processes and designs. The DMAIC improvement cycle is the core process used to drive Six Sigma projects. It should be noted that DMAIC is not exclusive to Six Sigma and can be used as the framework for other improvement applications. In many cases a much simplified DMAIC approach is more productive that a complex long term six sigma project, especially if it going to be used as part of a business leadership plan.
DMAIC is an abbreviation of the five improvement steps: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. All of the DMAIC process step are required program steps and always proceed in this order.

Write down what you currently know. Clarify facts, set objectives and form the project team. Define the following:
– A problem statement
– The customer(s) involved
– Critical to Quality, what are the critical process outputs?
– The target process and other related business processes
– Project targets
– Project boundaries

A project charter or a project plan is often created and agreed during the Define step.

This is the data collection step. The team decides on what should be measured and how to measure it. This forms a data collection plan. It is usual for teams to invest a lot of effort into assessing the suitability of the proposed measurement systems. Good data is critical to the DMAIC process:
– Define the process critical (inputs & outputs)
– Define the measurement plan
– Test the measurement system
– Collect the data

A measurement system is performed at this stage.

The data collected in the Measure step is analyzed to determine root causes of defects. Within Six Sigma, often complex tools are used. However, it is acceptable to use basic tools if these are appropriate:
– Identify gaps between current performance and goal performance
– Identify how the process inputs affect the process outputs
– List and prioritize potential opportunities to improve
– Identify sources of variation

Data is analyzed to understand the location or distribution of the data collected. Histograms and box plots are often used to do this.

Identify creative solutions to fix and prevent process problems. Some projects can utilize complex analysis tools like DOE (Design of Experiments), but try to focus on obvious solutions if these are apparent:
– Create innovate solutions
– Focus on the simplest and easiest solutions
– Test solutions using Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA)
– Create a detailed implementation plan
– Deploy improvements

Fishbone type Diagrams can be used throughout all DMAIC stages. Within the Improve step, we can use these to help brainstorm potential solutions.

Monitor the improvements to ensure continued success. Create a control plan. Update documents, business process and training records as required.
Control charts can be useful during the control stage.

This is additional to the standard DMAIC steps but it should be considered. Think about replicating the changes in other processes. Share the new knowledge within and outside of your organization.

Thanks for reading ,this article was not aimed at DMAIC training but it was intended to provoke ideas to understanding challenges within the business as it pertains to leadership.. I hope you found the article interesting. I’d really welcome your feedback on this article or let me know if there is a new topic that you would like to discuss.

To Greater Success,
Chris Bartholomew
Founder & CEO
4X Inc

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