Six Sigma and DMAIC

If the Six Sigma quality improvement methodology had to be summarized in one word, it would be the acronym DMAIC. This shorthand description lists the steps of the Six Sigma process when improving existing business processes. It provides an overview of the method by which Six Sigma projects are completed, namely: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control.

What is DMAIC?

DMAICWhile the acronym gives an accurate summary of the process, it is only the beginning. The Six Sigma process improvement methodology encompasses much more than an acronym can describe. The heart of DMAIC is making continuous improvements to an existing process through objective problem solving.

Process is the focal point of DMAIC. The methodology seeks to improve the quality of a product or service by concentrating not on the output but on the process that created the output. The idea is that concentrating on processes leads to more effective and permanent solutions.

When to use DMAIC

DMAIC is used by a project team that is attempting to improve an existing process. DMAIC provides structure because each phase of the process contains tasks and tools that will lead the team to find an eventual solution. While DMAIC may be sequential, it is not strictly linear. The process encourages project teams to backtrack to previous steps if more information is needed.

The phases of DMAIC

The phases or stages of DMAIC include:

Define – The project begins by creating a team charter to identify team members, select the process the team will be improving and clearly define the objective of the project. The project team will then identify the CTQs to help measure the impact the problem has on the customer. This phase is completed when the team creates a process map that includes the process’s inputs and outputs.

Measure – This phase includes creating and executing a data collection plan that provides reliable and significant data. The data indicates how the process is performing and helps identify the villain in the Six Sigma narrative – variance. After this point, the project team’s efforts focus on eliminating or reducing variance as much as possible.

Analyze – Once process performance has been quantified, the analyze phase helps identify possible causes of the problems. A sub-process map can help identify the problems in the process and tools such as ANOVA and regression analysis can help narrow these problems to root causes. In this phase, the team is able to quantify the financial benefit of solving the problem.

Improve – Once the problem’s root cause is brought to light, the improve phase focuses on finding a permanent solution to the problem. This is where the project team’s creativity comes into play in finding an answer to a longstanding process problem. The team then tests a proposed solution in a pilot program to test if the solution is effective and financially viable.

Control – In this phase, the project team documents the new solution that they have created so that it can be passed on to process owners. The project team then implements the solution according to the timeline and key milestones they have developed. Once the solution has been implemented, the project team monitors it for several months and if it meets performance expectations turns it over to the process owner.

DMAIC is a systematic, objective and fact-based system of problem solving. The steps in the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology make process improvement accessible and learnable even for those who are just becoming acquainted with it.

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