One of the best ways to systematically improve your business processes is to use the DMAIC (Deh-May-Ick) framework. DMAIC is a highly effective, data-driven, five-step approach to business that is one of the many useful components of the Six Sigma toolkit. The main goal of DMAIC is to eliminate expensive variation from business and manufacturing processes.
So what exactly is DMAIC? The acronym represents the following five steps: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. This backbone of Six Sigma is designed to deliver ongoing performance free of defects, as well as competitive quality costs, in the long term. Let’s take a closer at the five steps of DMAIC and what they specifically mean.
In this first step, project goals and both internal and external customer deliverables are defined. This piece focuses on the selection of high-impact projects as well as the understanding of which metrics will reflect the project’s success. Who are the customers and what are their requirements regarding services and products? What are their expectations? Project boundaries are defined, including starting and stopping points, the process flow is mapped out.
Here, the current process is documented, its forms of measurement validated, and a baseline performance is assessed. Similar to using a customer survey to determine shortfall, the Measure step collects data from a large number of sources to determine types of metrics and defects. Key tools in this phase may include process capability measurement, basic Pareto charts, trend charts, process flowcharts and Gage R & R.
This phase focuses on isolating the top causes behind the CTQ (Critical-to-Quality Characteristic) or metric that is being examined. Ideally, there should be no more than three causes that need to be controlled in order to be successful. More than three means the team did not isolate the most critical causes or that the goal of the project is too ambitious. This step identifies any gaps between current performance and goal performance, priorities improvement opportunities and identifies any sources of variation. Tools used may include: hypothesis testing, time series plots, histograms, scatter diagrams, the Pareto chart, fishbone diagrams and Multi-Vari Analysis.
The fourth step of DMAIC focuses on ensuring a full understanding of the main causes identified during the previous Analyze step. The intent of the Improve phase is to either eliminate or control these causes in order to achieve the desired breakthrough performance. Here, using technology and discipline, the team designs innovative and creative solutions that will both fix and prevent problems. An implementation plan will also be developed and deployed. Tools commonly used in this phase include: hypothesis testing, analysis of variance (ANOVA), design of experiments (DOE) and regressions analysis.
Finally, all improvements need to be controlled in order to ensure lasting results and sustained changes. The best controls will require little or no monitoring, such as process design or irreversible product changes, but usually there are also setup procedures, process setting, and other improvements that will necessitate monitoring and specific daily operation requirements. Steps are taken to ensure that the process will not revert back to the “old way” of doing things.
When used together in a full Six Sigma implementation, the steps involved in DMAIC can literally turn your business around. To find out more about how you can implement this highly effective business tool in your business, take a look at how you can become certified in Six Sigma methodology.