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Four Practical DMAIC Examples from Which to Learn
As you begin a path to operational excellence, you’ll likely see the expression DMAIC. That’s simply an acronym that means:
- DEFINE : State information about the customer, issue, problem, opportunity, goals, resources, and timeline. A project charter also can be useful.
- MEASURE : Establish metrics and measure baseline performance.
- ANALYZE : Compare current performance to the goal. Identify any variations. Prioritize improvement opportunities. Investigate the root causes.
- IMPROVE : Develop gap-closure actions. Test and implement changes based on root cause analyses.
- CONTROL : Institutionalize and standardize improvements to “sustain the gains.”
Some organizations add the letter L, which stands for:
- LEVERAGE : Apply the learnings and methods to related opportunities.
For practical ideas, let’s examine several DMAIC examples for specific applications using varied continuous improvement models.
Manufacturing Shop Floor Yield Improvement
In this DMAIC example, we have a repetitive manufacturing process rich in operational data, making it a good candidate for a Six Sigma analysis. We’re making products and want to increase yield.
- DEFINE : Identify specific products (e.g. three SKUs), product flow (e.g. machine No. 3), and the goal (increased yield, not faster throughput).
- MEASURE : Clearly define metrics to be used, such as OTIFNE (On Time In Full No Error), first-pass yield, or rolled first-pass yield. Monitor for an adequate time to gather statistically meaningful baseline data.
- ANALYZE : From the data, identify and address outliers, look for trends, and assess the mean and standard deviation. Use root cause analyses (e.g. Five Whys, Cause and Effect Diagrams) to identify variables that impact the yield.
- IMPROVE : Define and put in place countermeasures to address root causes that have been identified. Monitor the process to confirm that the desired yield improvement is achieved.
- CONTROL : Implement measures to maintain improved performance (e.g. standard operating procedures, process control).
- LEVERAGE : Apply this DMAIC process or the specific Improve/Control measures to similar products or machines.
Evidence-Based Care Impacting Hospital Outcomes
Hospital-acquired infections are a big concern. In fact, in 2003, “each year roughly 80,000 patients become infected and 30,000 to 60,000 die at a cost of $3 billion nationally.” Observing the process and using Lean principles in a DMAIC framework can drive improvements.
- DEFINE : What are the specific infections concerned? In what hospitals over what time frame will improvement efforts happen? For example, there were central line-associated infections in 100 intensive care units (ICUs) in Michigan hospitals during 2007.
- MEASURE : Measure the current state (three infections per 1,000 catheter-hours).
- ANALYZE : Determine the root cause (specific process steps and procedures introducing contamination).
- IMPROVE : Implement a standardized checklist (basic steps related to hygiene, disinfectant, sterile barriers, and avoidance of susceptible areas). Enhance equipment (catheter-insertion cart).
- CONTROL : Incorporate training and reinforcement to change the culture and internalize the process. Empower the nursing staff to ensure enforcement.
- LEVERAGE : Publicize the results and apply the knowledge gained within other hospitals.
This example is adapted from the real-world success of Peter Pronovost, M.D. His breakthrough implementation of simple checklists is credited with driving the incidence of these infections to zero across most Michigan ICUs. This powerful application provides input for enhanced evidence-based patient care.
Organization-Wide Cultural Shift
Sometimes, improvement efforts don’t have measurable process data. Yet, the DMAIC approach can still work. Consider a management team trying to implement culture change in order to improve leadership and workforce capabilities for achieving strategic goals.
- DEFINE : Create organizational mission, vision, and values.
- MEASURE : Identify leadership behaviors that will support cultural change (e.g. living the values, conducting team meetings, and communicating goals). Evaluate the current state, possibly using outside consultants.
- ANALYZE : Understand major gaps from desired culture. Define gap-closure actions.
- IMPROVE : Implement gap-closure actions (e.g. create talking points for consistent communication up and down management hierarchy, provide organization-wide change management training, coach—or remove!—reluctant or incapable leaders).
- CONTROL : Check for alignment (e.g. utilize employee surveys to monitor their understanding of and commitment to the new culture). Establish aligned goals and reinforcement (e.g. leader standard work, portion of compensation tied to culture-based objectives).
- LEVERAGE : Use the new team cohesiveness to address tough issues in achieving business objectives.
Cleaning Your Garage
Before you take on an organizational effort with a larger team and longer timeframe, you can try the process at home. Imagine you want to clean up your garage so you can fit a new motorcycle inside. You could use Lean methods to accomplish this goal.
- DEFINE : Identify the scope of the cleaning project (cleaning the garage, not whole house).
- MEASURE : Pace off the square footage of the overall garage and of the open floor space. Set a goal for required amount of open floor space. (You may eyeball this, but it is a measurable area.)
- ANALYZE : Understand the types and amounts of materials currently in place and the available storage locations.
- IMPROVE : Use Lean tools (e.g. 5S, spaghetti diagrams) to execute cleaning and organizing, including removing unessential materials. Install improved vertical storage facilities to minimize floor space used.
- CONTROL : Label storage spots. Put “after” photos in place as ongoing targets. Conduct weekly audits to ensure “stuff” doesn’t accumulate.
- LEVERAGE : Apply your newfound expertise to organize other areas in your home. Better yet, begin applying DMAIC within your organization as in the examples above.
For more DMAIC examples and help getting started, contact EON .
About the author
Nancy Bach has spent more than 20 years in the industry as a quality and operational excellence practitioner and manager. In private consulting, she creates and delivers a Lean Certification course, provides Green Belt training and works with multi-functional organizations to develop strategy and implement process improvement.
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The Easy Guide to Solving Problems with Six Sigma DMAIC Method
The most commonly used methodology in Six Sigma is the DMAIC process. Many use it to solve problems and identify and fix errors in business and manufacturing processes.
In this post, we will look at how to use the DMAIC process to solve problems. You will also find useful and editable templates that you can use right away when implementing DMAIC problem-solving in your organization.
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DMAIC Process and Problem-Solving
Common mistakes to avoid when using six sigma dmaic methodology, how to use the dmaic methodology for problem solving in project management, what are the 5 steps of six sigma.
DMAIC is one of the core methodologies used within the Six Sigma framework. It is a data-driven method used to systematically improve the process. The approach aims to increase the quality of a product or service by focusing on optimizing the process that produces the output. This way DMAIC seeks to provide permanent solutions when it comes to process improvement.
It provides a structured problem-solving framework to identify, analyze, and improve existing processes. DMAIC guides practitioners through a series of steps to identify the root causes of process issues, implement solutions, and sustain the improvements over time.
Following we have listed down the 5 phases of the DMAIC process along with the steps you need to take when using it to solve problems. Different tools for each phase is provided with editable templates.
Step 1: Define the Problem
So there’s a problem that affects your customer or your company processes. In this first step of the DMAIC problem solving method , you need to focus on what the problem is and how it has affected you as a company.
There are a few steps you need to follow in this phase.
• Create a problem statement which should include a definition of the problem in quantifiable terms and the severity of the problem.
• Make sure necessary resources such as a team leader and competent team members, and funds etc. are available at hand.
• Develop a goal statement based on your problem statement. It should be a measurable and time-bound target to achieve.
• Create a SIPOC diagram which will provide the team with a high-level overview of the process (along with its inputs, outputs, suppliers, and customers) that is being analyzed. You can also use a value stream map to do the same job.
• Try to understand the process in more in-depth detail by creating a process map that outlines all process steps. Involve the process owners when identifying the process steps and developing the map. You can add swimlanes to represent different departments and actors responsible.
Step 2: Measure the Problem
In this step, you should measure the extent of the problem. To do so you need to examine the process in its current state to see how it performs. The detailed process map you created in the ‘Define’ phase can help you with this.
The baseline measurements you will need to look into in this phase, are process duration, the number of defects, costs and other relevant metrics.
These baseline measurements will be used as the standards against which the team will measure their success in the ‘Improve’ phase.
Step 3: Analyze the Problem
The analyze phase of the DMAIC process is about identifying the root cause that is causing the problem.
• Referring to the process maps and value stream maps you have created, further, analyze the process to identify the problem areas.
• Visualize the data you have collected (both in the ‘Measure’ phase and the analyze phase) to identify signs of problems in the processes.
• Use Pareto charts, histograms, run charts etc. to represent numerical data. Study them with team leaders and process owners to identify patterns.
• With the results of your process analysis and your data analysis, start brainstorming the root causes of the problem. Use a cause and effect diagram/ fishbone diagram to capture the knowledge of the process participants during the session.
• Using a 5 whys diagram, narrow down your findings to the last few causes of the problem in your process.
Step 4: Improve (Solve the Problem)
In this phase, the focus is on mitigating the root cause identified and brainstorming and implementing solutions. The team will also collect data to measure their improvement against the data collected during the ‘Measure’ phase.
• You may generate several effective solutions to the root cause, but implementing them all would not be practical. Therefore, you will have to select the most practical solutions.
To do this you can use an impact effort matrix . It will help you determine which solution has the best impact and the least effort/ cost.
• Based on different solutions, you should develop new maps that will reflect the status of the process once the solution has been applied. This map is known as the to-be map or the future-state map. It will provide guidance for the team as they implement changes.
• Explore the different solutions using the PDCA cycle and select the best one to implement. The cycle allows you to systematically study the possible solutions, evaluate the results and select the ones that have a higher chance of success.
Step 5: Control (Sustain the Improvements)
In the final phase of the DMAIC method , the focus falls on maintaining the improvements you have gained by implementing the solutions. Here you should continue to measure the success and create a plan to monitor the improvements (a Monitoring plan).
You should also create a Response plan which includes steps to take if there’s a drop in the process performance. With new process maps and other documentation, you should then proceed to document the improved processes.
Hand these documents along with the Monitoring plan and the response plan to the process owners for their reference.
Insufficiently defining the problem can lead to a lack of clarity regarding the problem statement, objectives, and scope. Take the time to clearly define the problem, understand the desired outcomes, and align stakeholders' expectations.
Failing to engage key stakeholders throughout the DMAIC process can result in limited buy-in and resistance to change. Ensure that stakeholders are involved from the beginning, seeking their input, addressing concerns, and keeping them informed about progress and outcomes.
Collecting insufficient or inaccurate data can lead to flawed analysis and incorrect conclusions. Take the time to gather relevant data using appropriate measurement systems, ensure data accuracy and reliability, and apply appropriate statistical analysis techniques to derive meaningful insights.
Getting caught up in analysis paralysis without taking action is a common pitfall. While analysis is crucial, it’s equally important to translate insights into concrete improvement actions. Strive for a balance between analysis and implementation to drive real change.
Failing to test potential solutions before implementation can lead to unintended consequences. Utilize methods such as pilot studies, simulation, or small-scale experiments to validate and refine proposed solutions before full-scale implementation.
Successful process improvement is not just about making initial changes ; it’s about sustaining those improvements over the long term. Develop robust control plans, standard operating procedures, and monitoring mechanisms to ensure the gains achieved are maintained and deviations are identified and corrected.
Applying DMAIC in a one-size-fits-all manner without considering the organization’s unique culture, context, and capabilities can hinder success. Tailor the approach to fit the specific needs, capabilities, and culture of the organization to enhance acceptance and implementation.
In the project management context, the Define phase involves clearly defining the project objectives, scope, deliverables, and success criteria. It entails identifying project stakeholders, understanding their expectations, and establishing a project charter or a similar document that outlines the project’s purpose and key parameters.
The Measure phase focuses on collecting data and metrics to assess the project’s progress, performance, and adherence to schedule and budget. Key project metrics such as schedule variance, cost variance, and resource utilization are tracked and analyzed. This phase provides insights into the project’s current state and helps identify areas that require improvement.
The Analyze phase involves analyzing the project data and identifying root causes of any performance gaps or issues. It aims to understand why certain project aspects are not meeting expectations. Techniques such as root cause analysis, Pareto charts, or fishbone diagrams can be used to identify factors impacting project performance.
In the Improve phase, potential solutions and actions are developed and implemented to address the identified issues. This may involve making adjustments to the project plan, reallocating resources, refining processes, or implementing corrective measures. The goal is to optimize project performance and achieve desired outcomes.
The Control phase focuses on monitoring and controlling project activities to sustain the improvements made. It involves implementing project control mechanisms, establishing performance metrics, and conducting regular reviews to ensure that the project remains on track. Control measures help prevent deviations from the plan and enable timely corrective actions.
What are Your Thoughts on DMAIC Problem Solving Method?
Here we have covered the 5 phases of Six Sigma DMAIC and the tools that you can use in each stage. You can use them to identify problem areas in your organizational processes, generate practical solutions and implement them effectively.
Have you used DMAIC process to improve processes and solve problems in your organization? Share your experience with the tool with us in the comment section below.
Also, check our post on Process Improvement Methodologies to learn about more Six Sigma and Lean tools to streamline your processes.
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FAQs about Six Sigma and DMAIC Approaches
DMAIC and DMADV are two methodologies used in Six Sigma. DMAIC is employed to enhance existing processes by addressing issues and improving efficiency, while DMADV is utilized for creating new processes or products that meet specific customer needs by following a structured design and verification process.
- Used for improving existing processes
- Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control
- Identifies problem areas and implements solutions
- Focuses on reducing process variation and enhancing efficiency
- Used for developing new products, services, or processes
- Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify
- Emphasizes meeting customer requirements and creating innovative solutions
- Involves detailed design and verification through testing
Problem identification : When a process is not meeting desired outcomes or experiencing defects, DMAIC can be used to identify and address the root causes of the problem.
Process optimization : DMAIC provides a systematic approach to analyze and make improvements to processes by reducing waste, improving cycle time, or enhancing overall efficiency.
Continuous improvement : DMAIC is often used as part of ongoing quality management efforts. It helps organizations maintain a culture of continuous improvement by systematically identifying and addressing process issues, reducing variation, and striving for better performance.
Data-driven decision making : DMAIC relies on data collection, measurement, and analysis. It is suitable when there is sufficient data available to evaluate process performance and identify areas for improvement.
Quality control and defect reduction : DMAIC is particularly useful when the primary objective is to reduce defects, minimize errors, and enhance product or service quality. By analyzing the root causes of defects, improvements can be made to prevent their occurrence.
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Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.
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What is DMAIC?
DMAIC is a 5-Stage Problem solving tool, based on Data analysis .
- It analyzes the Variables and Processes involved in a given Problem, proposes different Solutions and establishes Controls to prevent recidivism.
This tool is commonly used in Continual Improvement Processes such as Kaizen, 8D or 6-sigma.
Its name is an acronyms of its 5 Stages:
Let’s see what they mean:
DMAIC Five Steps
1. Define : In this Stage, you have to Define your Problem or Goal .
- What is your final Objective.
2. Measure : In this Stage, you have to Define your Variables .
- What are the variables involved and what measurement system will you use.
3. Analyze : In this Stage, you have to Define your Potential Scenarios .
- What can be done, and what would be the result.
4. Improve : In this Stage, you have to Implement your Solution .
- Once you have analyzed all your potential scenarios, you have to choose your final scenario.
5. Control : In this Stage, you have to Implement your Controls .
- This Controls should guarantee that the final solution is optimal, and avoid recidivism problems.
DMAIC Steps explained.
Let’s see the first example so that you understand it better:
- We’ll give you a much more detailed example later.
Let’s imagine you own an e-commerce Site .
Your Site sells handmade products.
- Sales depend exclusively on the users you receive: you just sell through your Site.
Lately, you have been experiencing a decrease in sales.
- You receive fewer visitors to your Site.
Since you are decided to solve this issue, you decide to develop a DMAIC process:
- This is a synthesized DMAIC.
- That is your ultimate Goal.
- It is not the same as users received: if you had more users but they didn’t see your products, you wouldn’t sell anything .
- We recommend you to visit our “ Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram ” Page.
- Receive more users organically .
- Promote your products in other Sites .
- Create more content.
- Start a YouTube channel showing how your products are made.
- You also decide to promote your products on other specialized Websites , paying a small commission.
- This way, you’ll be able to study if the measures taken are effective and which one is better.
Check how, by pointing the correct Variable, the analysis and the conclusions obtained can be very different .
- If you had focused on profitability, you may have had to increase prices, for example.
There are always almost infinite “solutions” to one same problem.
- It all depends on how you approach it .
Why is DMAIC important?
There are different reasons why DMAIC is one of the best Problem Solving tools.
Here are some of them:
- Not just the problem or what you want to solve.
- Other methods just focus on the problem itself.
- Often, even more important that the variables themselves.
- We all tend to settle for the first option we find.
And, most important of all: it is a Step-by-Step framework that anyone can follow.
Think about this: when you want to solve something… do you usually follow any guidelines?
What do the best engineers do when they have a problem in an airplane turbine (for example)?
- We’ll tell you: they have a sequence of steps to follow .
Now, let’s explain when you should use the DMAIC process:
When should you use the DMAIC process?
As we mentioned in other Problem-Solving methods:
- Whenever you have a Problem you want to solve .
- When you have a Goal that you want to achieve .
You shouldn’t be using DMAIC just at work.
We recommend that you to use this methodology in your day to day .
- That way, you’ll get used to being strict and methodical when solving problems .
Let’s see some examples:
Now, we’ll use the DMAIC process in one day-to-day problem: Baking the perfect Bread .
We’ll explain each Step individually so that you understand the entire process perfectly.
Define Step - DMAIC example
In the first Step, you Define which is your Problem and your Goal:
You are tired of baking mediocre breads:
- You want to make the perfect Bread .
You have tried several times and each time you make bread you have a different result .
You want to obtain the perfect recipe .
Measure Step - DMAIC example
In this Stage, you decide to develop an Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram to find out the Main variables involved.
- Check our “ Ishikawa Fisbone ” Page.
Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram – DMAIC Measure Stage.
According to the Ishikawa diagram, the most important variables to study are:
- Oven Temperature.
- Kneading method.
- Final form of the Dough.
- Room Temperature and Humidity.
All these variables can be easily measured, with the exception of the Kneading and Final shape of the dough.
- You’ll evaluate these variables at a glance.
Analyze Step - DMAIC example
In this Stage, you test :
- Different water/ flour ratios.
- Different temperatures.
- Different rest times.
- Different Kneading methods.
- Different Final forms.
For each test , you write down:
- Crust Crunchiness.
This tests take time, of course.
- But remember: This recipe will be the best possible, and you’ll have it forever.
Improve Step - DMAIC example
Once you have the results, you decide which one you will use.
You can make this decision based just on Taste, Crunchiness and Fluffiness, but you can also consider:
- Imagine that you find a very good recipe, but it takes 8 hours to develop while the 2nd best option only takes 45 mins.
- Imagine that you find an amazing recipe, but you need a type of flour that is very expensive and difficult to find.
Since your Goal is literally “to Bake the perfect Bread” , you decide to judge the result according to Taste, Crunchiness and Fluffiness.
- If your goal was “an affordable, good quick-to-make bread” perhaps you could consider other variables.
Control Step - DMAIC example
Since weather changes, you decide that:
- As soon as summer arrives (or winter) you’ll recheck the variables related to room temperature .
The quantity of flour, water, etc… aren’t affected by weather conditions.
If you see any noticeable changes, you’ll define different recipes for different seasons.
- Maybe, you could link the resting time of the dough to room temperature .
If you have a Goal, or want to solve a Problem, you should consider developing a DMAIC process.
The DMAIC tool is a 5-Stage Problem solving method that focuses on Data Analysis.
Its name is an acronym for the 5 Stages on which it is based:
Even though it may seem obvious to some people, it offers a step-by-step guidance that can be very helpful for reaching your goals.
And there nothing better than being methodical and strict when you want to achieve something .
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DMAIC Process explained
DMAIC process: this article explains DMAIC Process in a practical way. This article contains a general defintion of the DMAIC Process, associated steps and practical examples. After reading you will understand the basics of this Six Sigma and problem solving tool. Enjoy reading!
What is a DMAIC Process? The basics explained
The DMAIC Process is a data driven problem solving tool that can be used to improve, optimize and stabilize business processes. This cyclical problem solving model seeks to improve the processes performance within an organization. The acronym of this Lean Six Sigma tool stands for: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.
The base of this problem solving tool is founded by Shingeo Shingo during the development of Poka Yoke .
Five basic steps of the DMAIC Process cycle
The DMAIC Process consists of five steps that match the cycle process perfectly. It is recommended to make DMAIC an integral part of every project or organization. It can be applied to any existing processes.
Figure 1 – the DMAIC Process Cycle
The problem is defined in this first step.Furthermore, it is important to recognize and define the following elements:
- who are the customers?
- what are the critical stages in the process?
- what is the objective and what are the related business processes?
The purpose of the measure phase of the DMAIC Process is to establish the most important aspects of the current process and to collect relevant data. The following aspects are important in this:
- analyse the output and the input
- define the measurement plan
- test the measurement system
Subsequently, the data that was collected in the previous step is analysed. The purpose of this step is to identify the root cause relationships. The deeper causes of defects and errors are investigated. Basic tools are used to:
- identify the gap between current and required performance
- identify the input and the output
- list and prioritize potential opportunities to improve
The current process is improved by using techniques and creative solutions. Brainstorming sessions can be a useful tool. Other, obvious solutions are:
- innovative ideas
- focus on the simplest and easiest solutions
- create a detailed implementation plan
- implementation of improvements
- identify errors and causes using an Ishikawa diagram
This step does not only focus on control but on monitoring as well. Control ensures that any deviations can be corrected in the future. Monitoring leads to sustainable improvements and guarantees long-term success. Permanent monitoring is therefore required.
Linking the DMAIC Process Cycle with business processes
To supplement the standard DMAIC Process, it is recommended to implement this step-by-step plan in other business processes as well. By sharing experiences and new knowledge with other departments, changes can be effected more easily within the entire organization.
It is important that employees have a good understanding of the usefulness of the procedure of the DMAIC process, that they discuss it with each other and that they are willing to share their experiences.
The DMAIC Process Cycle versus Six Sigma
Initially, the DMAIC process was linked to Six Sigma . Six Sigma was developed by Motorola and General Electrics to improve the quality of process outputs.
This is done by identifying and removing the causes of errors. The process is not exclusive to Six Sigma and can therefore be used to improve processes in other organizations.
Comparison of the DMAIC Process with the PDCA cycle (Deming)
DMAIC is actually an application of Deming’s PDCA cycle . The DMAIC Process takes a project based approach, whereas the PDCA cycle has a wider application.
This means it is can also be applied to one project. The DMAIC process analyses the root cause of the problem whereas the PDCA cycle focuses on the entire operation and it unearths other causes as well.
Benefits of using the DMAIC Process Cycle
The DMAIC Process is based on framework thinking within for example a product group, customer group or service. The strengths of this problem solving approach lie in the addressing and optimizing of the root causes in a process.
For a creative change in which an organization changes course completely, however, the model is less applicable. When going through the steps of the process, there may not be any overlaps. The best results are achieved with a plan-led team approach.
Example of the DMAIC Process
Let us look at a car garage with 50 locations who specialise in car tyres as an example. So far, in each branch, they have plenty of stock in various types of summer and winter tyres.
This enables them to quickly help the customer, delivering customer satisfaction and good word-of-mouth advertising. It now appears that the costs of the car company where very high last year. Management then decides to speak with all 50 branches in order to find out why.
The costs have risen sharply due to employee costs, renting space for 50 branches and inventory.
The costs are compared to that of last year and it turns out the costs are 20% higher, without creating more revenue.
Together with all 50 branches, the biggest cost item is examined. Several different factors are then identified. On average, it appears that inventory costs were 15% higher than in the previous year, among other things due to insufficient variety whereby ‘older’ models are left longer in the warehouse.
Together with the 50 branches, management looks at methods for improvement. For example, they propose to work from a central warehouse, supplying the branches 3x per week. Another option is to only have conventional tyres in stock while keeping specific tyre types in the central warehouse. The first solution is chosen unanimously.
After a test period an evaluation takes place with all branches and management. It turns out that employees have to cancel a sale more often or only help customers after a few days.
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It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Is the DMAIC Methodology applicable in today’s modern economy and companies? What is your experience? What tips can you share to help others being successful in applying the DMAIC process?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- de Mast, J., & Lokkerbol, J. (2012). An analysis of the Six Sigma DMAIC method from the perspective of problem solving . International Journal of Production Economics, 139(2), 604-614.
- Pyzdek, T., & Keller, P. A. (2003). The six sigma handbook . McGraw-Hill .
- General Electric. (2006). Six Sigma . Available at: https://www.ge.com/sixsigma/. Accessed March 7, 2006.
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DMAIC – 5 Steps to Solving all Your Problems
DMAIC which stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control is a powerful problem solving tool. Given time DMAIC could solve all your company’s problems using data from the process. When used cyclically DMAIC in a key component of continuous improvement. Its ultimate goal is to stabilise and optimise a process. This 5 step method will lead you to the correct solution to your problems again and again. Using a set of lean sigma tools to understand the process and then using the data from the process to create lasting solutions.
WHY DO YOU NEED A METHOD TO SOLVE A PROBLEM, CAN YOU JUST FIND A SOLUTION AND FIX IT?
If the solution is very obvious and it may not be worth investing a lot of time into a DMAIC project. So implementing a solution in this case would be the right thing to do. For (a simplistic) example, if a table is wobbling and there is a screw missing, get a new screw. But for anything a little more complicated DMAIC is one of the best ways to solve it. Too often we see an issue and apply a quick fix or a work around but ultimately the problems persists. We may even put time, money and effort into what we believe is the solution only to find 6 months down the line that the original problem is still there and new issues have arisen from the “solution”. DMAIC aims to remove the opportunity for failure by gaining a thorough understanding of the process and the root cause of the problem.
An important aspect of DMAIC is that it is customer centric. By always keeping the customer in mind when making changes it is hoped that you will not add non value add steps to the process. You must always ask “would the customer be willing to pay for me to complete this task.” In a process the customer is not always the person who purchases the product or service. It is more often the person working at the next stage in the process. Keeping this customer in mind when making changes ensures that you do not just move the problem down the line for someone else to deal with or cause new problems for them. The different aspects of each step and the tools useful for each stage are outlined below.
1. Define â€“ Define the challenge or improvement opportunity
In some cases, there are many issues in a process, and it would be overwhelming to try fix everything. DMAIC projects should be specific and small enough to be completed in 3-6 months. There are Six-sigma tools which can help you choose the right project. A good rule of thumb is for your project to be “SMART” (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound).
Once an issue is identified, the define phase should be conducted by the whole team. It is vital that everyone who is affected by the issue be involved in this stage. Important tasks in the define phase include defining the customer, creating a problem statement, defining the core business process involved and the scope of the project. It is advisable to avoid large multi-functional projects, particularly when starting off using DMAIC. These projects can become unwieldly and stagnant. We always say you should play in your own sandbox.
Tools you can use in this phase
- is/is not – allows you to scope the problem
- SIPOC (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, customers) – understand what’s involved in the process
- Project selection matrix – to determine the best issue to tackle
- Project charter – Get commitment from the team and the management
- Gantt chart – track the project and supply a finish date
This step requires more time than define and aims to explain the problem or opportunity with data. Understanding the current state of the process will highlight where the opportunity is and allow for a cost benefit analysis at the end. A process map is a helpful tool in completing this stage. As expected the measure phase must include measurements to understand the performance of the core business process involved. These could be timings of the process or measurements of the output, errors or defects. (Relevant historical data can also be used although it should be as recent as possible.) Using numerical data and measuring the current state will give a metric to measure improvement against.
- Process maps
- Check sheets
- Pareto diagrams
- Cause and effect diagrams
- Scatter diagrams
- Run charts/ Trend charts/ control chart
Figure 1 A sample process map of a typical morning routine
In this step you will Analyse the data collected during the measure phase. A review of the process map and the diagrams, histograms and charts from the raw data will allow you to see sources of variation. The root causes of the issue or the opportunities for improvement will become visible using some more lean sigma tools. In a sentence this step of the DMAIC process wants to identify gaps between current performance and the goal process performance. Another purpose of the Analyse Phase is to communicate your results to decision makers and among your team to decide what improvements to enact.
Tools you can use in this stage
- Any charts or diagrams from the measure phase as data sources
- Cause and effect chart
- Design of Experiments (DOE)
At the Improve stage you have amassed all the information you need to have a thorough understanding of the current process and the gaps between this and the goal process. The root cause of a specific issues will have become visible. The next step is to come up with a range of solutions or countermeasures. Brainstorming with the team is helpful here to get insight into what changes will work for everyone invested in the process. Once a viable solution has been agreed upon it is important to complete a risk analysis. A risk analysis ensures that the changes will not create additional problems in the process or cause quality concerns. Finally, the changes can be inputted and the new process can be implemented.
Once the improvements have been made a second round of the measure phase should be completed. This allows you to quantify the improvements made by comparing the results to the measure phase.
The final step in the DMAIC process is Control. Here we want to control the improved process to hold the gains. We must acknowledge that we are creatures of habit who can fall into old patterns and revert to the old way of doing something. In the control phase you must make a plan to avoid this. A DMAIC project should demonstrate sustainability. This can be done by keeping control charts and control plans. It could also mean having weekly PIT meetings to monitor the performance of the process.
- Failure mode & effect analysis (FMEA)
- Control charts (voice of the process)
- Control Plans (ISO/TS)
DMAIC projects become easier with practice.
So a parting piece of advice would be to start with something small that if changed would make your life easier, make sure it is within your power to change. You will also struggle to complete your project if you do not have the support of your team and managers. Get everyone invested in the positive changes you are trying to make.
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DMAIC Model | The 5 Phase DMAIC Process to Problem-Solving
- 5 mins to read
- July 1, 2020
- By Reagan Pannell
Summary: An Introduction to DMAIC
Dmaic – the dmaic model.
The 6 Sigma DMAIC model remains the core roadmap for almost all Lean Six Sigma problem-solving approaches that drive quality improvement projects. It is used to ensure a robust problem-solving process is followed to give the best chance of the best solution being found.
A note about the structure and the approach used in this article.
Our approach to DMAIC follows Quentin Brook’s book “Lean Six Sigma & Minitab” which for anyone wishing to study Lean Six Sigma is a must for the Green Belt Course and the Black Belt Course .
What is the dmaic model.
DMAIC is short for: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control. These are the key phases that each project must go through to find the right solution. This flow is the concept behind DMAIC Analysis of an issue and its the DMAIC cycle all projects must go through.
As you can quickly see from the 5 DMAIC phases they follow a logical sequence as we will go through in more detail below. But they also make sure you do not try to jump to implementing a solution before you have properly, defined and measured what you are going to be an improvement.
We all love to jump to solutions, but the DMAIC problem-solving structure helps us have a more rigorous approach so that we do not short cut the process and perhaps miss the best solution or perhaps implement the wrong solution as well. It can help companies better structure their problem-solving approaches and be more robust in their approach.
DMAIC – The 5 DMAIC Process Phases
The phases throughout the DMAIC model have and can be broken down in many different ways. One of the best approaches we have found is from Opex Resources which shows how to examine the existing processes, and with a project team, and the sigma improvement process, we can solve complex issues.
DMAIC Define Phase
The purpose of the Define phase is ultimately to describe the problems that need to be solved and for the key business decision-makers to be aligned on the goal of the project. Its about creating and agreeing the project charter .
All too often, teams have identified solutions without actually defining what it is they will actually be trying to do or perhaps not do. This can lead to internal confusion and often solutions which completely miss the business requirements and needs.
- Define the Business Case
- Understand the Consumer
- Define The Process
- Manage the Project
- Gain Project Approval
DMAIC Measure Phase
In the measure phase, the goal is to collect the relevant information to baseline the current performance of the product or the process. In this stage, we want to identify the level of “defects” or the errors that go wrong and use the baseline to measure our progress throughout the project.
The key goal of this phase is to have a very strong and clear measure/baseline of how things are performing today so that we can always monitor our progress towards our goals. We need to understand our cycle times , process times, quality metrics.
Many projects are delivered without clear benefits being shown because the team never fully baseline the current status before making changes.
The Measure phase can be broken down into 5 key areas:
- Develop Process Measures
- Collect Process Data
- Check the Data Quality
- Understand Process Behaviour
- Baseline Process Capability and Potential
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DMAIC Analyse Phase
The goal of the DMAIC Analyse phase with the lean six sigma improvement process is to identify which process inputs or parameters have the most critical effect on the outputs. In other words, we want to identify the root cause(s) so that we know what critical elements we need to fix.
During this phase, the teams need to explore all potential root causes using both analytical approaches, statistical approaches or even graphical tools such as VSM’s and Process maps to uncover the most important elements which need to be changed/fixed.
The Analyse phase can be broken down into:
- Analyse the Process
- Develop Theories and Ideas
- Analyse the Data
- and finally, Verify Root Causes
DMAIC Improve Phase
The goal of the improvement phase is to identify a wide range of potential solutions before identifying the critical solutions which will give us the maximum return for our investment and directly fix the root cause we identified.
During this phase, the team brainstorm, pilot, test and validate potential improvement ideas before finally implementing the right solutions. With each pilot, the team can validate how well it improves the key measures they identified back in Define and Measure. When the team finally roll out the solution, the results should be seen if the right solution has been found and implemented correctly.
The Improve phase can be broken down into:
- Generate Potential Solutions
- Select the Best Solution
- Assess the Risks
- Pilot and Implement
DMAIC Control Phase
The final part of the DMAIC Model is the Control phase where we need to ensure that the new changes become business as normal and we do not revert to the same way of working as before.
During this phase, we want to ensure that we close the project off by validating the project savings and ensuring the new process is correctly documented. We also need to make sure that new measures and process KPI’s are in place and, finally that we get the business champion to sign off on both the project and the savings. We may need to redesign the workplace following the 5S principles .
The Control phase can be broken down into:
- Implement Ongoing Measurements
- Standardise Solutions
- Quantify the Improvement
- Close The Project
The key closing documents of the Control Phase is a Control Plan that documents all the changes and process steps with key risks, standard work instructions and the Project Close-Out document signed by the business owners to accept the change and the validated benefits.
The DMAIC Model vs. A3 Management vs. 8D Problem Solving
The DMAIC model is not the only project management roadmap. Two others which are important is the A3 format which originally comes from Toyota and is very Lean focused and the 8D which draws more of the DMAIC structure but with the 1-page idea of the A3.
Everyone has their own preference but each method is interchangeable. The DMAIC Structure lends its self naturally to a multi-slide Powerpoint presentation. Whereas the A3 is a single-page document which is perfect for internal communication and adding into War Rooms and Control Towers.
What’s important is that every problem-solving approach follows the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act) Scientific Problem Solving format. The reset is just a preference or using the right tool in the right circumstances.
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Process Improvement Tools and Templates
DMAIC in Everyday Life
Relating DMAIC tools to challenges outside the work environment can be an effective training approach. Here’s an example that many people can relate to: losing weight.
First we Define what we want to achieve in measurable terms. Example: “I want to improve my health. Reaching a healthy body weight will increase my energy level and prevent a number of problems down the road. The research I have done says that I need to lose ten pounds.”
So the Define step is wrapped up with the following goal: “I want to lose ten pounds.” Wasn’t that easy?
We wrap up the Measure phase with the following summary: “My baseline weight is 192 pounds, and my target weight is 182 pounds. The error in my measurement system (scale) is acceptable.”
We begin the Analyze phase while we are collecting our baseline weight values during the first seven days. Knowing that calorie intake affects body weight, we create a simple food log that shows each item we eat, what time we eat it, and how many calories are contained in it.
There are a number of great tools we can use in the Analyze phase, but for this project we stick with the trusty pareto chart – one of the most simple and widely used analysis tools on the planet. We make two pareto charts – one showing what time of day we take in the most calories, and the other showing what types of food make up our calorie intake. For a true assessment of the underlying causes of overeating, we might also conduct a 5-Why analysis that might lead to such factors as job stress or other fundamental causes that could drastically reduce overeating.
We wrap up the Analyze phase with two important findings: we take in 24% of our daily calories with evening snacks, and another 19% by hitting the vending machine at work.
We now proceed to the Improve phase, where find ways to reduce our vending machine calories during the day and snacks at night. We decide to pack healthy snacks every day so we can satisfy our hunger without vending machine visits. We also pre-plan one evening snack and eat it at the same time each night to develop a good routine.
We have a few slip-ups, but overall we follow our routine for three months, and achieve our 182 pound goal. Fantastic!
Now comes the Control phase, which poses the following question: how will we keep the weight off?
For the disciplined individual –
- We will weigh-in once per week and track the results in a notebook.
- If our weight creeps above 185 pounds, we will begin logging our food intake and make adjustments as needed.
For the those who love snacks, we might need to resort to some mistake-proofing methods by (1) not bringing any money to work (takes care of the vending machine problem), and (2) keeping those tempting evening snacks out of the house.
So that’s one example of the DMAIC approach applied to an everyday challenge.
Six Sigma Certification & Training
How to use the DMAIC Methodology: 5 Steps + Example
DMAIC is a popular Six Sigma process in the world of statistics and business. There’s a good chance you’ve heard the term before, but what exactly is it? Each letter represents a particular part of the methodology. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.
Whether the industry is manufacturing, marketing, retail, military, or HR, Six Sigma practitioners can use the DMAIC process for improvement projects. Following the five steps allows businesses to systematically find and fix issues, ultimately boosting productivity and quality. This article will explain the DMAIC process steps and provide a DMAIC process example.
On this page:
Why the DMAIC Process is Important
5 steps in the dmaic process, dmaic process example.
The DMAIC process is important because it allows you to improve your business by creating a systematic approach for identifying problems, creating solutions, and measuring the success of your product or process improvement project.
First, the DMAIC process helps you get an overview of the situation and identify potential problems with your product or service. It’s also important to understand what success looks like in order to know how to measure it.
Second, the DMAIC process helps you look at your resources and see what you have available to tackle the problem. This will help you decide what’s feasible and what isn’t—and that’s especially important if you have a budget or timeline to stick to for improvements.
Third, the DMAIC process gives you a plan for tackling those issues so that when you’re looking at your data and making decisions about moving forward, they’re based on facts rather than feelings or assumptions.
In the DMAIC Define Phase , you will define the problem or opportunity. You’ll define what you want to improve in your process. This involves defining the goal and developing an understanding of what success will look like. You will also identify the current situation and how it compares to your desired outcome. This includes identifying any constraints or limitations and determining if there is adequate support for achieving success.
In the DMAIC Measure Phase , you will measure key aspects of the current process by collecting data to obtain quantitative evidence about its current state. You’ll compare it with the ideal state. You’ll measure defects or other metrics that indicate problems with your process. This evidence helps you identify where improvement opportunities exist to drive future actions.
In the DMAIC Analyze Phase , you will analyze the data to identify root causes. You’ll analyze trends in your data using statistical techniques such as control charts or ANOVA analysis to determine if there are any factors impacting quality that you can eliminate from your process. You may also use decision models such as Pugh charts or cause-and-effect diagrams to evaluate alternatives and select appropriate solutions for implementation.
In the DMAIC Improve Phase , you will improve the process by implementing solutions based on what you learned during the analysis. These solutions require clear specifications so they can be implemented consistently. In addition, you should document these changes in case they need to be replicated later.
In the DMAIC Control Phase , you will control the new process to prevent problems from recurring. You’ll monitor results after making improvements to ensure they are working as planned.
So how does this all come together in a real-life scenario? Let’s walk through a hypothetical scenario of how a nonprofit organization uses DMAIC methodology .
Let’s say the nonprofit company wants to increase its fundraising success with outbound calls made to clients who signed up for newsletters on their website but chose not to make an online donation.
1. Define Stage:
The company would first need to define what success looks like with outbound calls and how it will be measured.
In this case, the company aimed to increase conversion rates from 45% to 50%. The company used the length of contact and conversion metrics to define successful and unsuccessful calls. They defined a successful call as lasting longer than two minutes. Additionally, they defined conversion as when a donation was made during a call.
2. Measure Stage:
Key aspects of the call experience would then be identified and monitored.
Now that the Six Sigma project team has defined the goal and metrics, they must collect data about the successful and unsuccessful calls. In this case, the company created a process map to understand the current process. They recorded data regarding several factors, such as the script used during the call, the time of day the outbound team made the call, and how much time had passed since the user had signed up for the newsletter before the outbound team made the call.
The project team brainstormed potential explanations for the unsuccessful calls. The conversion rate was the primary metric, so a fishbone diagram was utilized to depict the link between the many factors at play.
3. Analyze Stage
Data would be collected and analyzed to identify any areas where the calls were more likely to lead to a successful call or a conversion.
After gathering information, the next step is to analyze it statistically. The project team devised a preliminary hypothesis testing the call data. This testing revealed that the time of day the outbound team made the call and the time lag between the newsletter sign-up and the outbound call both had a substantial impact on the success of the call and the conversion rate.
Design of experiment (DOE) tools assessed the significant factors from hypothesis testing. The designed experiment optimized critical factors and responses. The DOE results showed how critical factors interacted and affected the main measure, including the time of day and the appropriate sign-up-to-call lag time.
This analysis showed that afternoon calls made within 24 hours of the online sign-up were most effective.
4. Improve Stage
Implement solutions to improve the call experience in those areas.
There was initially at least a 24-hour lag between sign-up and follow-up calls because the outbound team had been using a third-party firm to compile lists of users who had signed up for the newsletter but had not donated. With the help of the newly implemented internal reporting system, the outbound team could generate this list within hours, significantly reducing call times. The outbound team also began prioritizing afternoon calls.
The team documented these changes and updated the process map to reflect the improvements.
5. Control Stage
New processes would be monitored to ensure that successful calls and conversions continue.
The Six Sigma project team completed three months of monitoring after the company implemented the improvement measures. According to an analysis, the project’s conversion rate increased to 52% from 45%, achieving the project goal.
The Six Sigma DMAIC process is an effective tool that can be used in any industry. It gives businesses the ability to analyze and improve their processes, leading to better results. By reviewing the example and following the five steps of the DMAIC Process – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control – businesses can create meaningful changes in their operations.
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The History of Six Sigma
Originally developed by Bill Smith at Motorola in 1986, the Six Sigma Training program was created using some of the most innovative quality improvement methods from the preceding six decades. The term “Six Sigma” is derived from a field of statistics known as process capability. The term 6 Sigma refers to the ability of manufacturing processes to produce a very high proportion of output within specification. Processes that operate with “six sigma quality” over the short term are assumed to produce long-term defect levels below 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Six Sigma’s goal is to improve overall processes to that level of quality or better.