The DMAIC model is an important part of the Six Sigma methodology. When waste or inefficiencies are found in a process, the DMAIC model can help to work through it and identify solutions. It is a standard set of steps or phases that allows a team to identify root causes of problems, propose solutions, and have them implemented for long term improvements.
DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. Each word is a different phase that must be conducted. The phases are done in this specific order, though there is often some overlap. When done properly, facilities can make improvements more quickly, eliminate waste more efficiency, and generally ensure that things are done properly at all times.
Take a moment to learn more about each phase of the DMAIC model, and see how it can benefit your facility.
Understanding the Define Phase
The first phase in the DMAIC model is defining the issue that will be addressed using this system. The Six Sigma methodology is all about identifying areas where improvements are possible, and making changes in order to achieve the desired improvement. In the DMAIC process, leaders will define exactly what they would like to do, and create what is typically known as a project charter.
A high level view of the process will also be needed, which can help to outline the specific needs of the customers. Defining the problem is an important step, and not one that should be rushed through. It is impossible to make the right changes if you don’t really understand the issue properly to begin with.
Understanding the Measure Phase
Once you’ve defined the problem, you need to know your starting point. This is where the measure phase is used. Taking data about the problem that is being addressed will help to create a baseline. This will allow any efforts that are made to be evaluated based on real data so the team will know whether the changes had the desired results or not.
Without a detailed breakdown of the current status of the problem, it would be impossible to know the effects of any changes that are made. There are times, for example, when things may ‘feel’ like they have improved, but the data does not back up that feeling. The measure phase helps to ensure that everything is based on data and evidence.
Understanding the Analyze Phase
During the analyze phase, teams will take the data that has been gathered during the measure phase and analyze it. This phase will often overlap with the measure phase because as data is analyzed, it may become evident that additional information is needed, which is a piece of the measure phase.
When working through the analyze phase, everyone on the team needs to make sure that they are looking at the data with the defined problem in mind. Tracking down the root cause of the problem, no matter what it is, can be quite difficult. Analyzing the data correctly, however, will help to find what is causing any waste or defects in a given process so that improvements can be made.
Understanding the Improve Phase
Once your team has analyzed the data, it is time to determine how the problems will be fixed. While it is a good idea to have improvement ideas considered and written down throughout the DMAIC process, the improve phase is where it should be done in a structured way. Teams can take time to brainstorm ideas, look specifically at options and generally work toward coming up with the right improvement opportunities.
During this phase it can be difficult to stay on task because people may think of improvement ideas that would help other problems. While it is acceptable to write those down for later consideration, it is best to try to stay focused on the specific problem at hand. The DMAIC model is good for solving one general or specific problem at a time, so getting distracted should be avoided during this step.
Understanding the Control Phase
When the team has settled on the right set of improvement ideas to solve the problem, it is time to document how the improvements should be implemented and maintained. This can be quite difficult because it requires you to involve people who weren’t working on this project from the beginning. Employees who will actually be carrying out the work associated with this change will need to buy into the process and help make sure it succeeds.
Providing the employees with the needed training is an important part of this phase. Explaining why the changes are being implemented and why it is important that they are followed. Turning all the planning and work done in the previous phases into real results is what the control phase is all about. This phase will continue until the changes are implemented, reviewed, and have become the standards.
Once the DMAIC process has been completed, the work is not really done. Keeping the improvements stable is extremely important for any Six Sigma project, and that is where process management comes in. While not technically a part of the DMAIC model, it is essential in that it helps to ensure the work done with this process is not slowly forgotten.
Having a good process management system in place will allow those on the DMAIC team to either start a new process improvement project, or go back to other duties that they are responsible for without having to worry about how their project is performing in the long term.
Most of the work involved with the process management of a change will fall to the front line managers. With this in mind, they should be included in at least some of the DMAIC phases to ensure they understand what is going on, and why. When done properly, these managers will help to keep the improvements stable and even gather insight into further improvement opportunities that may benefit from the DMAIC model in the future.
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