This article explains DMAIC process in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful problem solving tool.
What is the DMAIC process
The DMAIC process is a problem solving tool that can be used to improve, optimize and stabilize business processes.
This cyclical problem solving model seeks to improve the processes within an organization.
DMAIC is an acronym that stands for: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.
This will be explained in the next chapter.
Five basic steps
The DMAIC process consists of five steps that match the cycle process perfectly.
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 this step 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 analyzed. 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 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.
DMAIC versus Six Sigma
Initially, the DMAIC process was linked to Six Sigma.
The DMAIC process is not exclusive to Six Sigma and can therefore be used to improve processes in other organizations.
Comparison with PDCA cycle (Deming)
The DMAIC process 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 DMAIC
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 DMAIC process, there may not be any overlaps. The best results are achieved with a plan-led team approach.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Is the DMAIC process applicable in today’s modern economy and marketing? 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. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- General Electric. (2006). Six Sigma. Available at: http://www.ge.com/sixsigma/. Accessed March 7, 2006.
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