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What Is DMAIC?

The DMAIC framework is Six Sigma’s core data-driven improvement methodology. It includes the following phases Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

DMAIC is the traditional project model within the management philosophy of Lean Six Sigma. It is Six Sigma’s core data-driven improvement methodology. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. The five phases are followed structurally by working with problem-solving and process optimization.

There are many benefits of the DMAIC method. A key benefit is that the DMAIC method is helpful in any situation where you have to improve a process. DMAIC reduces the chances of fixing the wrong problem by analyzing the process before implementing any solution. It also improves team and organization communication, which leads to improved performance and happier customers.

There are also some challenges when using the DMAIC method. The method could be burdensome for obvious and simple problems. During the implementation of DMAIC, without the right knowledge, it is easy to become much more focused on the method itself rather than finding the right solution.

What is the Purpose of DMAIC Tools?

The main purpose of DMAIC tools is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization’s existing processes. DMAIC is Six Sigma’s core data-driven improvement methodology. When improving a process and the problem is complex, or the existing risks are high, DMAIC is the go-to method. Its underlying structure and discipline prevent teams from ignoring crucial steps, which increases the chances of successfully improving processes.

What is the Meaning of DMAIC?

DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

1. Define

Define is the first phase of the Lean Six Sigma improvement process. The define phase is all about defining the problem you will tackle. This step helps you to answer questions such as: 

  • What is the problem?
  • How often does it happen?
  • What is the impact of the problem in the defined phase?

We also have to define the project management and answer questions such as:

  • Who will be on the project team?
  • How will the project be run?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?

2. Measure

The second step is measure. The measure phase aims to ensure that we can measure the problem and understand the current performance of the process before we start trying to improve it. In this step, we are asking questions such as:

  • How do we measure the problem? 
  • What data do we collect to measure it, and how reliable is that data? 
  • And finally, what is the current process performance? 

Thus, the measure phase is all about establishing a baseline, which will be particularly useful later in the project when we want to measure the effect of any process improvements made.

3. Analyze

The third step of DMAIC is analysis. The analysis phase is all about understanding the root cause of the problem. Six Sigma provides some process-based tools that help us look for clues in the process itself and answer questions such as:

  • How does the process work, and what is our existing knowledge of the process? 

However, Six Sigma also provides some database tools that enable us to look for clues in the data and answer questions such as:

  • What does the data say, and can we use the data to verify that the root cause affects the process output?

4. Improve

The fourth step of DMAIC is the improvement phase. Having established what causes the problem, the idea in the improvement phase is to develop solutions and implement them. The relevant questions to ask are:

  • What are all the possible solutions?
  • Which ones will work best? 
  • When, where, and how should we implement the solutions?

5. Control

The last step of DMAIC, the control phase, is all about ensuring that the new, improved process is stable and under control. The questions to ask are:

  • Has the project’s goal been achieved?
  • Have the improvements become business as usual?

What is the Most Important Step of DMAIC?

According to two sources, Analyze is the most important step of DMAIC. Often, teams don’t emphasize enough on the Analyze phase, and they tend to jump to random solutions before knowing the actual causes of the problems in a given process.

How to Use DMAIC Process to Solve Problems?

The DMAIC process to problem-solving consists of five phases in which you need to take specific actions and use specific tools. The DMAIC process includes a DMAIC template which includes the following steps:

1. Step one is the define phase: This is where you have to define the problem. You have to create a problem statement to ensure that you have all the necessary resources available and develop a goal statement. For this step, you can use a SIPOC diagram and Flowchart that will provide the team with a high-level overview of the analyzed process.
2. Step two is the measure phase: This is where you have to measure the problem by quantifying it. You have to measure the extent of the problem.
3. Step three is the analysis phase: This is the phase in which you have to identify the root cause that is causing the problem. For this step, you need to visualize the data you have collected, use Pareto charts to represent numerical data, use a fishbone diagram to capture the knowledge of the process participants during the session, and use the 5 whys diagram to narrow down your findings to the last few causes of the problem.
4. Step four is the improvement phase: You have to solve the problem in the process. To implement the best solution to the problem, you should create an impact effort matrix, which will help you determine which solution has the best impact and the least cost. Further, you can explore the different solutions using the PDCA cycle and select the best one to implement.
5. Step five is the control phase: In this phase, you have to sustain the improvements you have already implemented in the improvement phase. You have to create a monitoring plan for the improvements and a response plan in case there is a drop in the process performance.

When to Use DMAIC?

When improving a process, if the risks are high or the problem is complex, DMAIC should be the primary method to use. Its philosophy discourages teams from skipping crucial steps when assessing problems, which increases the chances of successfully finishing a project.

If the risks are low and there is a clear solution to the problem, some of the DMAIC steps could be skipped. But the following criteria must be present:

  • The data show that an obvious solution is the best solution for the problem.
  • There is a clear buy-in from the process owner.
  • There is a plan of action in case some unintended outcomes appear.

However, if the data can’t prove that the obvious solution is the best solution, the DMAIC project must be put into action. It can be implemented in two ways. The first option is the team approach. In this case, skilled individuals in quality and process improvement lead the team while working on their everyday responsibilities. In this case, a process or quality improvement expert from the team can be assigned to multiple projects. Usually, these are long-term projects which take months to be completed.

The second approach involves the kaizen event method. This is an intense progression through the DMAIC process, usually completed in a week. The quality and process improvement expert should do the preparation work. This work is centered on the measure and define phases. The analysis, improve and control phases are carried by a team of individuals working only on the DMAIC process for the duration of the kaizen event.

What are the Advantages of Using DMAIC Model?

The advantages of using the DMAIC model are:

  • Faster Cycle Times
  • Support for Improvement Culture
  • Improved Collaboration
  • More Impact from Improvement

What are the Examples of DMAIC Usage?

Let’s take a look at one example of DMAIC usage.

Imagine you're a luxury watch manufacturer. Following a quarterly review, you learn that your profit margins are lower than you'd expect, but you're not sure why. So you decide to use the DMAIC model to help you get to the bottom of the problem and then fix the problem. 

So step one is define. That means we should define the problem as best we can. So for our example, we know that margins are going down, even though the price we charge hasn't changed. We aim to find and rectify the situation quickly. During this step, we also decided to put our team together, representing all the different parts of the business to investigate the problem and ensure that no stone is left unturned. 

Step two is measure. In the measure phase, we need to collect the data we think will give us the most insights into what's causing the problem. For our watch manufacturer example, we decide to map out the entire production process and monitor its time to move every step. 

Step three is analyze. This step involves analyzing that data to identify the root cause of the problem. The tools that are frequently used during this step include the five whys and the fishbone diagram. Both of these tools are designed to help you find the root cause. In this case, we will hold a brainstorming session and use the five why's technique to identify the root cause. During this process, we uncover that a stage in the middle of the manufacturing process is actually taking much longer than we'd expect. And upon further investigation, we find that this is happening because a small but very necessary component is often out of stock.

When this happens, the team creating the watches has to wait until more stock arrives before they resume manufacturing. According to the team, this is happening because the supplier of that part is unreliable. 

Step four is improve. In this step, we have to fix the root cause of the problem. In our example, there are multiple ways to improve the process. For example, we can hold more stock of that part in our inventory. We can switch to a different supplier. Or we can create a service level agreement, or an SLA, with the supplier to ensure we always get stock when we expect. With the three options available, our team has to evaluate the best solution to the root problem and implement it.

The final, step five, is control. In this step, we have to ensure the problem doesn't happen again, or if it happens, we must know about it almost immediately, without any significant delay. In this case, you will hold a weekly review meeting to monitor all of the data regarding how long each part of the manufacturing process takes. And if there is a large negative change from one week to another, it must be obvious to your team that there's been a problem, and you can step in and take corrective actions.

Who Invented DMAIC?

The DMAIC model was invented in 1950 by Dr. William Edwards Deming. He was an American educator and management consultant. William Deming made a huge impact on control and process management, both in the United States and Japan. He received an engineering degree from the University of Wyoming, and a master's from the University of Colorado in mathematics and physics. At Yale University, where he completed his studies, he was awarded a doctorate in mathematical physics. The methods of management set by W. Edwards Deming and Walter Shewhart are the origin of Six Sigma.

What is the Difference between DMAIC and DMADV?

Both DMAIC and DMADV are part of the philosophy of Lean Six Sigma. The main difference between DMAIC and DMADV is that while DMAIC is used to improve an existing process, DMADV focuses on developing new processes, services, or products. DMAIC measures the performance of a process, while DMADV measures customer specifications and needs. While DMADV develops business models to meet customers’ requirements, DMAIC focuses on improving a business process to reduce and eliminate defects.

Further, as DMADV is associated with new projects and product services, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work with existing processes and products. For example, if a process improvement doesn’t meet what’s expected or fails, it might be time to use the DMADV framework. Similarly, when an existing process or product no longer meets customers’ specifications or needs, the DMAIC method must be used.

The best way to remember their difference is that DMAIC is designed to enhance a process, product, or service that the organization will keep selling, while DMADV works best for launching new features or projects.

What is the Difference between DMAIC and PDCA?

The main difference between DMAIC and PDCA is that DMAIC represents a data-driven improvement approach used to enhance, improve, and stabilize business processes in five stages - define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. On the other hand, PDCA is a repetitive four-stage model - plan, do, check, and act, applied to achieve continuous improvement in business process management.

Another difference is that the PDCA approach is mainly used in Lean, while the DMAIC concept is widely-used in Six Sigma.

The DMAIC is a more detailed concept. Its main usage is to solve big complex challenges, where the entire problem-solving process needs to be led by someone with technical skills. On the other hand, the PDCA approach is more straightforward. It is used to solve any type of problem in businesses. This problem-solving approach can be used at every level of a company and solve many problems on a daily basis.

The DMAIC method uses more advanced statistical resources, while the PDCA cycle uses simpler statistical tools.

In Summary

The DMAIC process to problem-solving includes the following phases:

  1. Define phase where the problem is defined.
  2. Measure phase where the quantifying data about the problem is gathered.
  3. Analysis phase where the root cause of a problem is identified using a variety of supporting tools.
  4. Improvement phase where the solution to the problem is implemented.
  5. Control phase where a plan on how to sustain the improvements is devised.

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