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.
What is Six Sigma DMAIC?
DMAIC 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.
DMAIC is an acronym that stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.
DMAIC Process and Problem-Solving
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.
• 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.
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.