At the production line weekly meeting, it’s once again brought to everyone’s attention that the team has failed to meet the quota for the week, missing it by 25%. Tension hangs thick in the air, as assembly, test, quality, material handling, and supply chain are all pointing fingers at each other as to the cause of the lack of production. 

The cause of the problem is not obvious, and you need to bring everyone together to better understand the problem, unveil the root cause, and determine the right solutions to put in place. 

This situation is a great candidate for using DMAIC.

An overview: What is DMAIC?

DMAIC is a data-driven process-improvement methodology that focuses on properly identifying the problem, utilizing data to determine the root cause, developing and implementing the solution, and verifying that the solution continues to be effective over time. 

DMAIC is an acronym that stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

The Define stage is when the team defines the problem in clear, concise language. It covers the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how many parts of the situation. This also means it covers the scope of the project, key process metrics, the resources and team members available, the project champion and stakeholders, voice of the customer, budgets, and the project goals.

The Measure stage is when the team measures and documents the current state of the situation and establishes a baseline. Be sure to collect as much quantitative data as possible, and where quantitative data is not available, collect qualitative data. Be sure to collect as much data as your resource constraints allow that is connected to the problem statement key metric, as well as value stream maps, process maps, and process documentation that make up the process. Take time to determine how the data will be collected and how various sources of data compare to each other.

The Analyze stage involves taking the data collected during the Measure stage, and analyzing and identifying the key opportunities for improvement. This is the phase that identifies the root cause of the problem. It’s also the phase where the team identifies what’s working correctly in the process, as these characteristics need to be preserved when the solution to the root cause is selected.

The Improve stage involves the generation, selection, and implementation of the best solutions. These solutions should be within cost and time guidelines, justifying the time and effort it takes to implement the solution.

The Control stage installs and monitors controls into the system to verify that the solution has been institutionalized and continues to hold the gains over time. Eventually, when the metrics in question begin to drift, it may be time to start a new DMAIC problem-solving process, and the entire process begins again.


Benefits of utilizing DMAIC 

Understanding the problem before you find a solution

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Companies have a bad habit of trying to solve a problem before they fully understand the problem. By completing Define at the beginning and getting the team to agree to the terms, you can keep from wasting problem-solving efforts, increasing your odds of identifying the correct root cause and problem solutions. 

Making a complex problem easier to understand

By using the phases of DMAIC and documenting your efforts, a complex problem can be made much easier to understand. Clear problem statements, non-anecdotal data, and visual process maps can go a long way toward getting multiple team members from different departments to understand the true situation.

Improve upon the documentation of the process

It’s common to find out that process documentation is lacking, and during the use of DMAIC, the team will likely unearth sources of tribal knowledge that need to be documented.

3 DMAIC best practices

1. Be sure to have a high-level champion assigned to your project. DMAIC projects are subject to time and budget constraints, so it’s important to have someone at a high enough level within the organization supporting the DMAIC efforts. Be sure to have a clear problem statement, with scope and constraints clearly identified, for the project champion to support.

2. When developing your problem, be sure to scope the problem correctly. If too large a scope is chosen, you will limit the team’s ability to reach and implement a solution within an acceptable amount of time and budget. These projects are often known as “solve world hunger” projects, as these projects never have any chance of reaching completion. If too small a scope is chosen, then the return found by the solution risks not being of a size that justifies the time, budget, and labor required to traverse a DMAIC project.

3. Larger DMAIC situations typically call for additional group focusing techniques, such as holding a Kaizen Event.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about DMAIC

Should I use DMAIC for every problem-solving effort?

While it can be used for any problem, DMAIC is better suited for larger, more complex problems. For problems with simple-to-understand root causes and solutions that are easier to identify and implement, the effort the DMAIC process requires is likely to be overkill.

What are some tools used during DMAIC?

There are numerous tools that may assist your problem-solving efforts. Here are examples of some tools used (note that some may not apply to your specific project; choose wisely):

Is DMAIC the only problem-solving methodology to consider using?

There are other problem-solving methodologies to consider using, though they all have remarkably similar components. Problem-solving alternatives include PDCA, DMADV, A3, and 8D.

DMAIC helps efficiently solve complex problems

DMAIC is a great process for getting teams of people together to better understand the current state of a problem. It leads to a streamlined process of revealing the root cause of the problem, identifying, and implementing effective solutions, and monitoring future success. DMAIC is best suited for more complex problems and for projects that will need higher levels of support to complete. DMAIC is a great tool for reaching your financial, on-time, quality, and safety-based goals.

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