An Overview of the Six Sigma DMAIC Tool

The speed, cost and quality improvements achieved by the Six Sigma program are made possible by the proper use of the appropriate tools. The core of these tools revolves around the DMAIC model. DMAIC is a five phase process that allows operators, supervisors, managers, and business owners implement various strategies and gain specific knowledge of the business processes that are used in the production phases of their products and or services.

The first phase is Define. This phase helps to identify opportunities for improvement as well as deliverables for the customers. The definition portion includes the establishment of a project charter, a project team, specific stakeholders, estimates of implications on business, evaluating the requirements of the customers, project management, and a plan of communication.

The various individuals involved in the entire process include the customers, employees, shareholders, and managers of the operation as well as the Six Sigma Professionals, who may or may not be the business people stated previously. These people are listed as well as the possible impacts to their job or daily duties due to the Six Sigma Improvements. These estimations of impact are listed for each party as nil, low, average, or substantial. Once this determination is made, the team will be able to identify which areas will impact which stakeholders the most.

The next phase is Measure. This is when one attempts to quantify the existing state of the processes, paying special attention to speed, cost, and quality. In other words, this phase is used to find the areas that overlap and affect other parts of the process, while allowing the project team to get an idea of how to fill the gaps that have been identified. This portion includes a detailed process map, collected data on output and input variables, a process capability analysis, as well as actions recommended to harvest the fruits that are ready.

The next step is the Analyze Phase. This is where the collected data is assembled in such a way as to give a project team the ability to extrapolate and weigh the data in order to gain insight into the overall process and where it needs improvement. The analysis aspect is the most important aspect of the Six Sigma tools and should be undertaken by experienced personnel who are able to look at all the possible aspects of business activities including cycle times and defect rates.

Improvement is the fourth of the five fingers used in the DMAIC Six Sigma Process. This includes the use of Pareto charts to help identify areas of priority. It helps to prioritize areas in which the most productivity is yielded as well as where most time is wasted. The goal of this phase is to implement changes in areas where a larger percentage of efforts are expended rather than what is gained in profitability.

The last and final aspect of the Six Sigma DMAIC Tool is Control. It is imperative to measure and track ongoing practices to ensure that production goals, quality of product, production efficiency, and customer delight continue to trend in the proper directions. The control tool is used to measure these aspects and to detect when things start to degrade so as to offer solutions in a rapid fashion and keep losses to a minimum.