Six Sigma Concepts: The DMAIC Problem Solving Method

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Introduction

Six Sigma is a business management strategy that was initially developed by Motorola in the 1980s, which is used by many Fortune 500 companies. It is used primarily to identify and rectify errors and defect in a manufacturing or business process. The Six Sigma system uses a number of quality methods and tools that are used by Six Sigma trained professionals within the organization. The DMAIC problem-solving method can be used to help with any issue that arises, usually by those who professionals in the organization who have reached green belt level.

The DMAIC Method

The DMAIC problem-solving method that is a roadmap that can be used for any projects or quality improvements that need to be made. The term DMAIC stands for the five main steps in the process: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

  • Define – It is important in Six Sigma to define the problem or project goals. The more specific the problem is defined the greater the chance of obtaining measurements and then successfully completing the project or solving the problem. The definition should describe the issue accurately with numeric representation. For example, “damaged finished goods from the production line have increased 17 percent in the last three months”. The definition of the problem or project should not be vague such as “quality has fallen.” As part of the definition stage, the scope of the project, or issue should be defined as well as the business processes involved.
  • Measure – When the project or problem has been defined then there need to be decisions made on additional measurement that is required to quantify the problem. For example, if the definition of the problem is “damaged finished goods from the production line have increased 17 percent in the last three months,” then additional measurements may be needed to look at what finished goods are damaged, when are they damaged, the level of damage, etc.
  • Analyze – Once the measuring stage has defined the addition measurements, the data is then collected and analyzed. At this point, it is possible to determine whether the problem is valid or whether it is a random event that does not have a specific cause that can be corrected. The data that has been collected can be used as a base level to compare against measurements after the project has been completed to ascertain the success of the project.
  • Improve – After measurements have been taken and analyzed, then possible solutions can be developed. Test data can be created and pilot studies launched to find which of the solutions offers the best improvements to the issue when compared against the original measurements taken. The team should also look at the results to ensure that there are no unanticipated consequences to the selected solution. When the most appropriate solution is selected, then the team can develop an implementation plan and a timeline for the completion of the project.
  • Control – After the implementation of the solution or project there requires a number of controls to be put in place so that measurements can be taken to confirm that the solution is still valid and to prevent recurrence. The control measurements can be scheduled for specific dates, e.g. monthly, daily, and yearly, etc. The solution should also be well documented and any other related process documentation updated.

    Summary

    The DMAIC problem-solving method can produce significant improvements for an organization that is using the Six Sigma methodology and tools. The method offers a five step plan which offers organizations a roadmap to follow so that issues can be resolved using a structured methodology.