DMAIC Process: The 5 Phases of Lean Sigma You Must Know

Dmaic six sigma: The DMAIC model is used for Six Sigma applications in order to improve the quality of results produced by a company’s processes. Defining, Measuring, Analyzing, Improving and Controlling are the four letters of DMAIC.

Companies strive to increase sales and profits as a measure of their product and service quality. With advancing technology, competition for the bottom line is fierce.

To improve operations and efficiency, more businesses are implementing DMAIC, a core technique used in Six Sigma projects and other process improvement initiatives.

What is DMAIC?

DMAIC is a data-driven problem-solving approach that helps make incremental improvements and optimizations to products, designs, and business processes.

This approach was created in the 1980s as part of the Six Sigma methodology by a Motorola engineer, Bill Smith. By using data and statistics, the Six Sigma approach is designed to drive continuous improvement in manufacturing processes.

5 Phases of Lean Sigma DMAIC Methods

DMAIC has 5 phases of lean sigma: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Each phase is designed to have a cumulative effect: to build on the information and data generated from the previous stage and to be repeated over several executions.

1. Define

The Define phase defines the problem and what is needed to obtain a solution. In this process stage, you clearly define your situation, the end goal, and the scope required to achieve it.

This phase helps you understand the process as a whole and what elements determine the quality (critical to quality), often referred to as “CTQ”.

Input and output are usually described with a SIPOC diagram—which stands for the supplier (supplier), input (input), process (process), output (output), and customer (customer).

This information is usually obtained from the project charter document, which sets out the shape of your DMAIC process.

2. Measure

Once you understand the process problem, you should outline ways to monitor the changes you make to that problem. With a data-driven approach, having data is, of course, very important to the DMAIC process.

Thus, the goal of Measure phase is to establish the current performance of your process and what data to analyze. From there, you can use the data capture plan to monitor performance as you make changes and compare it at the end of the project.

3. Analyze

You now have a baseline of data you can use to start making decisions about your processes. As you might expect, the Analyze phase is a great time to study that data.

In this phase, you and your team members will map the current process using your data to understand where problems are coming from.

Although some Six Sigma projects use more sophisticated tools for this, fishbone charts and Pareto charts are very sufficient. They have commonly used methods for analyzing the root causes of problems.

Once you know some of the root causes of the pain, you can start getting your team involved. Ask them to choose where to focus your DMAIC process.

4. Improve

Finally, now is the time to make real improvements to your processes. In the Improve phase, work with the team to find creative solutions that can be implemented and measured within the DMAIC process.

At this point, brainstorming ideas and holding effective meetings is critical for your team. Once you’ve thought of a solution, you should experiment, test and implement it.

The Plan-Do-Check-Act or “PDCA” cycle is a standard method of doing this, along with Failure Forms and Effects Analysis or “FMEA,” to anticipate problems that may occur.

This information should be organized into a detailed implementation plan, which you can then use to guide the implementation of the solution in your processes.

5. Control

This final step in the DMAIC methodology can help you verify and maintain the success of your solution in the future. In the Control phase, your team must create a monitoring and control plan to continually reassess the impact of any process changes implemented.

At the same time, you should create a response plan to act on if performance starts to dip back and new issues arise. Being able to review how improvements were made and what solutions were made is an invaluable asset.

In times like these, having good documentation and version control around the repair process is essential.

If you are somewhat familiar with DMAIC, you may have heard of a different initial step, known as the Recognize phase. This step involves selecting the right project or problem to tackle first, as not all projects may need an approach as rigorous as DMAIC.

DMAIC Benefits

There are many benefits to using the DMAIC process for process improvement. Some of the main benefits include:

1. Increased efficiency and productivity: The DMAIC process helps organizations identify and eliminate inefficiencies and defects in their processes, resulting in improved quality, reduced costs, and increased customer satisfaction.

2. Improved quality: By identifying and eliminating the root causes of problems, the DMAIC process helps organizations improve the quality of their products and services, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. Reduced costs: By identifying and eliminating inefficiencies and defects, the DMAIC process helps organizations reduce costs associated with rework, scrap, and warranty claims.

4. Increased customer satisfaction: The DMAIC process helps organizations understand and meet the needs of their customers, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

5. Increased competitiveness: By improving processes and increasing efficiency and quality, the DMAIC process helps organizations become more competitive in their respective markets.

6. Improved employee engagement: By involving employees in the improvement process, the DMAIC process can help to increase employee engagement and motivation.

7. Data-driven approach: DMAIC is a data-driven approach that allows organizations to make decisions based on facts and evidence, rather than assumptions.

8. Continuous improvement: The control phase of DMAIC allows organizations to establish control systems to sustain the improvements made during the Improve phase, resulting in a culture of continuous improvement.

Why You Should Use DMAIC Method?

As explained earlier, a standard adjustment to DMAIC is an additional Recognize phase: a period of identifying whether an issue is suitable for addressing with DMAIC.

The reason for this stage is that DMAIC is a process that requires a lot of alignment and effort, and time to understand. Every organization must implement and operate DMAIC to determine its fit with the team, industry, and organizational culture.

At the same time, organizations must consider the best allocation of their resources: which process or group will benefit most from DMAIC?

Thus, it is only sometimes an option for all issues or problems. Suppose process problems are known, and solutions supported by convincing data are available. In that case, a complete DMAIC method may not be necessary.

However, when the process problem is complex or high risk—perhaps where performance degradation is unacceptable—DMAIC is the preferred approach.

Even if resource costs are higher, DMAIC ensures that procedures are followed and essential steps are not skipped, increasing the chances of successful implementation.

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