DMAIC Process

The DMAIC process is a data-driven improvement cycle for optimizing and stabilizing business processes and designs. 

Understanding the DMAIC process

Fundamentally, the DMAIC approach exists to bring structure to process improvement and problem-solving. Indeed, it may be used to implement a new process or improve an existing process. Every such initiative is underpinned by data collection, which makes it possible to determine whether results have improved and to what degree.

The DMAIC process is often associated with Six Sigma projects, though it is by no means limited to lean manufacturing. DMAIC is effective in many quality improvement projects, such as improving employee and customer satisfaction or launching a new product or service.

The five steps of the DMAIC process

DMAIC is an acronym of five interconnected and sequential steps:

  1. Define (D) – firstly, the problem, improvement activity, project goals, project team, and customer requirements must be identified. Tools used in the first DMAIC step include stakeholder analysis, voice of the customer matrix, or high-level process map like a SIPOC diagram.
  2. Measure (M) – this step involves data collection to establish the baseline upon which subsequent performance improvements will be measured. What should be measured and how should it be measured? Useful tools include 6S, value stream maps, and detailed process mapping.
  3. Analyze (A) – here, potential problem root causes are identified and validated with a root cause analysis. What is the magnitude of their contribution to the problem? Ideally, the team will have a list of potential root causes to investigate further. These may be derived by using a failure mode and effects analysis, cause and effect diagrams, or simple brainstorming.
  4. Improve (I) – the purpose of the improve step is to identify, test, and implement a solution that eliminates a root cause. It’s important to focus on the simplest and easiest answers – there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Solutions can be tested using the PDCA cycle.
  5. Control (C) – in the final step, the project team ensures the solution is a viable long-term fix. They must ensure the problem does not reoccur by devising a monitoring plan to track the success of the improvement. Initiatives must then be incorporated into standard operating procedures. Once this has been achieved, the business may find value in implementing the solution in a similar project or process.

Benefits of the DMAIC process

Aside from improving projects and processes, DMAIC has many other benefits:

  • Discipline and structure – the DMAIC process is a highly structured approach that lets a business think through a problem systematically. This saves it from implementing a solution before verifying whether it is likely to be successful, which can be financially costly and sometimes exacerbate the problem.
  • Improvement control – the fifth and final control step is also seen as an important benefit of the methodology. In some instances, the project team discovers a solution but cannot implement it properly because of inadequate time, money, or buy-in. DMAIC favors a strict and comprehensive control phase to identify a set of best practices likely to result in long-term success.
  • Reduced operating costs – operational costs and associated risks are a major expense for many global companies. When combined with Six Sigma principles, DMAIC reduces operating costs while minimizing risk. These savings are instituted by shorter, standardized processes with fewer touchpoints, hand-offs, reworks, failures, and other non-value adding activities

Key takeaways:

  • The DMAIC process is a data-driven improvement cycle for optimizing and stabilizing business processes and designs. The process exists to bring structure and clarity to problem-solving.
  • The DMAIC process is an acronym of five sequential steps: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. 
  • The DMAIC process encourages businesses to avoid implementing a solution before it has been properly verified. The methodology also ensures the solution is a viable long-term fix and reduces operating costs and risk.
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