Leveraging Six Sigma DMAIC to Solve Supply Chain Challenges

Leveraging Six Sigma DMAIC to Solve Supply Chain Challenges

What is DMAIC?

DMAIC, (pronounced “dah-may-ik”) is a Six Sigma data-driven process improvement framework that stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. It was developed to guide manufacturers in their efforts to minimize defects and improve quality performance for existing business processes. DMAIC is rooted in the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle and is a core project methodology used to drive Six Sigma project results.

Why DMAIC?

DMAIC is a critical Six Sigma process that leverages proven statistics and tools to improve the quality of existing products and services by reducing variability. The process allows teams to dramatically reduce inefficiencies which can lead to bottom-line profitability improvement across an organization. It is also especially helpful in solving supply chain challenges.

How to Use DMAIC

DMAIC helps organizations become more aware of hidden problems and potential solutions within their processes. When quality problems arise, it can be tempting to rush through the DMAIC process to implement immediate solutions, but this may only aid in solving easier, less complex problems. These immediate, short-term fixes provide temporary relief until the process reverts to traditional methods and does not necessarily address real concerns directly. Generally, a more thorough application of the DMAIC process generates larger, more sustainable results.

To maximize the potential for continuous improvement processes, it is essential to thoroughly follow each phase of DMAIC, described below, with all involved team members:

• Define the current situation, customer requirements, and specific goals
• Measure the performance of the core business process involved
• Analyze the data collected and process map to determine root causes of defects and opportunities for improvement
• Improve the target process by designing creative solutions to fix and prevent problems
• Control the improvements to keep the process on the new course

What to Avoid

During the “Define” phase, avoid initiating the project before achieving buy-in from the organization’s leaders and cross-functional team members. The leaders need to understand the goals, scope of work, and the importance of collaboration, and ensure each phase is completed effectively. This is necessary because the change agent may not always be available to monitor the project. Without this extra accountability, front-line operators may not prioritize the project or take it seriously. Leaders should be updated on the progress of the project to help remove obstacles.

Refrain from rushing through the “Measure” phase. Take time to understand how each KPI is calculated. Observe the process and document any variances between shifts. Confirm that the right metrics are being measured accurately and consistently.

During the “Analyze” phase, do not allow assumptions about the data to influence decisions without testing them first. It is critical to avoid jumping straight into solutions without digging deep to understand why the operation is experiencing suboptimal results. This takes time, requires patience, and challenges conventional wisdom.

Achieving buy-in consistently throughout the project will be essential once improvements are designed and implemented. Abstain from designing solutions without involving operators. They are the ones that must use this improved process, so ensure they understand the solution by going through multiple test runs. Document any challenges operators face and adjust the solution accordingly prior to actual implementation. One of the worst feelings is working hard on a solution only to learn it is not used when the managers of the process, or team members overseeing it, are not around. Each shift should be monitored to ensure consistent compliance. Again, solutions should be communicated to, and endorsed by, top-level managers.

Finally, stay away from designing and implementing solutions that are not accompanied by control measures. Without control, it is unlikely for the solution to last. Implementing controls will ensure the solution is sustainable when supervisors cannot monitor operators or when employees transition to different positions.

Common Results of Practicing DMAIC

Applying the DMAIC process effectively is known to produce results, including reduced defects, waste, lead-times, and faster cycle times. Greater awareness and transparency is developed around the process, leading to smoother operations and building momentum towards future DMAIC projects.

In order to generate the highest probability for the success of DMAIC projects, engage Six Sigma Master Black Belts and Black Belts to lead project teams of Green and Yellow belts.

Each belt color defines a difference in skill set and experience levels with DMAIC. When an organization is deploying a DMAIC project for the first time, it is critical to develop internal Six Sigma certified team members or engage experts from outside the organization to mitigate project risk. Although there is no single body assigned to grant Six Sigma certifications, many have a similar process. Six Sigma certifications involve learning the appropriate subject matter, passing a written proficiency examination, and displaying competency in a hands‐on, real-world environment.

DMAIC continuous improvement efforts should not end once optimal results are achieved. If performance targets are consistently met, it is time to set higher targets. Regardless of past performances’ success rates, there will always be a better way to execute a process. Effectively following DMAIC guidelines will allow supply chain and production control teams to respond quickly to any quality disruptions that may arise within the supply chain.

Conclusion

We hope this high-level overview of the Six Sigma DMAIC process allows you to effectively leverage this proven continuous improvement framework to reduce variability in your supply chain and improve profitability.

-Aaron