Tag Archives: DMAIC

Quality Tools in Daily Life

Image Credit: Lucy Glover Photography

Image Credit: Lucy Glover Photography

This past month, ASQ asked the Influential Voices: “How do you incorporate quality tools into your daily life?” That’s a topic I’ve covered here often, and from many different perspectives:

Another simple way I apply principles from quality management to my day to day life is by structuring my problem-solving plans in terms of DMAIC, DMADV, or Root Cause Analysis. Sometimes, more than one methodology can be useful. How do you choose which methodology to use? Here’s how I do it:

  • DMAIC is applied to process improvement. The process has to exist already… and it’s already performing to specifications. But you want to make it even better. Applying the measurements and analysis tools associated with DMAIC can help.
  • DMADV is applied to new process design. The process doesn’t exist yet… and you need to create it so that it satisfies needs. This approach helps you articulate and implement innovative possibilities.
  • Root Cause Analysis is also applied to process improvement. The process exists already… but something’s wrong! Quality standards or performance standards are not being met, and we need to figure out why, so we can fix it. Applying the basic quality tools that are associated with RCA can help.

Here’s an examples of how we’ve applied this approach.

One of the members of my household is frustrated by the way the dishwasher is loaded. He thinks the process can be substantially improved, so that we can fit more dishes in at any given time (thus conserving water and dish detergent) and relieving his frustration. We applied RCA tools (FMEA and Pareto charts) to determine that it was a training issue… one person in the house needed to be trained on the appropriate process for queueing up the dishes and loading them. DMAIC was applied to make sure that this training occurred, and that there was a control plan in place to ensure that the lessons learned were consistently retained. This resulted in an increase in cycle time (good!) from once a day to once every three days, and a decrease in almost all frustration. 🙂

DMAIC Demystified

The DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) methodology is one of the cornerstones of a Six Sigma project. It provides a useful heuristic that can remind you how to structure your project when you apply Six Sigma. This is important for two reasons. First, by reminding you to DEFINE your project’s goals, its deliverables to external customers, its deliverables to internal customers, and most important – your definition of a defect – you establish the solid foundation for actually delivering process improvements that meet tangible goals. Second, DMAIC provides a common language for Six Sigma practitioners so that new teams can spend time solving problems instead of searching for their own standard operating procedures.

If you’re familiar with Deming’s PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle, DMAIC is essentially equivalent, but with a very important addition at the end:

  • Planning = Defining
  • Doing = Measuring
  • Checking = Analyzing
  • Acting = Improving
  • (Sustaining/Continually Learning) = Controlling

There’s nothing magical about DMAIC – it’s just a helpful reminder to guide you as you structure a Six Sigma project. And remember that a Six Sigma project is hopefully not the end of the improvement – ideally, a process team will leave behind a new foundation for identifying more efficiencies in the future.