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

DMAIC six sigma: To raise the calibre of output generated by an organization’s procedures, Six Sigma applications employ the DMAIC concept. DMAIC stands for defining, measuring, analysing, improving, and controlling.

Companies have always wanted to increase sales and profits since those figures, in a sense, indicate the calibre of their goods and services. The race to the bottom line is more intense than ever as new technologies continue to permeate the corporate landscape. In general, organisations are rushing to enhance their operations and boost their efficiency. This is among the explanations for the growing number of companies implementing DMAIC, one of the fundamental methods that forms the basis of any process improvement project, including Six Sigma projects.

What is DMAIC?

The abbreviation DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control. There are five stages in the process: problem definition, activity improvement, opportunity identification, project goal formulation, and meeting customer (internal and external) demands.

The term DMAIC describes a data-driven cycle of process improvement that strives to enhance, optimise, and stabilise business processes and designs. The DMAIC improvement cycle is the driving force behind a Six Sigma project.

According to its description, DMAIC is a five-phase approach for enhancing a wide range of organisational processes, including manufacturing, software development, and other activities. Although this approach is related to Six Sigma, it can also be used with lean and other methods of process optimisation. The goal of the data-driven DMAIC problem-solving technique is to find and fix process inefficiencies so that improvements can be made more consistently.

Pronounced “duh-may-ik,” the acronym represents the five phases: define, measure, analyse, improve, and control.

The PDSA (“plan, do, study, act”) cycle, created by statistician Walter A. Shewhart at Bell Laboratories in the 1930s, is the foundation of the DMAIC technique. However, some of the biggest companies in the world, like Ford Motor Company, GE, Motorola, Toyota, and Ford Motor Company, have developed the approach as it exists today.

Why the DMAIC Process?

There is one more stage that some businesses take before moving on to the main process to determine if DMAIC is the best strategy for solving their challenges. The name of this phase is “Recognise.”

Despite not being a formal component of DMAIC, this step is crucial since DMAIC cannot be used in every circumstance. Under certain circumstances, this method may be the best choice for streamlining operations. Determining whether DMAIC is the appropriate method for you requires knowing which conditions to look for and which problem to address.

How do you evaluate those conditions? Here are three main factors to consider:

  • There are apparent inefficiencies and defects in the existing process.
  • There is potential to reduce variables such as lead times or other flaws while improving variables like productivity or cost savings.
  • The condition is assessable, and the outcomes can be understood appropriately through quantifiable means.

After you have evaluated the above factors, you can conclusively determine if your process can benefit from implementing DMAIC.

The Five Phases of DMAIC

The DMAIC process follows five key phases, which are intended to lay the groundwork for your process improvement, chart goals, track progress, and analyze results. The five phases (and an explanation of each) are:

1. Define

During this phase, we select the most critical and impactful opportunities for improvement. This phase is also about mapping the process, focus, scope, and the ultimate goal as well as understanding how the problem affects all stakeholders. The way to jumpstart a DMAIC cycle is by crafting the problem statement.

The other critical steps at this stage are:

  • Identify the opportunities with high potential for improvement
  • Outline the scope of the project
  • Create a value stream map (VSM) to document every step in the process
  • Develop a voice of the customer table (VOCT) to pinpoint the customer needs
  • Identify all stakeholders
  • Estimate project impact and completion 
  • Identify and document business opportunity
  • Draw out other related processes

A successful Define phase helps you move forward with clear, well-defined objectives and timeline for project completion.

2. Measure

The Measure phase is where baselines are drawn to assess the performance of a given process. Without having sound benchmarks for comparison, it’s difficult to track improvements. Hence, at this stage, we:

  • Develop the data collection methods to be used to measure success 
  • Recognize input, processes, and output indicators
  • Collect and examine current state data
  • Outline the failure modes and effects analysis 
  • Implement process capability analysis

The use of visual management tools such as control charts, bar charts, and run charts etc. can help you achieve better results at this stage

3. Analyze

In this phase, your goal is to identify and test the underlying causes of problems to make sure that improvement takes place from deep down where the problems stem from.

The critical steps at this stage include:

  • Performing a complete root cause analysis (RCA), which covers a broad range of techniques and methodologies, including change analysis, events and causal factor analysis, and the Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making model. 
  • Doing failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) to identify all possible problem areas, inefficiencies, flaws, defects, and shortcomings. 
  • Getting a visual representation of the variations within a given process using a multi-vari chart.
  • Implementing process control
  • Developing a plan for improvement

After this phase, you will be able to capture and document all opportunities for improvement successfully, and your plan of action will start taking shape.

4. Improve

With the analysis done and the data in front of you, now is the time to start making the improvements. 

This stage includes the following activities:

  • Brainstorm and put forth solution ideas
  • Develop a design of experiments (DOE) to determine the expected benefits of a solution
  • Revise process maps and plans according to the data collected in the previous stage
  • Outline a test solution and plan
  • Implement Kaizen events to improve the process
  • Inform all stakeholders about the solution

The use of improvement management software is helpful at this stage. This helps to move the process seamlessly, achieve cross-functional collaboration and makes it easier for the management and executives to follow the progress of a given DMAIC project.

5. Control

After changes are in place and are successfully addressing the problems to improve your operations, it’s time to bring the process under control to ensure its long-term effectiveness.

This is where you:

  • Identify and document the new work standard
  • Develop a quality control plan which ensures the entire team is working with the same techniques and metrics 
  • Confirm reduction in failures due to the targeted cause
  • Use statistical process control (SPC) to monitor process execution and identify any issues that arise
  • Determine additional improvements, if needed, to meet process objectives
  • Streamline process improvements using the “Five S’s” of Lean
  • Integrate, document, and communicate the lessons learned

After the Control phase, you can quantify the complete impact of process changes in terms of cost reduction, efficiency, quality improvement, productivity increase, and customer satisfaction. 

Benefits of DMAIC

Having a clear route to success is crucial when your company is attempting to enhance a specific procedure, like lowering the amount of errors or raising overall quality. The DMAIC process’s straightforward but extremely organised methodology is its primary advantage. Organisations will struggle to track what works (and why) or get rid of process modifications that don’t work without this kind of structure. Additionally, even the best process modifications won’t be correctly followed if ineffective controls aren’t put in place.

Because this method is so regimented and necessitates thorough documentation, firms may continuously improve efficiency and refine their approach to problem-solving. The information gathered during the procedure can be applied to subsequent projects carried out by the same company, offering more precise starting points as needed.


What is the five step DMAIC process?

The DMAIC methodology consists of five phases, namely, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control

What are the 5 steps of quality improvement?

Five Steps: DMAIC. Lean Six Sigma is organized into five, rather intuitive steps represented by the acronym DMAIC, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.


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