DMAIC is an acronym for a series of steps used to measure defects in business processes and improve profitability. It is one of two key methods used to implement Six Sigma, a quality improvement program introduced in 1986 by Motorola, a U.S. technology and communications company. By identifying defects, a company can eliminate errors and accurately determine quality. Then, the company can use those findings to figure out a solution to a detected problem. Today, Six Sigma methods are used across a broad range of industries to improve both processes and profitability.
Specifically, DMAIC stands for a five-step improvement process: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control:
- Define: Define the problem, the process, and the project goals. In Six Sigma it is imperative that the problem is specifically defined. Saying that business is slowing down is a poorly defined problem. Instead, the problem should be clearly established in quantitative terms. So a good Six Sigma problem definition would say that business has had a 35% decrease in net sales in the past two consecutive quarters.
- Measure: Measure and collect data that will determine the factors that have influence over the outcome of the process or procedure.
- Analyze: The data is analyzed using statistical tools to assess whether the problem is real (and solvable) or random, which makes it unsolvable within the Six Sigma framework.
- Improve: If the problem is real, the Six Sigma team identifies solutions to improve the process based on the data analysis.
- Control: Control planning, including data collection and control mechanisms, is required to ensure that the solutions are sustainable and deliver peak performance. It also ensures that early deviations from the target do not materialize into process defects.
While DMAIC applies to existing processes, a different Six Sigma method helps create new processes or designs. It's called DMADV, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify. Both DMAIC and DMADV were inspired by the late W. Edwards Deming, Ph.D., a U.S. statistician, teacher and consultant who helped develop modern quality control. Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle, also known as the Deming or Shewhart cycle, laid the groundwork for DMAIC as a statistical and scientific method of business process improvement.
Numerous well-established quality management methods and statistical tools are used within DMAIC to drive process improvements. Many of these have been integrated into Six Sigma software packages to simplify the process. Most of these methods can be broken down into two categories: process optimization tools that help teams create more efficient workflows and statistical analysis tools that help teams evaluate data more effectively. Despite various criticisms of DMAIC, including its lack of originality and the controversial creation of a cottage industry for Six Sigma consultants, it continues to make a huge impact on how industries achieve and sustain operational excellence.