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What is DMAIC?

By G. Chung
Updated: Feb 15, 2024

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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon328438 — On Apr 03, 2013

Common sense is not common. Six sigma is good for those who do not have enough work experience and do not have enough common sense. I have seen companies using Six Sigma going bankrupt because they blew everything out of proportion. Six sigma has bunch of good tools but it they are not used intelligently and cautiously, the results could be disastrous.

By anon138087 — On Dec 30, 2010

DMAIC is the structured approach to delivering Six Sigma process capability, which in the long run provides a very low (theoretically 3.4 DPPM) defect rate.

By GenevaMech — On Aug 07, 2010

@ Glasshouse- Six Sigma is a business strategy that works to improve the process of creating a finished product. A six Sigma Consulting firm would review a company's manufacturing process, and look for defects in the process and reduce manufacturing inefficiencies.

A Six Sigma project will define statistical and quality management methods that will improve the manufacturing process until 99.99966% of all products the firm manufactures are defect free. Experts in different areas of the Six Sigma process are organized into a hierarchy based on their skills and stage in the process. The organization of a Six Sigma project is important in creating quantifiable results.

By Glasshouse — On Aug 07, 2010

So what exactly is Six Sigma? I get that DMAIC is a process used to improve a product or process, but I do not get what a sigma six team is or what they do. Can someone give me a little more background on how Six Sigma relates to DMAIC? Thanks!

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