Five-step process improvement with the DMAIC method

DMAIC is an acronym for the five-step cycle used for process improvements. These five steps are: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.


How does the DMAIC method work?

The DMAIC method is often used to drive Six Sigma projects, though the tool is not limited to Six Sigma. The five steps must be carried out in order, i.e. define, then measure, then analyze, then improve, then control. As part of the final ‘control’ step, we may find that the process can be further improved, and in that way, the process can start again where the new improvement can be defined, hence DMAIC is a cyclical tool. Each step is typified by various actions.

1. DEFINE: Document all that we know: define the target customer; map the process flow, the parameters of this particular improvement project, the project goals and targets, etc.

2. MEASURE: During this step, decisions are taken as to what metrics are going to be used, and the measurement tools and criteria are also defined. In essence, the current performance of the business process in question is measured. Data is collected according to the measurement criteria.

3. ANALYSE: During this step, all the data gathered in the previous step is analyzed to ascertain the difference between the current process performance and the targeted performance. Any variations in the process will also be scrutinized and documented during this step. Various potential improvement opportunities will present themselves, so these can also be scrutinized and prioritized.

4. IMPROVE: Improvement opportunities are further brainstormed. An improvement plan is documented and implemented.

5. CONTROL: This step ensures that new processes are adhered to in order to sustain the improved process. Monitoring procedures should be documented and become common-place. The process should be reviewed from time to time to ensure the new methods are working well. If further improvements are necessary, the DMAIC method can be repeated.

For best practice improvement tools and techniques such as the DMAIC method to have a sustainable impact, we recommend that they be implemented as part of a process-driven integrative improvement system.