~ By Tony Jacowski
Although it is accepted that extraordinary levels of quality improvement are possible only by a radical change in management philosophy, leading to change in organisational culture, the fact remains that the exercise of undertaking process improvement projects cannot be overlooked for actual change to occur. Projects are the bridge between two parts, comprising of planning and doing. Although apparently similar, project and planning are different in scope.
The dictionary definitions of the word "project" describe it as being a scheme, plan, proposal or an enterprise requiring determined effort. As far as "planning" is concerned, it refers to the systematic execution of actions, aimed at attaining a particular objective. Therefore, while the project is a description of what is supposed to be done, the plan details how it is proposed to be accomplished.
It is possible to integrate both by using DMAIC. A comprehensive DMAIC approach comprises integration of the project schedule development and financial analysis along with Six Sigma tools, all of which are vital to accomplish success.
Success in Six Sigma is not based on complicated and high-tech procedures. It relies wholly on tried and tested systems, which have been in use for a long time. It simplifies things by reducing the many complexities that are the hallmarks of TQM (Total Quality Management). It takes just a handful from the plethora of tools and techniques that characterise TQM, and concentrates on inculcating high levels of proficiency in their application in a few technical leaders selected in-house, to turn professionals into sharp Six Sigma Black Belts.
Even when using the latest methods in computer technology, Black Belts use the simple define-measure-analyse-improve-control framework of DMAIC for the application of the tools. Anyone with exposure to the plan-do-study-act model of TQM would find DMAIC to be similar. The DMAIC framework can be portrayed as follows:
Define: Define targets for improvement at various levels. These may consist of strategic objectives of greater ROI (Return On Investment) or market share at the highest level. Improvement goals at the production level may comprise of increased output in some particular department, whereas the goal at the project level may be an increase in the yield for some process or machine, or a reduction in defects. In order to identify improvement opportunities, the application of data mining methods are desirable.
Measure: Determine the current baseline by measuring the existing system, followed by establishing reliable and valid metrics, which would help to monitor progress towards established targets.
Analyse: Use system analysis to identify techniques of gap elimination between current performance and desired target levels, for the process or system. Guide the analysis by the application of statistical tools.
Improve: Find creative methods for system improvement that would result in cheaper, better, safer and faster ways of doing things. The new approach should be implemented through project management, and the application of other planning and management tools. Improvements should be validated using statistical methods.
Control: Exercise control over the new improved system through institutionalisation. Modify incentive and compensation systems, budgets, policies and procedures, operating instructions, maximum retail price and other systems of management. Correct documentation can be ensured through utilisation of ISO 9000.
The DMAIC framework is an essential guide to process improvement projects used by Six Sigma Black Belts. The ease of implementation and high rate of success has made it find favour with management experts, as compared to other process improvement models.
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.