Four Practical DMAIC Examples from Which to Learn



As you begin a path to operational excellence, you’ll likely see the expression DMAIC. That’s simply an acronym that means:

  • DEFINE: State information about the customer, issue, problem, opportunity, goals, resources, and timeline. A project charter also can be useful.
  • MEASURE: Establish metrics and measure baseline performance.
  • ANALYZE: Compare current performance to the goal. Identify any variations. Prioritize improvement opportunities. Investigate the root causes.
  • IMPROVE: Develop gap-closure actions. Test and implement changes based on root cause analyses.
  • CONTROL: Institutionalize and standardize improvements to “sustain the gains.”

Some organizations add the letter L, which stands for:

  • LEVERAGE: Apply the learnings and methods to related opportunities.

For practical ideas, let’s examine several DMAIC examples for specific applications using varied continuous improvement models.


Manufacturing Shop Floor Yield Improvement

In this DMAIC example, we have a repetitive manufacturing process rich in operational data, making it a good candidate for a Six Sigma analysis. We’re making products and want to increase yield.

  • DEFINE: Identify specific products (e.g. three SKUs), product flow (e.g. machine No. 3), and the goal (increased yield, not faster throughput).
  • MEASURE: Clearly define metrics to be used, such as OTIFNE (On Time In Full No Error), first-pass yield, or rolled first-pass yield. Monitor for an adequate time to gather statistically meaningful baseline data.
  • ANALYZE: From the data, identify and address outliers, look for trends, and assess the mean and standard deviation. Use root cause analyses (e.g. Five Whys, Cause and Effect Diagrams) to identify variables that impact the yield.
  • IMPROVE: Define and put in place countermeasures to address root causes that have been identified. Monitor the process to confirm that the desired yield improvement is achieved.
  • CONTROL: Implement measures to maintain improved performance (e.g. standard operating procedures, process control).
  • LEVERAGE: Apply this DMAIC process or the specific Improve/Control measures to similar products or machines.


Evidence-Based Care Impacting Hospital Outcomes

Hospital-acquired infections are a big concern. In fact, in 2003, “each year roughly 80,000 patients become infected and 30,000 to 60,000 die at a cost of $3 billion nationally.” Observing the process and using Lean principles in a DMAIC framework can drive improvements.

  • DEFINE: What are the specific infections concerned? In what hospitals over what time frame will improvement efforts happen? For example, there were central line-associated infections in 100 intensive care units (ICUs) in Michigan hospitals during 2007.
  • MEASURE: Measure the current state (three infections per 1,000 catheter-hours).
  • ANALYZE: Determine the root cause (specific process steps and procedures introducing contamination).
  • IMPROVE: Implement a standardized checklist (basic steps related to hygiene, disinfectant, sterile barriers, and avoidance of susceptible areas). Enhance equipment (catheter-insertion cart).
  • CONTROL: Incorporate training and reinforcement to change the culture and internalize the process. Empower the nursing staff to ensure enforcement.
  • LEVERAGE: Publicize the results and apply the knowledge gained within other hospitals.

This example is adapted from the real-world success of Peter Pronovost, M.D. His breakthrough implementation of simple checklists is credited with driving the incidence of these infections to zero across most Michigan ICUs. This powerful application provides input for enhanced evidence-based patient care.


Organization-Wide Cultural Shift

Sometimes, improvement efforts don’t have measurable process data. Yet, the DMAIC approach can still work. Consider a management team trying to implement culture change in order to improve leadership and workforce capabilities for achieving strategic goals.

  • DEFINE: Create organizational mission, vision, and values.
  • MEASURE: Identify leadership behaviors that will support cultural change (e.g. living the values, conducting team meetings, and communicating goals). Evaluate the current state, possibly using outside consultants.
  • ANALYZE: Understand major gaps from desired culture. Define gap-closure actions.
  • IMPROVE: Implement gap-closure actions (e.g. create talking points for consistent communication up and down management hierarchy, provide organization-wide change management training, coach—or remove!—reluctant or incapable leaders).
  • CONTROL: Check for alignment (e.g. utilize employee surveys to monitor their understanding of and commitment to the new culture). Establish aligned goals and reinforcement (e.g. leader standard work, portion of compensation tied to culture-based objectives).
  • LEVERAGE: Use the new team cohesiveness to address tough issues in achieving business objectives.


Cleaning Your Garage

Before you take on an organizational effort with a larger team and longer timeframe, you can try the process at home. Imagine you want to clean up your garage so you can fit a new motorcycle inside. You could use Lean methods to accomplish this goal.

  • DEFINE: Identify the scope of the cleaning project (cleaning the garage, not whole house).
  • MEASURE: Pace off the square footage of the overall garage and of the open floor space. Set a goal for required amount of open floor space. (You may eyeball this, but it is a measurable area.)
  • ANALYZE: Understand the types and amounts of materials currently in place and the available storage locations.
  • IMPROVE: Use Lean tools (e.g. 5S, spaghetti diagrams) to execute cleaning and organizing, including removing unessential materials. Install improved vertical storage facilities to minimize floor space used.
  • CONTROL: Label storage spots. Put “after” photos in place as ongoing targets. Conduct weekly audits to ensure “stuff” doesn’t accumulate.
  • LEVERAGE: Apply your newfound expertise to organize other areas in your home. Better yet, begin applying DMAIC within your organization as in the examples above.

For more DMAIC examples and help getting started, contact EON.


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About the author

Nancy Bach

Nancy Bach has spent more than 20 years in the industry as a quality and operational excellence practitioner and manager. In private consulting, she creates and delivers a Lean Certification course, provides Green Belt training and works with multi-functional organizations to develop strategy and implement process improvement.