Combining DMAIC and lean events to maximize process improvements

The DMAIC approach for process improvement is the foundation for Six Sigma, and I have grown to appreciate it more each time I use it. However, DMAIC projects can take a while to complete. Lean events are great approaches to make dramatic improvements, but who is tracking the long term results after the event is complete?

There are two powerful ways to combine DMAIC with lean events:

  1. Use lean events to move quickly through the DMAIC phases
  2. Use DMAIC framework to manage lean activity in a work area

 

1) Use lean events to move quickly through the DMAIC phases

You can reduce the completion time for your project by using the lean event format to help you quickly move through the different DMAIC phases. The great thing about lean events is that you get the right people in the room, focused on a specific outcome, and you have a set timeline to get it done. This creates a strong sense of urgency that some Six Sigma projects seem to lack.

For example, you could have a lean event to build the project charter, perform an FMEA, gather detailed data for the measure phase, develop control charts, or conduct a pilot study or DOE. The idea is to get everyone together for a common task and get it done, rather than drag it out over one hour meetings every week.

You also don’t need a full week for each lean event. However, you probably need more than one hour, so schedule half-day or full-day sessions with your team (we suggest at least 2 per month), so you can make lots of progress all at once, and not wait for action items to be completed. It also can be frustrating when you just start making progress, and you hit the end of your hour long meeting.

 

2) Use DMAIC framework to manage lean activity in a work area

You can also use the DMAIC structure to help with your lean events. During a traditional kaizen event (week long improvement workshop), the DMAIC framework is already being used, even if you don’t realize it. When you are doing the prep work, you are conducting the Define and Measure phase. During the actual event, you are conducting Analyze, Improve and Control. However, sometimes the improvements and control systems are not as strong as they are during a Six Sigma project, due to time constraints. In addition, the long term tracking of metrics, to ensure that the event truly achieved the results, is often lacking after an event.

The DMAIC framework will also help you realize if you need more events to complete the improvements in order to achieve the goals for the workarea, and allow you to fully capture any cost savings or metric improvements. Perhaps the lean event made great strides, but the inventory is still too high, or they have not been able to consistently achieve their takt time. Maybe the last remaining action item is one of the most crucial items, that will make a dramatic improvement to the flow? DMAIC will keep the effort moving forward until the results are achieved.

It’s important to combine DMAIC and lean events in your improvement plan. We don’t want to have an event, make improvements, then walk away and not verify the team achieved their long term goals. Likewise, we don’t want Six Sigma projects that take forever to complete.

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