Business Continuous improvement (part 1)
Lean management objective:
- remove waste from processes
- focus on value to the customer
Concept taken from six sigma and kaizen
What is DMAIC
There are a variety of benefits in following DMAIC
- Firstly it’s a structured approach and provides a road map for solutions solving from start to finish and is tied into producing bottom line results for businesses.
- Secondly it supports an analytical approach through use of data, this helps ensure that accurate baselines can be established and improvements quantified – finally utilizing DMAIC is suited to challenging problems and the model helps find answers where both problems and solutions are likely to be complex
Allow the project team to produce:
- A project charter or initiation document
- High level process maps
- Stakeholder analysis
- Project plans
Projects are usually initiated by a project sponsor – the role of the sponsor is to select the project and produce the first draft of the project charter which is typically one of the first tasks within an improvement project. Whilst the contents of a project charter may vary it will typically cover the nature of the business problem, the goals, deliverables and structure of the project team.
Key steps in the Define stage
- Produce and review Project charter/Initiation document
- Define and Validate problems – ensure that the problem exists, and is important.
- Define the Project Goal
- Validate business rationalie for going ahead with project – eg. Financial
- Develop Project Plans
- Develop the project structure
- Ensure that the current process is fully understood and that data is captured to both provide a benchmark of current activity/performance
- Compare against the customers needs and to enable the project team to drill down to the root cause of the issue(s).
In the measure phase the key element is to ensure that the current state of the process is thoroughly understood therefore much of this phase is concerned with describing and measuring current activities – to do this efficiently a process map is usually required – value stream maps are used as they incorporate data such as inventory levels together with material and information flows rather than just being interested in the process flow.
A data collection plan is devised in order that accurate data is collected and analysis can be carried out and baselines be set.
There is often a gate review within the measure phase – this usually includes a review of the process map, data/measures, a capability review and an updated project charter/initiation document.
- Current state map (often a value stream map)
- Accurate data on important inputs/outputs – used for analyzing process flows, defects etc.
- Baseline measures of process capability against expectations.
This step in the process determines the root causes of issues and presents improvement opportunities.
Part of the process is to analyze value add and non value add activity within the process. Using the process maps/Value stream maps produced during the Measure DMAIC phase – the team looks for bottlenecks/constraints and where errors occur. There are a variety of tools available for this such as Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA).
After identifying the problems provide supporting evidence by generating theories as to why they occur (note this may require supporting further data).
- Evidence of root causes
- Supporting analysis and evidence (e.g. value add analysis)
- Updated Project Charter/Initiation document.
Steps and deliverables
The main deliverable from the Improve step is a solution(s) that affects the proven issues/problems (found earlier in the DMAIC process) affecting the business. Once deployed the solution should be stable and meet customer requirements
The first step is to develop possible solutions – there are a variety of ways of doing this and it’s likely that at first several solutions may present themselves while methods exist for improving, commonly project teams will brainstorm ideas based upon the “as is” process/value stream map and statistical data that has been collected – change agent teams are therefore required to evaluate possible ideas and develop the most suitable solution, often this is initiated via a “to be” process or value stream map – developing criteria that the solution must meet (e.g. critical quality requirements, customer needs etc) whilst removing the original problem areas. (this is important to remember that the chosen improvement must tackle the project goal!).
It’s common that once developed solutions may undergo pilot studies or experiments to ensure the optimal “fix” is selected. Once a solution has been selected a robust implementation plan will be required and a re-assessment of the Project charter will need to take place to ensure that the way forward
Steps and deliverables
The Control phase usually sees the full scale deployment of the solution developed earlier in the DMAIC method. As such the main role of the project team is to transition the business to the new process. This can be a resource heavy part of the process with tasks such as training users, writing and deploying business critical documentation to ensure a smooth delivery.
Project teams should consider auditing the process following deployment and confirm that the solution has met the goal of the project sponsor and/or business case – due consideration should be given to the length of time following roll out that the audit takes place in most businesses it will be at least 6 months until this takes place.
When developing the transition plan pay particular attention to ensuring that a proper hand-over occurs – don’t make the mistake of thinking that a “five minute” handover will do – take the time to ensure that appropriate stakeholders have what they need to operate the revised process..
The key deliverables of this phase are:
- Documented transition back handing back the solution to the business owner
- Key Performance Indicators/Measures deployed
- Training, documents (including the business management system e.g. processes maps)