This is part 5 of a five-part series on Six Sigma practices for the automotive industry. Read part 1,  part 2, part 3, and part 4.

Ultimately, DMAIC’s proven process of scientific problem solving pays off. The Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control methodology offers a collection of best practices and takes a project on a journey. It begins with the Define phase, which focuses on understanding current challenges and indentifying why things should be fixed. The methodology then continues onto the Measure phase, creating a detailed picture of everything that surrounds the challenge and potential factors affecting the future fixed state. In the Analyze phase, you discuss your findings, root causes, and potential solutions. Erected on extensive data collection done in the Analyze phase, the Improve phase reviews the situation in depth and gives way to pilot studies and recommendations for improvement. All preceding efforts until the end of the Improve phase prepare the project for the Control phase. In the Control phase of Six Sigma, the project owner must identify ways to ensure the long-term positive impact of these recommended improvements.

Focus on Lasting Improvements

The primary focus of the Control phase is to sustain the improvements achieved from the pilot studies of the Improve phase. It also focuses on proposing ways to maintain required performance levels in the long run. Unlike previous phases, the Control phase is an ongoing effort and never ends. It just leads to another opportunity for further improvement.

In the context of Six Sigma, a scientific approach aims for repeatability, reproducibility, accuracy, and stability. The Control phase delivers a scientific recommendation based only on the findings delivered by the Analyze phase. The final recommendation in the Control phase is free of any one’s personal opinion; it is objective and not subective. This recommendation aims to educate those involved with the process about the reasons for the recommended decisions.

Leverage Your Deliverables

Control phase deliverables often consist of Standard Operating Procedures, Training Manuals, Performance Monitoring Platforms, Statistical Process Control charts, and a story of the project that resulted in the improvements. DMAIC offers the structure for this story as a foundation for other stories.

Standard Operating Procedures and Training Manuals break down the process steps into the smallest action necessary for successful results. They offer all details about the necessary environment to enable desired outcomes. If prepared as a result of a DMAIC project, these documents will significantly differ from what’s often seen as training related documentation in organizations. Due to the approach of “walking the process” from the Measure and Analyze phases, the documentation contains much more comprehensive descriptions.

Together with Performance Monitoring Platforms and Statistical Process Control charts, DMAIC leaves organizations with an effective and efficient method to focus on deviations in the primary metrics, rather than every individual result.

Control Through Support From Leadership

This phase controls the process and delivers the required outcome. But you don’t have to maintain constant checks at each instance. Your objective is to design process controls that eliminate the possibility of defects and focus on identifying variation. These process controls will save resources spent on checking non-defective instances. They will also and allow you spend more attention identifying the variation and its underlying causes.

Ongoing support from leadership will help maintain the long-term success of the Control phase. Leadership must continue to present information and monitor processes according to the recommendations and platforms designed in the Control phase. This ensures that the improvements will integrate seamlessly into the future state of the process.

Green Belt training emphasizes that most performance metrics calculate a theoretical, short term Sigma level for the processes. Your systems may deteriorate over time and individuals involved in your process may develop new habits that differ from the initial instructions provided to them. Therefore, project owners should refer to the long term Sigma, which is a 1.5 Sigmas reduction on the short term Sigma. This provides a conservative perspective on the improvement efforts and encourages a constant initiative for greater quality.

photo credit: Quality Control 4 via photopin (license)

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