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

One of the key principles of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) methodology used by Six Sigma is patience. You must understand that the information required to create a solution to your problem is, more often than not, unavailable in the beginning of the project.

Your patience will come from understanding and trusting the proven results of the DMAIC strategy. As your confidence in these methods grows, so will your willingness to patiently gather the information you need to solve your problem.

You Need Patience to Improve.

The time you spend preparing to point to a possible solution returns immeasurable benefits. For example, you may see reduced number of trials, less use of resources, and focused approaches to areas of potential improvement.

Building on the first three phases of DMAIC, the Improve phase offers the opportunity to present solutions supported by scientific and explainable research. Be aware that your subject matter experts might offer varying opinions on the findings. That’s OK, because the thought process that leads to the Improve phase also makes it possible to go back and repeat earlier phases to make any necessary modifications to your methods.

The Improve phase consists of pilot studies. These studies test the proposed theories that you will evaluate later on using the same measurement methods used in Analyze phase. The tests shed light on scenarios that may be put in place to solve your problem and achieve your stated goal.

Get Ready to Brainstorm.

The Improve phase also involves a series of structured brainstorming sessions. These sessions allow free flow of thought and consideration of uncommon ideas to offer the most innovative solutions. The underlying structure in these sessions will keep the subject matter experts aligned with the purpose of the project. You should encourage them to propose ideas which are measurable, scientific, and fact-based.

The brainstorming sessions are designed to incrementally narrow the scope and focus the efforts. The first step is the formation of an idea matrix. This includes any idea that may help solve the challenges and root causes of the problem. Propose each idea individually for each challenge.  You evaluate the ideas in the next part of Improve phase, which is the decision matrix.

The decision matrix is no different from a weighted scoring table. It presents the way the evaluation was made and the reason the proposed solution was chosen. As is the case with any part of DMAIC, the decision matrix illuminates the thought process and allows for modifications if necessary.

The Solution Reveals Itself.

Finally the solution surfaces. But don’t move too fast. You already stated your main goal for the project during the Define phase. But in DMAIC methodology, your underlying goal is to minimize the use of resources and achieve the greatest positive impact. It is possible that a change within the scope of the project might require other changes, sometimes undesired ones. To test your proposed solution and anticipate any necessary design improvements, the solution must undergo an FMEA analysis.

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) describes a theoretical environment. It provides a platform to brainstorm scenarios in which the proposed solution might cause other issues. It also facilitates discussions on design controls. FMEA can be a lengthy exercise, but remember to have patience.  Think before you implement, and you’ll almost always save resources in the long run.

The last phase of DMAIC focuses on ways to make the improvements last. Even after you find a solution and measure your results, your processes may revert to previous conditions. The goal of the Control phase is to maintain your solution. We’ll discuss the Control phase in a future post.

photo credit: 91957046 via photopin (license)

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