Maintaining Your Improvements: The DMAIC Control Phase
You’ve completed the Define, Measure, Analyze, and Improve Phases of the Six Sigma DMAIC process and have eliminated the root cause of an issue, but how will you know if the changes implemented were effective? How can you control the variables over time and prevent them from changing so that you can be confident your change was a success? This is where the Control Phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC process comes into play. This stage is focused on sustaining your improvements.
The Control Phase measures your project’s performance to ensure that it continues to meet your project objectives. Read on to learn more about this stage.
On this page:
- What is the Control Phase?
- Importance of the Control Phase
- Tools in the Control Phase
- Example of the Control Phase
What is the Control Phase?
As the final step in the DMAIC methodology, the Control Phase aims to put in place safeguards to ensure that the gains obtained in earlier phases are sustained. Typically, this entails the establishment of key metrics and the formulation of a strategy for continuous monitoring. Sometimes, a new process must be put in place so that you can maintain progress. Its purpose is to assist in maintaining the improved procedure’s positive effects over the long term.
This stage entails building a roadmap to effectively implement the chosen Solution Set and assure continued success and the formulation of strategies and processes to maintain the gains. It also serves to help the Process Owner, key stakeholders, and those who work in the improved process make a clean transition.
The best-practice tasks and activities typically performed in this step include the following:
– Implement a well-defined, written Control Plan
– Correlation of Control Plan to FMEA
– Set up Process Monitoring
– Ensure Communication and hand-off to Process Owner and others
Importance of the Control Phase
This stage of the Six Sigma process is an important step that ensures your improvements are sustainable and maintained over time. In addition, you can establish metrics for data collection and track your procedure’s development.
First, this phase allows you to evaluate your current processes and identify any potential problems. If you have controls in place, you can be sure that any changes you make to the procedure will last and that any problems will be discovered and fixed without delay. For instance, if you’ve implemented a new method of tracking defects in your manufacturing plant, but the number of defects hasn’t changed, you’ll need to follow through with a response plan and make adjustments to your process to ensure it works as intended.
Second, you can use this stage to track the progress of your improvements over time. For instance, if you notice that a certain issue is still occurring even after implementing a solution during an earlier stage, it may be due to incorrect training or poor communication among employees about how the solution should work or what it means for their jobs. In this scenario, you can quickly enact an action plan to determine what needs to happen next.
Tools in the Control Phase
Some common DMAIC Control Phase tools include:
Control plans are summaries of processes that specify what must be done to keep a system or device performing at its current level.
Clearly Defined Metrics to be Recorded and Reported
Without clearly defined metrics, you won’t successfully measure whether a process change is effective or is being maintained.
Check for Training Effectiveness
Are the new procedures being implemented correctly by employees? Is the Process Owner fully aware of the new process? These are important questions to tackle when looking at training effectiveness and how it impacts the sustainability of your gains.
Use of Statistical Process Control Tools (SPC)
The term “statistical process control” (SPC) refers to the practice of utilizing statistical methods in order to control a procedure or method of production. Monitoring the behavior of the new process, finding problems in internal systems, and resolving production challenges can all be aided by SPC tools and methods.
Standard Operation Procedures (SOP)
The SOP is a set of instructions and descriptions of activities that document a routine, a step-by-step or day-to-day activity that is important to an organization. The information in this document can be put to use for a wide variety of purposes, including but not limited to the upkeep and proper use of equipment, statistical analysis, response plans, and safety precautions. An SOP is in place to make it easier to keep tabs on and standardize key procedures.
The Process Owner, key stakeholders, and anyone involved with the process must be adequately trained on the new process.
All of your planned project-related communication is included in a communications plan. Everything that goes into making communication happen, from the chosen method to the scheduled intervals, belongs in the communication plan.
Transition Plans to Process Owner
Six Sigma relies heavily on the involvement of Process Owners, whose job it is to oversee the administration of processes inside the company. It is the Process Owner’s duty to ensure that the process is constantly monitored, researched, and improved even after the Six Sigma enhancements have been implemented, as well as to acquire key performance measures for the process. A strategy should be developed to hand the process back to the Process Owner.
Project Exit and Closure Plans
Usually, you can find project completion criteria by describing how a project ends. This, in turn, aids in the identification of performance enhancements and new opportunities. It is a formal project summation that allows the project team to officially close the project. It enables the rapid transfer of deliverables and documentation. An inefficient project exit plan will lower the likelihood of a successful project and may lead to missed opportunities and decreased output.
Identify Opportunities Replication of Project/Process Benefits
It’s important to identify other areas where there is an opportunity to replicate the project to benefit the company. Replicating the project entails identifying new locations or problems where you may apply the primary lessons learned from your successful initiative. This could mean applying the same solution to an identical problem in another facility or identifying procedures in other departments that encounter comparable issues.
Example of the Control Phase
One example of this step in action could include introducing new quality assurance practices in a manufacturing setting. If the corporation wanted to monitor the number of defective items it was producing, it would need to establish a measurement system for doing so and a system for tracking them over time. In order to sustain the gains obtained in the preceding phases, the organization may also introduce new processes or procedures.
Overall, it is vital not to overlook the Control Phase of DMAIC, as it is just as important as all the other phases. The benefits gained from this phase allow project teams to continue their improvements and verify the value of the efforts made in earlier phases of the process. This phase can assist the team in monitoring and sustaining the long-term success of their project, as well as finding additional areas within the business where the project can be replicated.