Use the DMAIC Approach to Continuously Supercharge your SOPs
By: Berenice Mengo
April 27, 2021
The DMAIC approach is one of the best methodologies available to comprehensively and continuously improve your operations. This five-step process is a powerful data-driven tool that enables businesses to continually improve their processes in a well-defined and structured framework.
A key area to enact the DMAIC approach is your SOPs and work instructions. As new methods and technologies are being discovered and innovated daily, manufacturing processes and procedures need to be continuously improved. This can put a lot of pressure on the single manufacturer trying to keep up with the best practices of the industry.
The great thing is that modern technologies and innovative methods are making the continuous improvement process even easier. With the ability to intelligently track your KPIs, receive worker feedback in real-time, and more, keeping your process documentation up to date and tailored to your needs is fast and simple.
Let’s explore how you can use the DMAIC approach and VKS to collaborate with your end-users, create intelligent documentation, and continuously improve your operations!
What is the DMAIC Approach?
The DMAIC approach is used by manufacturers to optimize their existing workflow and continuously implement improvement with greater accuracy as time goes on. The term DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.
In this order, manufacturers can accurately assess the situation, improve their operations, and control the outcomes in an easy linear progression. This process guides the identification of problems, analyzes route causes, and implements best practices within your factory.
Let's take a step-by-step look at the DMAIC approach and how you can use it to improve your SOPs and work instructions. We’ll go over key methodologies and useful tips to get you started.
Step 1 - Define the Process
Phase 1: Understand the Process
Spend time on your shop floor and collaborate closely with people who work directly with the process. By taking the time to observe and interact with the operation, you will understand the processes and procedures that are currently being performed.
Talk with your operators. They have loads of practical and beneficial information on the strengths and weaknesses of the operations they are connected to. Later, you’ll use what you’ve learned to make SOPs accurate and valuable to the people who will use them.
Pro Tip: The practices behind the Gemba Walk are effective tools and methodologies to understanding what actually happens on your shop floor. It provides useful information and a safe space for employees to share their thoughts.
Phase 2: Understand the Audience
Your audience can shift depending on the process or procedure being performed. And you might have multiple audiences looking at the same SOP. With this in mind, it is helpful to consider who will be using the instructions.
We can break this down into your primary and secondary audience.
Your primary audience is the people who will read and execute the work. Understanding their base of knowledge as well as their strengths and weaknesses will go a long way in creating clear and concise instructions. You’ll want to give them as much information as possible without overloading the document with too much technical jargon.
Your secondary audience is the quality/engineering team who will be interested in ensuring that the instructions accurately depict the process as it was designed. They will also be interested in the data collected to monitor and implement process improvements.
At the end of the day, your work instructions and SOPs should satisfy both audiences. It’s simple for workers to follow while achieving accuracy and standardization for the engineering team.
Pro Tip: Use pictures, videos, annotations, and other VKS visual tools to make your instructions easily accessible to any worker.
Step 2 - What Do You Want to Measure?
For this step, we want to measure the process and record the baseline performance. This is about collecting data to ascertain problem areas that need to be fixed. Measuring the current performance of a process will enable you to make the appropriate goals for improvement.
For SOPs and work instructions, you’ll mainly measure 3 separate activities:
Quality Control: Look into the individual errors and what was the cause of a particular problem or defect. Then review their frequency. How often are quality errors occurring?
Productivity: Output monitoring should be seamless and flexible from a reporting standpoint. Determine the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your operation and build your custom dashboard within our software. This will enable you to constantly monitor your processes in real-time.
Traceability / Accountability: Visibility to the Who, What, When, and Where can be critical to accountability and root cause analysis. Plan where you will need sign-offs, confirmations, and other traceable points of reference.
Our work instruction software helps automate each of these activities so that all valuable information is always at your disposal.
This step is about analyzing the situation, finding the root cause of issues, and developing an improvement plan. This can be done in the following steps:
List potential problems and perform root cause analysis.
Prioritize problems with the biggest impact on performance.
Create detailed process maps to further identify and follow the effect of the root cause.
This period of analysis is another great opportunity to talk with operators and engineers. Or look back at what you learned in Step 1: Define the Process. Make sure your analysis is not too far off from their observations. If there is a discrepancy, then open a dialogue to discuss why the data analysis points in a specific direction.
Collaboration is again essential for proper analysis and identification. This is the last step before the actual creation and deployment of the documentation.
Step 4 - Improve Your Process Documentation
This is where you begin developing and/or improving your work instructions and SOPs. It is critical to work with both Operators and the Engineering teams to build more effective and intuitive work instructions. As we’ve said, integrating them into the improvement plan will supercharge the process and the end documentation.
It is a good idea to first focus on the simplest problems and solutions. These are the ones that are the most apparent. By improving these areas first, you have a good structure for other improvements that may be less pertinent. If your car is missing a windshield, that will need to be fixed before you get the car cleaned and detailed.
Step 5 - Control and Sustain The New Documentation
The control step is where you see if your documented process works. Is the process sustainable? Are people executing the instructions as presented? The control step is arguably the most important because this is where the rubber hits the road. You can create a brilliant process, but if it’s not sustainable or controlled, then it is ultimately useless.
The control step also incorporates the previous 4 cycles (Define - Measure - Analyse - Improve). After a new process is rolled out, you’ll want to review it periodically and see if you can make valuable improvements. When the opportunity arrives to make worthwhile changes, use the DMAIC approach to continually improve your processes and their documentation.
Additionally, enforce compliance on the shop floor by ensuring that your employees are using the work instructions and SOPs during the process. This will ensure that the best methods are always being performed and recorded. It is crucial that workers have easy access to the improvements you and your team have enacted.
With intelligent SOPs, tracking and gathering the right information from people, procedures, and equipment is easy. This will enable you to continuously improve and make informed decisions.
What are Intelligent SOPs?
An SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is a set of step-by-step instructions that help workers carry out routine operations. It is the standard sequence of actions or instructions to be followed when solving a problem or accomplishing a task.
Intelligent SOPs take this functionality a few steps further. Unlike paper instructions, process instructions in a digital format do not get dirty or out-of-date. This makes it easy for your employees to always have the clearest and latest directions available at any given time. When new and improved methods are created, intelligent SOPs enable managers to instantly update every instruction on the shop floor.
Everyone is informed at the same time.
Along with enabling greater compliance, digital SOPs also track and monitor your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). As operators perform their daily tasks, our work instruction software communicates with other systems, equipment, and tools to collect valuable performance data. This data enables you to have your finger on the pulse of your operation and continually improve your workflow.
Intelligent SOPs and work instruction software set up the structure for easy continuous improvement that is ready to break the barriers of modern manufacturing.
By using our work instruction software, your company can enact the DMAIC approach with ease and increased influence. Build successful work instructions by making them visual and intelligent. Enhance your workforce’s procedural compliance by providing easy-to-use SOPs that operators will understand and enjoy.
Achieve higher levels of productivity, quality, and efficiency by displaying your SOPs in a digital format with our user-friendly and intuitive interface. Check out the video below to see our very own Spero Zervos show how easy it is to create an interactive and intelligent SOP.