Six Sigma Starts With DMAIC

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Delivering your customers what they want, when they want it –and spending as little money as possible doing that. That – at an oversimplified, very high level – is optimized supply chain. How do you accomplish it? What are the steps you need to take to get your supply chain optimized? It’s one thing to get one customer order right. If you throw enough resources at a single order, you can get one order shipped on time – but how do make that process repeatable and scalable? 

You need tools to optimize your purchasing, planning, manufacturing, inventory, customer fulfillment and so on. In other words, you need tools to optimize your supply chain. And those tools will become the building blocks of the processes that you put in place to optimize. 

And one of the most effective tools that you can use to eliminate waste and to optimize your processes is the Six Sigma methodology. 

Motorola implemented the concept of Six Sigma in the mid-1980s as a way to seek process improvements in its manufacturing operations. Since then, the term has become synonymous with process optimization.

Six Sigma projects are designed to improve processes by identifying and removing the causes of defects or errors and minimizing variability. Six Sigma projects are usually led by professionals trained (and often certified) in Six Sigma techniques. Six Sigma terminology can sometimes be confusing, so take a look at some of the terminology defined below. This will give you a sense of what you need to get started. 

Executive Leadership

This role can include the CEO or other top management. They are responsible for setting up a vision for a Six Sigma implementation and establish executive buy-in for the project.


The champion can be defined as a person in a company’s organization who 'champions' a Six Sigma project. It can be used more specifically to refer to a senior manager who champions the project, ensures that it is properly resourced and uses their authority to overcome organizational barriers.

Master Black Belt

The Master Black Belt is an expert with extensive experience and technical expertise in all aspects of Six Sigma. The Master Black Belt is responsible for selecting, training and mentoring black belts within an organization. The Master Black Belt will often be involved in the selection of an approach to projects. They will also be responsible for ensuring that the standards of the Six Sigma program are maintained.

Black Belt

A Black Belt is a full-time professional who acts as a team leader responsible for the operation and outcomes of Six Sigma projects. To become a Black Belt it is required that the person demonstrate mastery of Six Sigma tools, through an examination and experience. Black Belt training course can involve four to five weeks of classroom training in methods, statistical tools, and team skills, in addition to a completed project. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt qualification.

Green Belt

A Green Belt is a member of an organization who has been trained on in Six Sigma methodology and participates in projects as part of their full-time job. They may either work as part of a team, led by a Black Belt, or lead smaller projects, with a Black Belt acting as a mentor.


The project sponsor is a senior manager who can signs off on the resources, defines the objectives and evaluate the outcomes. The project sponsor is sometimes known as the project champion, although the champion can be used to describe anybody who champions a Six Sigma project.

Change Agent

A Change Agent is a person who leads change within the organization by championing the change and managing and planning its implementation. The Change Agent position can be official or voluntary.

Big Y and Little y

The important high-level measure that a Six Sigma project seeks to improve is known as the Big Y. Big Y should be linked to critical customer requirements. The Big Y is often used to generate little y operational objectives that must be improved to achieve Big Y improvements.

Driven by the principles of six sigma, you can get started on your way to supply chain optimization. The first step you’ll have to take is DMAIC:


  • Define your customer and their expectations
  • Define your impacted business processes
  • Define your project boundaries
  • Create a process map
  • Define metrics
  • Form a project team
  • Develop a project charter


  • Gather data and measure the existing processes


  • Analyze the gathered data
  • Identify the gaps between existing and desired performance
  • Identify sources of variation
  • Decide on the processes to be improved


  • Propose solutions
  • Carry out pilot studies, test and evaluate the proposed solutions
  • Develop your implementation plan


  • Implement processes to ensure sustainable improvements
  • Develop procedures, control plans and train your staff

Using DMAIC and Six Sigma tools, you can create the processes you need to optimize your supply chainHow will you know you’ve succeeded? When you’re consistently delivering what your customer wants when your customer wants it – and spending as little money as possible doing that.