October 1, 2016 / best practices, continuous improvement, customer delivery, lean manufacturing, LIT, productivity, quality, resource allocation, root cause analysis, workflow process
Being a leader in today’s industrial metal-cutting industry is tough. In addition to dealing with external challenges like high inventory levels, falling commodity prices, and a slowdown in China, managers still have to deal with operational pain points such as process and workflow bottlenecks, resource allocation, and delivery schedules.
As stated in the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization, thriving in today’s unstable market requires metal-cutting executives to focus on continuous improvement. “Whether implementing a lean manufacturing tool to improve processes or investing in training to develop people, proactive leaders are focused on making positive changes in their operations so they can quickly respond to today’s changing customer demands,” the eBook states.
One methodology many leaders are using as part of their continuous improvement initiatives is DMAIC. As explained here by American Society for Quality (ASQ), DMAIC is a data-driven quality strategy used to improve processes. Although it is typically used as part of a Six Sigma initiative, the methodology can also be implemented as a standalone quality improvement procedure or as part of other process improvement initiatives such as lean.
DMAIC is an acronym for the five phases that make up the process:
- Define the problem, improvement activity, opportunity for improvement, the project goals, and customer (internal and external) requirements.
- Measure process performance.
- Analyze the process to determine root causes of variation, poor performance (defects).
- Improve process performance by addressing and eliminating the root causes.
- Control the improved process and future process performance.
According to an archived article from Six Sigma Daily, the heart of DMAIC is making continuous improvements to an existing process through objective problem solving. “Process is the focal point of DMAIC,” the article explains. “The methodology seeks to improve the quality of a product or service by concentrating not on the output but on the process that created the output. The idea is that concentrating on processes leads to more effective and permanent solutions.”
DMAIC can be used by any project team that is attempting to improve an existing process. For example, SeaDek, a manufacturer of non-skid marine flooring, used DMAIC methods to reduce major inventory stockouts in 2015. The company went from 14 major stockouts in 2014 to one stockout in 2015, resulting in a materials cost savings of more than $250,000 and improving on-time delivery from 44 percent the previous year to 95 percent in 2015. (You can download the entire case study here.)
Paul Bryant, senior OPEX manager of LENOX Tools, says there are two key ways companies can identify when and where to apply the DMAIC method:
- Target highest scrap cost by machine and/or cost center
- Areas with low production yield or poor quality (i.e., high defective parts per million)
In his experience, Bryant says that DMAIC can be especially helpful in lowering scrap costs. Last year, LENOX made the strategic decision to start making wire internally; however, the blade manufacturer was working 10-15 hours overtime to keep up with weekly demand. “Using the DMAIC process, we reduced scrap and improved production speeds by 19.2%, resulting in $75K plus an additional $30K in overtime reduction,” Bryant says. “In 2017, we expect to pick up an additional 15% in production using the DMAIC methodology.”
Of course, the real payoff is what DMAIC can bring to the customer. “The ultimate expected benefit is that customers receive products of the best quality, on-time, and at lowest possible costs,” Bryant says.
Could DMAIC help your industrial metal-cutting organization? To learn more about this Six Sigma continuous improvement tool, click here for a detailed DMAIC roadmap or here for an overview and short video tutorial.