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What the DMAIC?!


Because of my job in engineering commissioning and startup (CSU), I work closely with a lot of different industries and see many ways of doing things. Often, I see a quality plan that relies mostly on hope, or that people are applying the wrong assurance plan to the project.

You’re probably saying, “That’s not me! I plan for quality!” But, the question remains… how do we get there? My personal favorite strategy is called DMAIC (pronounced de-MAY-ick).

DMAIC is a Six Sigma, data-driven improvement cycle used for improving, optimizing and stabilizing business processes. Now, stay with me, even though I said Six Sigma. The acronym stands for:

D – Define
M – Measure
A – Analyze
I – Improve
C – Control


Many of these words are prevalent in the industrial world and you may be familiar with how they relate to construction, commissioning, and startup activities. These are all things that make a great Quality Assurance / Quality Control (QA/QC) plan.

Working to Improve our Quality Plan

At Hargrove, we like to say that leaders should “define what good looks like!” We must define our goals, and define the processes and procedures that keep things moving inside our facilities. We must also have these clearly defined for new team members and contractors we bring onto our sites in order to set the proper expectation for project execution. The definition phase of DMAIC should lead into the subsequent steps, which are often completed in a loop.

Measuring is the act collecting the data on how the processes are being carried out. Many people don’t realize the importance of measurable goals, or they measure values that don’t add up to anything in the end. Leading Indicators (LI) / Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are good places to start when measuring project data. This data acts as a “scoreboard” of your project and can give you an idea of how the final project is shaping up.

Teams should be gathering and reporting on these LIs or KPIs on a regular schedule. Everyone likes to keep up to date on the “score” so he or she knows how he or she are doing along the way. Imagine if you were playing in a sporting event and couldn’t see the scoreboard until the final whistle!

Collecting data is not just a chore or a box to check. This data should be analyzed to show how the checkout process is being executed. This analysis should be visual and should be presented to the team in order to drive change. If there are items beginning to slip the schedule, or causing rework, you have the opportunity for an improvement. With the right data in place to show opportunities for improvement, the fix could be as simple as training contractors on proper handling of instruments, torquing limits, using appropriate gaskets, etc.

Finally, there needs to be a control in place to support the improvement needed. This control can be a quick specific daily inspection, checksheets, or whatever works for the specific project and team. This control should reinforce and advance the measuring process so that you are continually evaluating and repeating the cycle of MAIC to reach the previously defined outcome.

Ok, so what does that mean for my team? Here are some tips to help you get there.

  • Detailed QA/QC requirements must be included within the Scope of work for all contractors.
  • Ensure there are clear responsibilities for the execution of the QA/QC plan. If the client is relying on the contractor’s QA/QC plan, one must ensure the contractor’s QA/QC meets the client’s site specific requirements.
  • Field QA/QC corrective action plans are complete with procedures that meet the Project Quality Plan.
  • Testing and acceptance sign-off documentation must be complete, communicated, and ready for implementation from the outset of all on-site activities.


Now, there are a couple of challenges you should look out for:

  • Lack of qualified QA/QC personnel from contractors or clients
  • Lack of follow-through on QA/QC processes
  • Non-conformance issues being addressed quickly and fully
  • A delay in delivery or in schedule causing teams to try to expedite this process or circumvent it all together.
  • Make sure client witness and sign off needs are agreed upon before work begins.


Let’s make sure our projects are heading toward quality by planning these activities and process before we enter into a startup.

If you have questions about planning and executing a successful project startup, contact us.

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