The Measure Phase
The Measure phase is the second phase in the Six Sigma or DMAIC methodology. This phase is where metrics and measurement systems for the inputs and outputs of your projects are formed. This phase is also to ensure that you are getting the right data from the right place and also that the way you are getting your data is accurate. After all, if you have inaccurate data, it will give you inaccurate conclusions in the phases further down. Therefore, completing the measure phase properly is incredibly important.
Tasks performed in the Measure Phase
This is where you actually start to put all the numbers together. Once you have defined the problem in the Define Phase, you should have an output or outputs that you are interested in optimizing. The main focus of the measure phase is to confirm that the data you are collecting is accurate. One of the main tools used to do this is called Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA).
Depending on the type of data you are collecting, you would use a corresponding type of MSA. For variable data, you would use a tool called "Gage R&R". For attribute data you would use a tool called "Kappa Studies". Both these tools help you ensure that your methodology in measuring your data is sound. It helps make sure that you can repeat and reproduce measurements with minimal error and variation. Only once you are confident that you have a good measurement system, you can go ahead with other tasks in the next phases.
This phase is also where you and the team start to identify and prioritize all the factors or inputs that could affect your output. Since this is still very early in your project life, you will have many potential factors that could affect your output (usually over 15 or 20). If you were to set up proper measurement systems for all the factors and move on to the next phase and analyze all of those factors, you'd be pulling all your hair out! It would take a lot of time, work, and frustration to get this done. That is why you start to prioritize which factors "seem" most likely to have the biggest impact on your output in this phase.
Some of the tools you can use for factor prioritization are the C&E Matrix and FMEA. These tools rely on people's knowledge of the process to prioritize the factors. We usually recommend to pick the top 4 or 5 priority factors to take on to the next stage. If you find that there should be more factors involved once you get to the Analyze Phase, you can always come back and pick the next few factors on the list and move on. If you do not prioritize and take along too many factors into the next phase right from the start, you may get bogged down in a lot of work just to find that many of the factors you spent a lot of time on were insignificant factors.
Once you have completed an MSA on your output, prioritized your inputs, and completed an MSA on your top priority inputs…your measure phase is complete and it's time to move on to the next phase!
Some of the tools used in the this phase…
C&E Matrix, FMEA, Level 0 Map
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