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The Analyze Phase: Determine Critical Processes and Analyze Process Capability


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The third phase of the Six Sigma project lifecycle is called "Analyze" and targeted at analyzing a process or system being studied to eliminate any gaps between current performance and desired goals of that process/system. The Analyze phase is the heart of any Six Sigma driven project because it helps identify and verify critical inputs affecting key outputs of the process/system. The project team uses root cause analysis (RCA) to define reasons of defects, measure those defects and generating solutions for defect elimination.

The Analyze phase of your project driven by the Six Sigma methodology can be represented as a sequence of two processes to conduct RCA and define ways for improvement. Hereíre these processes:

  • Determine critical processes
  • Analyze process capability

The best way to undertake these processes is to divide them into the smallest work items that are easier to measure and manage by your project team. As an example, you can use tasks and groups of tasks in VIP Task Manager to plan and carry out the two processes of the Analyze phase. We suggest using VIP Task Manager to manage tasks of your Six Sigma based project. Letís explore the processes and find out how the software can be helpful for managing the phase.

Determine critical processes

The key goal of this process is to review and narrow a list of potential problems defined during the previous ("Measure") phase and select those problems having the greatest impact to the process/system being improved. To reach this goal you will need to use the data measurement system designed during the Measure phase. By using that system you can examine the inputs and outputs of every potential problem and determine processes directly affecting the problem. Such processes will be critical. Once determined, the processes should be analyzed to define potential causes of process variability and product problems.

If to be more specific about the first process of the Analyze phase, the process comprises of several steps, such as the following:

  • Narrowing potential problems
  • Defining inputs and outputs of the problems
  • Modelling inputs and outputs

First of all, youíll need to review all possible problems affecting your product or system. For instance, your company produces jeans. You want to know whether you gain an increase or decrease in jeans quality if you add a greater portion of cotton to the jean cloth. Such possible problems as fabric durability, color, density, stretching, and others are related to your initiative, so youíll need to investigate all the potential problems and determine those having the greatest impact to the quality of your jeans.

Inputs and outputs will be parameters of your potential problems. Referring to the mentioned example, the input will be a greater portion of cotton and the output will be a changed quality level of your jeans. The Six Sigma methodology allows using a modelling technique to define relationships between the inputs and outputs of every specific problem. You can use such a technique to propose a hypothesis describing the problem. Modelling will help you to test your hypothesis by using the data measurement system you established in the Measure phase and to define whether your expectations are valid. By creating a model of the problems and relationships between their inputs and outputs you can determine processes that are critical to your final product/system.

Analyze process capability

Once you have determined critical processes affecting your product/system, now you can analyze those processes to identify their limitations. The second process of the Analyze phase is meant for ensuring that each of the critical processes is capable of achieving its maximum potential. By using RCA you can identify and remove any process variation due to special causes.

When analyzing capability per critical process you need to remember that any process is considered capable when it is in control, predictable, and stable. By conducting root cause analysis you can define reasons that make a critical process uncontrollable, unstable and unpredictable. Then you need to create a list of effective corrective actions to prevent every reason from occurring so that the critical process will become controllable, predictable and stable. In case there are no corrective actions the process is regarded as efficient only with virtual certainty of success.

RCA is a continuous activity that can be undertaken repeatedly in order to refine critical processes and find those having the highest probability of being capable (in control, predictable, and stable). By using results of the analysis you can build a cause and effect diagram showing relationships between every critical process, its causes of incapability and effect to your product/system.

When you have determined critical processes and analyzed their capability now you select those processes having the highest rate of capability (the most capable processes) and start improving your product/system. The improvement process will be undertaken during the next, Improve, phase of your Six Sigma driven project.

Using VIP Task Manager

It is convenient to organize the mentioned processes of the Analyze phase into a range of tasks and groups. Then it will be easier for your Six Sigma project team to carry out the processes because every team member will do a list of individual assignments contributing to the overall progress of the processes.

The team can use VIP Task Manager that is a task management program for team collaboration. In Task Tree view of VIP Task Manager you can plan tasks and groups for your project. For example, the Analyze phase can be represented as a hierarchy of tasks organized by groups and sub-groups. Below you can see tasks of the hierarchy.

Analyze Phase

  • Determine critical processes
    • Review the list of potential problems
    • Use the data measurement system to define potential problems directly affecting the final product
    • Measure inputs and outputs per problem
    • Propose a hypothesis describing relationships between inputs and outputs of every problem
    • Conduct testing of the hypothesis by modeling inputs and outputs
    • Determine processes that are critical to the final product
  • Analyze process capability
    • Identify limitations of the critical processes
    • Make a RCA matrix
    • Define any causes negatively affecting the processes by using the matrix
    • Define incapable processes
    • Create a list of corrective actions for the processes
    • Build a cause and effect diagram
    • Define relationships between the critical processes by using the diagram.

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