DMAIC Process Improvement
DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) has been a staple of Six Sigma process improvement in the American industrial culture for decades. DMAIC has been used to help companies improve their products and processes within their facilities and within their business structures. Whether an organization needs to improve the quality of a given component, or improve the work flow through the facility, the concept of problem definition, monitoring, decision making and improvement is ingrained in our corporate culture, for all the right reasons. What is often not included in this culture is thinking of applying this same DMAIC process to facility energy consumption or WAGES (water, air, gas, electric, steam) utilities.
Viewing Utilities as a Process Input
Whether your company wants to move toward becoming a net zero emitter, improve bottom line profitability or avoid plant utility expansion costs, understanding how you use utilities is paramount in this task. The DMAIC process fits this goal perfectly.
How would a DMAIC integration plan look to a facility wanting to reduce WAGES costs?
D – Define: View your entire facility as a process. Your plant takes in certain raw materials, utilizes WAGES and labor to produce a variety of final products. You should view facility energy consumption as a process within the cost cycle of your products. All of these inputs can be accounted for in your final product costs matrix. Energy often gets lost in the accounting or lumped as one cost to be distributed over all products. Energy should be separated out and defined per product, the use of a Sankey diagram may be a good tool to visualize the energy flow of your product cost structure.
M – Measure: You can’t make significant change until you know the baseline consumption either in product raw material or energy. Typically, monthly energy bills are not enough. Monthly bills are not granular enough, especially if you have multiple products being produced in your facility. Local utility meters need to be installed to gain a greater insight into your facility. A supervisory system (SCADA) on top of the metering system is very beneficial.
A – Analyze: Once you’ve started collecting metering data, you can analyze the data. Creating an energy use index (EUI) for your products is a good start. You need to understand not only how much raw material is needed to make a widget, but how much of the utilities are consumed to make that widget as well. You also need to know how much waste, emissions, wastewater, landfill trash, etc., is generated by the production process.
I – Improve: When you understand the utility data, then the improvements can begin. Improvements can be large or small; you just want them to be in the positive direction. This is the best part of the cycle, when you can implement the fruits of your efforts.
C – Control: Once you have figured out what to do and maybe even implemented changes, the next step is to add controls to make these changes automated and permanent. You do not want to revert to old wasteful habits. Adding permanent control improvements completes the cycle.
Make Process Improvement Continuous
Once you’ve completed the DMAIC cycle, there should be a constant refreshing of the cycle, constantly checking the system inputs and adjusting the system outputs to optimize your facility. Keeping the continuous improvement cycle running on your facility utilities is key to driving down your operating costs, i.e., improving margins on your product.
Changing how your facility views the contribution of the utility costs to your final product costs is quickly gaining traction in the sustainable manufacturing culture. Many organizations are telling shareholders that they are focusing on reducing overall corporate energy consumption. Locally, your facility can contribute to these larger corporate goals by using the DMAIC process to reduce the amount of WAGES utilities needed to produce your products. Creating, monitoring and updating you EUI per product allows these efforts to be seen by everyone in your corporate structure.
Matrix Can Help
Matrix Technologies has a broad range of engineers with skills in the many disciplines needed to implement process improvement. We have on staff process, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, software and network engineers, all of whom have experience with these processes and can help you reduce your utility inputs and optimize your product outputs.
We are registered integrators with many hardware and third-party suppliers with whom you may already have relationships. We can work within your existing corporate infrastructures and help you create a system that works for your ultimate energy reduction goals.
Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation, engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our process improvement solutions, contact Doug Medley, PE, Project Technical Manager 2, Capital Project Planning.
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Multidiscipline Engineering – Process Optimization