Six Sigma: DPMO

Instructor: Elizabeth Wamicha

Elizabeth teaches undergraduate courses in Business and Information Technology for the last 7 years. She is currently on course to completing a Doctorate in Information Systems

The lesson looks at the DPMO, also known as the defects per million opportunities. The DPMO is used to measure the error rate in a production process.

What is DPMO?

In many quality management methodologies such as Six Sigma, several metrics for quality control are used. One of the most important metrics is the DPMO which is also known as the defects per million opportunities metric. This metric is used to measure the performance of a specific process. To better understand DPMO, it is important to define the term defect within the context of quality management. A defect is defined as a non-conformance of a specific quality characteristic to its planned specification. The quality characteristic can be the width of a finished product, the response time of a particular service or the durability of a finished product. While considering DPMO, processes are seen to be of high quality if the defect per a million units produced or services provided are few.

Calculating DPMO

To calculate DPMO in a process, it is important for organizations to identify and define the quality characteristics. Quality characteristics can be obtained through the following ways:

  • Having a very clear understanding of all the requirements needed for a particular process to take place
  • Through industry standards and specifications
  • Prioritizing different types of defects from the least to the most critical

DPMO has been defined as the ratio of the number of defects (based on the quality characteristic defined for the process) in 1 million opportunities when a finished item can have one or more defects. To calculate DPMO, it is critical to know the total number of defect opportunities. Defect opportunities, in this case, are defined as the total number of possible defects that can be identified within a given process. The formula for DPMO is as below:

DPMO = (Total number of defects found in a sample/Sample size * number of defect opportunities per unit in the sample )*1,000,000

For example, if an online order processing form has ten different fields of information and if 5 of these forms are sampled and 15 defects are found in the sample then the DPMO will be as follows:

Total number of defects found in sample = 15

Sample size = 5

Opportunities per unit in the sample = 10

(15/(10)(5))*1,000,000 = 300,000 defects per a million opportunities.

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