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DMAIC Case Study-Delivering Record Products without

Delays
Monday, July 2, 2018 8:23 PM

The record label Music Co. was experiencing a high number of incident tickets regarding its digital release planning
system, mostly as a result of delays in a release, reported by the sales team. To help deliver their record products in
a more timely fashion, the organization used the DMAIC roadmap to uncover the causes of the delays in their
planning system and develop countermeasures.

Record Label 101


To begin, it may help to review the business of a recording company in a high-level manner. Some terms to
understand:

• Recording companies manage different record labels within the company.


• Record labels are brands associated with the marketing of music recordings and videos. A label signs contracts with
artists and maintains a wide-ranging repertoire of genres, such as pop, jazz, country, classical and Latin.
• Planning system is a tool used by a label company to plan and schedule a release. The system handles physical
products, such as CDs, vinyl albums and cassette tapes. With the advent of digital music, these systems have been
enhanced to handle physical, digital and mobile distributions. This means a user can still maintain physical releases
and also schedule digital/mobile releases. Unlike physical products, digital recordings are released to digital service
providers, such as Apple iTunes, eMusic, BuyMusic and Rhapsody, as soon as they are approved by release
management. From the customer’s (distributors) perspective, the accuracy and timeliness of a release is critical to
achieve customer satisfaction.

Starting the Project


With digital music, the entire recording industry acts in concert. If the product is not available at the scheduled time on
a vendor website, consumers may opt for a pirated version. This is something the labels, vendors, artists and other
value-added resellers do not want to happen. Therefore, the record label’s customers believe that timely delivery of
products to the sales team without error is essential. This is considered a critical-to-quality (CTQ) characteristic of the
process. From the business perspective, the record label in this project believed that efficiency and transparency
between multiple elements of the system could improve cycle time.

To consider if this project was a candidate for the application of Six Sigma, the Music Co. organization was asked to
complete a project qualification checklist (Table 1).

Checklist High Medium Low


How important is this project to your customer? Y
Is there a Champion who feels that the project is important? Y
Is there a Green Belt to assist this project? Y
Is the CTQ characteristic measurable? Y
Is data available or easily tracked? Y
Are the benefits easily measurable? Y
Is the process stabilized or under control? Y
Is the scope narrow enough to finish in four to six months? Y
Is this project considered important within the organization? Y
Are there alternative solutions available? Y
Total weight 8 2
Table 1: Project Qualification Checklist
The project qualified, and a team was established to work on this project. The case study followed the DMAIC steps.

Define
In this phase, the team created a SIPOC diagram (Figure 1).

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In this phase, the team created a SIPOC diagram (Figure 1).

Figure 1: SIPOC Diagram of the Label Planning System

The effects of continuing the process as is are depicted in Figure 2, the loss-gain matrix. For example, a vendor may
try to renegotiate the price if the product is not delivered on time, and pricing power switches to the vendors. Also, an
artist may drop future contracts.

Figure 2: Loss-Gain Matrix

Loss Gain
Short Term -Impact on overall resolution -Improved resolution
-Related dissatisfaction -Related satisfaction
Long Term -Client escalations -Client satisfaction
-Loss of business -More business
-Revenue Growth

Measure
Under the current process, 14 weeks is the optimal time for a product to move from a creation request to hitting the
market. Figure 3 shows the timeline and the process steps for a cycle of release.

Figure 3: Process Map and Life-cycle Timeline

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The project team collected data from issue tracking tools, emails and requests made on the fly over the phone. All
source information was tracked in a spreadsheet for the period of October 2008 through July 2009. Figure 4 depicts a
run chart of system interruptions and resolution efforts over this period.

Figure 4: Run Chart of Issues and Resolution Efforts from Oct. ’08 to Aug. ’09

The chart shows how many tickets were opened in a month, the hours spent and the number of people involved to
resolve the issue over a 10-month period. Because delays are caused by problems in the planning process, the team
set a target of reducing the number of incident tickets to 21 per month. The baseline data shows a sigma level for the
process of 1.78.

Analyze
In this phase, the team focused on process variation. A product release date is established upon the signing of an
artist contract. Therefore, it is the responsibility of labels to make sure the product is delivered on time. Anything not
delivered to the customer (i.e., service providers) before cut-off time causes a delay in the promotion of a product.

The expectation for this project was to reduce Priority 1 (P1) and Priority 2 (P2) tickets to a great extent. P1 and P2
tickets consume significant time and cost, and involve system issues such as:

• Software bugs
• Inefficient handling of products due to lack of experience/training

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• Inefficient handling of products due to lack of experience/training
• Process follow through
• Testing efforts (both IT and business)
The project team developed a cause-and-effect diagram for the delays in product release cycle time, seen here in
Figure 5.

Figure 5: Cause-and-Effect Diagram for Delays in Cycle Time

The team concentrated on four key areas and their underlying causes of delays:

1. Business group:

• Lack of training for label planners due to staff turnover; more ambiguity among new employees.
• Lack of experience due to staff turnover.
• Reduced motivation due to downsizing.
• Lack of user acceptance testing, which meant issues were not noticed until the production stage.
2. Multi-platform:

• Data feeds – Network error/congestion that caused delays in data movement, which was driven using feed files.
• Replication servers – When source servers failed, they triggered an unexpected failover.
• Data flows – Erroneous data from the source system created havoc in all downstream systems.
3. Planning-system centric environment

• Database – Performance within the database restricted product movement.


• Server issues – Failure in production servers that schedule jobs.
• Network issues – Network failures and traffic.
4. Information Systems and Technology:

• Architecture – Software design issues


• Testing – Lack of resource-reducing testing time
• Network issues – Network failures and traffic
After numerous brainstorming sessions, the team discovered that many of the defects were similar in nature. They
grouped predominant or common issues under the same issue classification and tracked the number of errors in
each category. The data was displayed in a Pareto diagram (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Pareto Chart of the Causes of Release Delay

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External system bugs, lack of experience among business groups and system design defects accounted for 80
percent of the causes of delay.

Improve

The team then developed countermeasures to prevent the main causes of these delays. The actions taken by the
team are summarized in Table 2.

Table 2: Action Plan

Action Description Owner Due Date Function Root Causes


Item No.
1 Meet with Quality Assurance to System Aug. 5, 2009 Release Errors/bugs in
review current testing plan engineer management design of planning
specific to the planning system system
2 Provide logs of external system Vendor Aug. 19, 2009 OLA Bugs sourced
bug errors to vendor for manager management from external
evaluation and recommendation systems
3 Test the software fix to the timing QA analyst Aug. 28, 2009 Quality
feature on the planning system Assurance
4 Audit and report point-to-point Network Aug. 28, 2009 Network
network failures in digital release administrator engineering
process
5 Establish training procedures and IT Aug. 28, 2009 – Service Lack of
best practice guidelines for new communicatio review first draft management experience,
and existing employees n manager training
Figure 7 shows the improvement targets that the team set. After taking the countermeasures, the team estimated that
the process would perform at a 3.04 sigma level.

Figure 7: Improvement Targets

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Control
The team implemented the action plan and tracked performance. Figure 8 shows the run chart of improvements that
were achieved.

Figure 8: Run Chart of the Number of Tickets by Month

Lessons Learned
Understanding customer experience is key to driving business improvement. Applying quantitative tools and
techniques – namely the Pareto chart, control chart and cause-and-effect diagram – can focus the analysis on the
root causes of defects and inefficiencies.

Because this project involved a process that is so crucial for the recording business, the overall results are far
reaching. Due the project, the record label:

• Has a projected growth in revenue of more than $2 million per year


• Has reduced downtime, which helps improve cycle time to hours rather than days
• Is able to handle new product development features rapidly

From <https://www.isixsigma.com/implementation/case-studies/delivering-record-products-without-delays-dmaic-case-

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From <https://www.isixsigma.com/implementation/case-studies/delivering-record-products-without-delays-dmaic-case-
study/>

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