Effective problem solving starts with people having a general awareness/consciousness and an open mind (sounds heavy I know, but it is important) Within a Lean Manufacturing Environment Problem Solving is an essential element of everyone’s work. A leader is required to solve problems daily. These can range from problems which might be easily solved e.g. temporary machine breakdown to more complex problems e.g. dirt in the paint, a Members training plan.
Problems can range from technical problems such as producing defective parts, over grinding etc. to human/management based problems; e.g. unexpected absence, poor Member quality performance etc)
The art of problem solving is constantly trying to evolve and be re-branded by people in various industries. While the new way might very well be an effective method in certain applications. A tried and true way of identifying and solving problems is the eight steps to practical problem solving developed by Toyota, years ago. The system is structured, but simple and practical enough to handle problems of the smallest nature, to the most complex issues.
Using a fundamental and strategic way to solve problems creates consistency within an organization. When you base your results off facts, experience and common sense, the results form in a rational and sustainable way.
What is a problem?
A problem can be defined as:
Any deviation from the standard or expectation – Gap between the actual condition and the desired condition Any unﬁlled customer need
There are three main factors to consider
• The Standard
• The Deviation away from Standard – The deviation away from standard enables us to gauge or determine the size of the problem
• The time elapsed – The time factor enables us to determine history and trend
“Why practical problem-solving?
1) First, problem solving enables organisations a common understanding and definition of what a problem actually is which in turn creates a fast, urgent initial response.
2) Next, a standard problem solving approach removes time lost in debate and discussions, this allows organisations are able to focus their valuable time and energy on things that actually matter such as solving problems.
3) Finally, through planning, root cause analysis and the implementation of mistake proofing ensures that the problems do not reoccur since there is nothing more disheartening to see a problem reappear a few months after it was thought to have been solved.
The 8 steps to problem-solving
Decide why it is a problem, determine the beneﬁts to solving the problem and consider how it ﬁts into the business and the effects it will have on current goals “GO LOOK SEE” the problem ﬁrst hand! (Also referred to as the GEMBA Walk). Ensure the question whether we have contained the problem in order to protect the customer, even though it means a temporary solution
Time to get detailed and speciﬁc Break down big problem into small problems “GO LOOK SEE” each small problem up close! Study & Analyze inputs & outputs of the process prioritise efforts based on results
Focus turns to what is needed to complete project how long will it take? Set target dates that challenge staff, but don’t hinder other improvement efforts, important to remember that this target should take you one step towards the ideal. Meaning, it doesn’t have to be a “Massive” leap towards perfection instead its focus is to take one solid step at a time.
To do this, we must practice Genchi Genbutsu which means “actual place, actual thing” and it is a key principle of the Toyota Production System. It suggests that in order to truly understand a situation one needs to go to genba (the “real place” – where work is done). without prejudice, which means we must go and see the problems for ourselves instead of relying on what our report says.
This allows you to identify the (POC) Points-of-Cause, which is the start point of root cause analysis.
“GO LOOK SEE” root causes in person! –we must drill down using such tools such as the 5 whys. For the record, 5 is not a magic number, It is just a typical suggested number of WHYS to get to the root cause.
Root cause analysis will point to the action needed, namely the removal of the root cause. To do this, you and your team will need to make a plan and that includes (2H & 5W) HOW, HOW MANY, WHO, WHAT WHERE WHEN and WHY enabling you to pursue multiple countermeasures which is step 5 of the practical problem-solving process.
Teams develop countermeasures to remove root causes develop as many as possible that directly address root causes, narrow down to most practical and effective based on your target.
See countermeasures through with clear detailed plan in a timely manner an open communication is vital during implementation. Seek ideas and feedback to see what is and isn’t working focusing on one countermeasure at a time to effectively monitor them
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” –Albert Einstein
Mistakes happen, it’s ok! Continue to work through the process and persistence is key – To accomplish this, it is important to seek the help and most importantly the ideas of many people.
You’ll also want to communicate the status regularly while turning the PDCA cycle again and again, with this step “NEVER GIVE UP”. You’ll no doubt hit obstacles and challenges but your willingness to persevere and battle through these situations may very well mean the difference between success and failure.
Some countermeasures require more than one attempt to get right They may need modiﬁcation and adjusting. Determine if intended outcome was result of countermeasure or a ﬂuke, there is always room for improvement in the process if you have the tools in place to recognize them. Where possible if you can switch the problem off and on with the change then will support your theory for root cause.
Set new processes as the new standard. Share results with organisation and reﬂect on what you’ve learned address ALL unresolved issues this practical problem solving method, challenges us to standardise our success (& learn from failure) by using something the Japanese call “Yokoten”. “Yokoten” is a Japanese term that can be roughly translated as “across everywhere.” In the Japanese lean system, it is used to mean “best practice sharing.” In short, Yokoten is used to talk about the transfer of lean manufacturing knowledge and practices from one operation to another
Incorporating the PDCA Deming Cycle the Eight steps work hand in hand with PDCA Steps 1 – 5: Planning what you’re going to do Step 6: Doing what you’ve planned Step 7: Checking the results Step 8: Act on your results to set new standard.
When to Use Plan–Do–Check–Act
•As a model for continuous improvement.
•When starting a new improvement project.
•When developing a new or improved design of a process, product or service.
•When defining a repetitive work process.
•When planning data collection and analysis to verify and prioritize problems or root causes.
•When implementing any change.
Plan. Recognize an opportunity and plan a change.
Do. Test the change. Carry out a small-scale study.
Check. Review the test, analyze the results and identify what you’ve learned.
Act. Take action based on what you learned in the study step: If the change did not work, go through the cycle again with a different plan. If you were successful, incorporate what you learned from the test into wider changes. Use what you learned to plan new improvements, beginning the cycle again.