Let’s first try to understand – What is a problem?
A problem is a “GAP” between:
Current condition –what is actually happening and
Desired condition –what should be happening, or what is needed.
To fill this gap, systematic problem-solving tools are required and one of them is A3
What is A3?
- A3 is a problem-solving tool and for communicating complex ideas in a simple manner.
A3 was given this name because the entire story can be communicated on a A3 sheet. (A3 is a size of paper. (11” x 17”) mainly used to capture full detail in one page).
A3 problem solving is an integral part of Toyota production System.
Approach of A3 is based on PDCA cycle and LEAN concept of waste.
PDCA (PLAN, DO, CHECK and ACT) cycle is very effective way for accomplishing any task.
LEAN concept is mainly used to reduce the wastage. It engages employees and creates opportunity for team-work.
The seven wastes of Lean are :
in short known as “TIMWOOD”
- Logical thinking –
A3 provides platform to think logically and transforms ideas into actions.
It follows logical way of thinking as it’s based on PDCA cycle.
- Use of PDCA cycle – PLAN DO CHECK ACT
- PDCA follows systematic approach, closes loop holes and ensures effective closure.
- It was developed by “SHEWART”
- It is continuous four-stage process which repeats again and again.
- It is a methodology for effective problem solving and effective closure.
- Standard method of communication –
A3 provides standard method of communication.It can be displayed at any visible location of the plant from where it can seen by all related personals.
- Team Work –
A3 promotes problem solving by team
Team means “TOGETHER EVERYONE ACHIEVES MORE”.
Cross functional team is formed which plays an important role to find potential causes .
Team is engaged and team members can be at different levels in the organization.
How A3 Works?
A3 works on PDCA methodology.
It starts from PLAN , which covers :
- Problem Statement
- Current Situation
Problem statement is the starting point for further analysis.
It helps to understand the what is the real problem.
Problem details shall be specific and measurable. It helps to fix target to reduce / improve against what had occurred.
Current Situation –
What is the current status? – Describe current status of problem. How severe it is?
Baseline Data – Set the baseline of defect/ reported problem. Once the improvements are made, we can compare results with the help of baseline data.
Set the target of reported defect / issue.
Target methodology should be SMART:
After completion of defining of problem statement, set up baseline and decide goals.
Now comes “DO” into existence.
Start analysis of current situation. Start to find the root cause for the problem.
Analysis of the problem is the most important part of process. Hence, it is very important for team follow systematic approach to find the root cause.
There are various tools are used to find root cause of problem.
- Pareto Analysis
- Cause & Effect Diagram
- Process Flow Diagram
- 5 WHY Analysis
- Brainstorming – Affinity Diagram
Here is more on Root Cause Analysis tools : http://www.sigmasavvy.com/7-qc-tools/
Countermeasures are the changes to be made to the work processes that will move the organization closer to ideal, or make the process more efficient, by addressing root causes.
It is recommended that countermeasures help the process conform to following questions-
- What are the options for addressing the gaps and improving performance
- How do they compare in feasibility and its effectiveness?
- Cost benefits analysis?
Countermeasures addressed by LEAN Tools (elimination of wastes) are:
- Standard Work
- Visual Management
Standard work –
It is the effective method to produce product in consistent manner to achieve desired output. It helps to work in consistent and systematic manner.
There are three elements which contribute to implement standardized work.
- Takt time – Takt time is the rate at which finished product needs to be completed in order to meet the customer demand.
Takt time = Available time / customer demand
- Precise work Sequence – Everybody perform work in standard way / method.
Method can be Standard Work Chart, Standard Work instruction, Standard operating procedures.
- Standard Work in progress – Maintain minimum inventory at work station and follow JIT (Just In Time).
For more on Lean tools :
Visual Management –
It is accomplished by :
Visual process flow with visual aids /controls.
Visual process flow / Operations
Make operations visual by identifying each operational visible in the form of pictures, Standard operating procedures, visual controls etc.
Defect Album –
Defects (that are generated on that station) must be visible in the form of defect album at particular location.
Represents Japanese words that describe steps of a Workplace.
5S breaks into 5 Steps as follows –
- 1S – Seiri (Sort)
Distinguish between necessary and non-necessary items at work place.
- 2S- Seiton (Set in order)
Orderly storage so that each item can be accessible at right time.
- 3S – Seiso (Shine)
Create clean area without garbage so that problem can be easily identified.
- 4S – Seiketsu (Standardization)
Setting up Standard for neat and clean area.
- 5S – Shitsuke (Sustain)
Change in behavior and habit to maintain the established standard for longer time.
Create implementation plan for the identified actions.
Identify resources and target timelines for each action.
And at last, follow up is required –
- If plans have been followed
- If you meet your targets
- If you reduced the gap in performance
Development of LEAN – Continuous Improvement Culture
A3 aims to develop continuously improving culture where problem are solved and solutions are effectively communicated.
A3 acts as Catalyst for implementation of LEAN Culture. Some other benefits of A3 are :
- Lean Tools usage in A3 makes it UNIQUE.
- More Visualization in A3.
- More Team Engagement.
Thus A3 is a structured methodology to find and eliminate the root cause.