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Problem Solving in Lean Manufacturing

24/ 01/ 2018
  Author: Yurii Shubko, leading continuous improvement specialist at Imperial Tobacco Production Ukraine, experience in operational excellence programs, such as World Class Manufacturing and Mini business units How often your colleagues say: We have a problem? Apparently, every day. Giving a simple definition to this notion, then the problem is a deviation from the expected result that has no explanation now. The expected result should be understood as the correct and continuous execution of operations in accordance with the value adding flow of the product required by the end customer. Of course, during operations performing it is impossible to avoid losses. Lean manufacturing concept says that there are seven main types of losses: over-production, waiting, unnecessary transportation (materials, goods, etc.) or motion (employees), over-processing, inventory and defects. Daily losses analysis and problem solving are the key challenges in organization’s continuous improvement activities. The problem solving process can be divided into two main stages: Temporary solution or “firefighting”. Since the problem was not foreseen and actually arose, it is necessary to make every effort to return the process to a normal state. Preventive actions. Realizing that the problem may reoccur, find out the root cause of the problem and take actions that will make it impossible to re-emerge the same problem in the future. In order to solve the problem, it is necessary to determine what caused it: human factor, non-compliance with standards, equipment failure or material mismatch. Together with looking for the answer to the question What?, it is also important to determine Where?, When?, Who?, How? and the main Why? the problem occur. To find answers to all these questions - you need to go to Gemba - the place of the problem actual origin. During Gemba visit, examine the equipment, observe the performance of standard operations, and most importantly communicate with the immediate performer, analyzing why there was a problem. Having identified the root cause, the next logical step - identify actions to resolve the problem and prevent it in the future. Depending on the consequences of the problem, the actions could be: Simple: re-training, audits, visual reminder, etc. Advanced: Poka Yoke (impossible to perform operation incorrectly), automation (human factor eradication), or process reorganization. Keep in mind that finding solutions for the problem - only half of the case. Equally important are sustainability control of implemented ideas and their extrapolation to similar types of equipment, processes or operations. To sum up, it should be noted that the problem solving process is a complicated but inalienable element on the way to world-class organization.

Author: Yurii Shubko, leading continuous improvement specialist at Imperial Tobacco Production Ukraine, experience in operational excellence programs, such as World Class Manufacturing and Mini business units

How often your colleagues say: “We have a problem”? Apparently, every day. Giving a simple definition to this notion, then the problem is a deviation from the expected result that has no explanation now. The “expected result” should be understood as the correct and continuous execution of operations in accordance with the value adding flow of the product required by the end customer.

Of course, during operations performing it is impossible to avoid losses. Lean manufacturing concept says that there are seven main types of losses: over-production, waiting, unnecessary transportation (materials, goods, etc.) or motion (employees), over-processing, inventory and defects. Daily losses analysis and problem solving are the key challenges in organization’s continuous improvement activities.

The problem solving process can be divided into two main stages:

  • Temporary solution or “firefighting”. Since the problem was not foreseen and actually arose, it is necessary to make every effort to return the process to a “normal” state.
  • Preventive actions. Realizing that the problem may reoccur, find out the root cause of the problem and take actions that will make it impossible to re-emerge the same problem in the future.

In order to solve the problem, it is necessary to determine what caused it: human factor, non-compliance with standards, equipment failure or material mismatch. Together with looking for the answer to the question “What?”, it is also important to determine “Where?”, “When?”, “Who?”, “How?” and the main “Why?” the problem occur.

To find answers to all these questions – you need to go to Gemba – the place of the problem actual origin. During Gemba visit, examine the equipment, observe the performance of standard operations, and most importantly communicate with the immediate performer, analyzing why there was a problem.

Having identified the root cause, the next logical step – identify actions to resolve the problem and prevent it in the future. Depending on the consequences of the problem, the actions could be:

  • Simple: re-training, audits, visual reminder, etc.
  • Advanced: Poka Yoke (impossible to perform operation incorrectly), automation (human factor eradication), or process reorganization.

Keep in mind that finding solutions for the problem – only half of the case. Equally important are “sustainability” control of implemented ideas and their extrapolation to similar types of equipment, processes or operations. To sum up, it should be noted that the problem solving process is a complicated but inalienable element on the way to world-class organization.

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