CI Tools

What is 5 Why analysis? How to use 5 Why and Fishbone diagram for root cause analysis.

One of my favorite tools for root cause analysis is 5 Why.  I like it because it is simple, and you can use it anywhere, and for any situation.  You don’t need to do complicated analysis, take notes or draw anything, you only need to keep your brain asking why until you find the root cause for the problem.  It is also very helpful to see the relationship between different causes. 

This tool is simple but requires practice.  The number of times you ask why depends on each particular situation; five it is not a number written on stone.  If you stop asking why too soon, you will end up far away from the real root cause and asking too many times result in complaints or non-sense answers.

Most of the time the root cause of a problem falls into one of these categories

  1. No standard or inadequate standard
  2. Not following the standard
  3. Inadequate system or equipment

These are the steps to do a Five Why analysis.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Start describing the problem using all details from the problem definition.
  3. Ask why the problem happens, this is the answer to your first why.
  4. If the answer does not identify the root cause, ask why again.  This is the answer to this why.
  5. Keep repeating the fourth step until you identify the root cause.

My last post was about fishbone, another tool that I used very often.  I like to use it to explore all possible causes because it helps to force people to think beyond the obvious reasons.  Once you complete the cause and effect diagram, you should end up with one or two causes.  At this point, you can use the 5 Whys to drill down the root causes.  

The fishbone I used is from an analysis completed in a food manufacturing plant.  We were looking for the cause of getting excess oil in the body of cans containing oil products.  The fishbone analysis results in two possible causes, both of them related to the equipment used to wash the cans.  The causes were the alignment of the detergent nozzles and the quantity of soap dispensed.  We used the 5 Whys to determine the root cause of each, and we find that the reason was that there was no standard for the setting of the equipment.

Most of the time, when a problem happens, the first thing you see is a symptom.  In this example, the symptom was oily cans.  Without root cause analysis, most probably we would stop at insufficient training, but with fishbone and 5 Why we were able to drill down to the ugly truth, a standard was never established.

Now you have two simple and effective tools to use to find the root cause of a problem.  Practice PDCA and use these tools for RCA, you will see the difference between traditional and lean problem-solving.

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What is the fishbone diagram? Problem-solving using the cause and effect analysis to find the root cause.

Problem-solving is the process of finding a solution to a problem.  ASQ defines problem-solving as the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.  It sounds complicated, and it is complicated.  After all, we are looking for an often-elusive solution for complicated and recurrent problems.

There are various problem-solving methodologies, PDCA, DMAIC, 8D, and others.  The effectiveness of all of them depends on the definition of the problem and finding its root cause.  Tools like fishbone analysis, or the 5 Why facilitates the process to find the root cause.

Today, I will focus on the tool commonly known as the fishbone diagram, but it is also known as Ishikawa Analysis or Cause & Effect diagram.  The diagram looks like a fishbone, with the problem description at the head and five categories as bones attached to the fish backbone.  The categories are the five M’s; material, manning or personnel, method or process, measurements, machine, or equipment.  Some people add a sixth category, environment, or mother nature.

The steps to complete the Ishikawa analysis are the following.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Identify the major factors or categories, you can use your categories, or some of the general categories indicated above.
  3. Brainstorm possible causes with the team
  4. For each cause identified, continue to ask “why” that happens and attach that information as another bone of the category branch. You can see an example in the fishbone above, in the category machine.
  5. Construct the actual diagram
  6. Analyze to find the most basic causes of the problem, look for causes that appear repeatedly.
  7. Reach team consensus

The goal of RCA is to identify one or two reasons, that, if corrected will reduce recurrence.  The rule of thumb is that if there are three or more root causes, you can assume the root cause has not yet been found, and you need additional investigation.  In summary, keep digging!

CI Tools, Team Development

Do you know the characteristics of standard work?

Standard Work (SW) is a simple written description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task. Once established, it becomes the only acceptable way to do the process it describes.  Effective documentation and training are key to standard work success.  Use a template to ensure that all the standard work or work instructions look and contain the same parts or components.  

The three components 

  • Job sequence to complete the job
  • The rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand (takt time)
  • The standard amount of work in process inventory

Relevant information to include with the job sequence   

  • Key points related to anything that can make or break the job
    • Information that addresses safety issues or risks
    • Instructions or knowledge that help performance such as, what makes the job easier or ensure quality.  
  • Explains why the step is important

Characteristics of effective work instructions

  • Simple and clear, easy to understand by everybody.  
  • Complete, but concise, it shows the steps to complete the job and other relevant information. 
  • Accurate, the document reflects the current process.    
  • Concise, it contains important information only.

A work instruction is not effective, regardless of how good the document is if the training is not adequate.  If your idea of training is to bring a group of people to a room to read the work instruction, you should rethink the training method.  How effective do you think this type of training is?  How can you be sure that everybody understood the instructions?  

The work instruction by itself is not a training tool, it needs to be supported by other teaching methods.  To be effective, the instructor should tell and show how to do the job.  The following are some general guidelines. 

  • Demonstrate the job step by step while explaining the key points and why things are done a certain way.  
  • Repeat the steps as many times as you think it is necessary before asking the employee to try.
  • Observe the employee doing the job.
  • Ask to explain the key concepts and whys, make sure they understand.   
  • Follow-up on their performance, observe and correct if it is necessary.  
  • Create a safe and respectful environment.  
  • Make sure they know who to ask if they have doubts or find a problem.  
  • Check-in with the employee often, until you are completely sure that he/she understands the job.

Many organizations fail to implement standard work.  As a result, perceived gains through Kaizen may be lost over time, and the status quo prevails.  The standard work is not set in stone, it is the baseline for continuous improvement.  When the process change, the standard work is updated.

Standard work is important to ensure everybody follows the same guidelines, and the process is stable. That way, the customer will consistently receive their product or service on time, with the best quality, and at the lower possible cost.

CI Tools

Do you really want to go back to normal? Business as usual, will not going to cut it anymore.

These days you can hear the phrase when we go back to normal, dozens of times a day.  We all want to return to our normal lives, right?

As a lean practitioner, I believe that each event is a learning opportunity, the coronavirus pandemic is no different.  During these slower days, there is time to learn new things and plan for the future.  Lean is all about learning, experimenting, and adapting.  That is just what everybody needs to learn now.  Every day I read about how people are adapting to the new normal, and many are using lean or continuous improvement thinking without knowing it.  For me, at this moment, Lean style problem solving is the on-demand skill.

I am not the only one that thinks that way.  Last year, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), published Indiana’s Employability Skills Benchmarks.  It describes a set of 18 workplace skills recommended for success in today’s competitive workforce.  One of the skills identified in the learning strategies category is problem-solving.  

The way each business adapts the operation to comply with the CDC guidelines is unique.   The solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and on top of that, those guidelines change as they gathered more information.   Learning how to use a systematic process like PDCA and apply lean thinking is critical to identify and implement the new operational guidelines for your business.  

This situation catches most people without the skills to learn and adapt, but it is never late to start.  You are on time to start using lean thinking to approach the current challenges.  With practice, you can build that muscle memory that will guide you through times like this.  The new normal then should be something better than before the coronavirus pandemic.  It is like when you create the future state value-stream-map, imagine a better and stronger business and plan how to make it happen!  Many will go back to business as usual, your competitive advantage will be your new way to do business.

Better Process Solutions can help you to start designing your new processes, get in touch!

CI Tools

What is a value stream map?

The value stream is all the steps required to bring a product or service from order to delivery.  A value stream map (VSM) represents the flow of materials and information through that path.  This type of process map is a storyboard of how the work moves from request to receipt.  It represents a great tool to understand the current condition or state and identify improvement opportunities.  The goal is to identify and eliminate waste within and between processes.  

What makes the VSM unique is that shows the flow of all the high-level steps, allowing to see the entire value stream, how it works, and how value is delivered to the customer.  The customer is front and center while drawing the value stream, providing a clear line of sight to the external customer.  

The first two steps for Strategic Planning are to establish the Vision after assessing the current state and develop breakthrough objectives.  With the Value Steam Map, we easily see those areas where the flow stops, making it an effective instrument to understand the current environment. The improvement opportunities are the non-value-added steps, and those points the flow stop.  The future state map deploys the opportunities for improvement identified in the current-state map to achieve a higher level of performance.  This high-level of performance would be part of the strategic plan breakthrough objectives. 

A detailed explanation of how to create a VSM is beyond my scope but this how it looks.  A VSM has three parts, the information flow, the product flow, and the timeline.  

Value Stream Map Example

Before drawing the current state, it is important to go to gemba, where the action happens, to observe the processes and gathered information.  VSM uses a set of symbols or icons to represent a process, inventory, outside sources, transportation, information, and others.  The customer data box is the first thing you draw while doing value stream mapping, and it contains the daily requirements.  It also shows how the information flows from the customer to your facility, using different types of arrows for manual or electronic information. The sequenced process boxes represent product flow, and the data boxes under each contain relevant metrics, like the number of staff, process time, and lead time.  Between processes, you can add any work in process inventory.  Under them, it goes the timeline, which shows the lead time and the processing time.  Also, you can highlight non-value-added activities, to make sure that you see them as improvement opportunities.

Once completed, this map speaks to you.  You will see where the flow stops, where you have more inventory or more delays.  In the future state map, you will highlight those opportunities identifying them with the kaizen burst symbol.  Those are future kaizen or continuous improvement events.  

To improve flow, you will remove or minimize handoffs, rework, work in process, motion, transportation, batches, and other sources of waste.  You can also implement standardization, balance work, and improve quality.  

The last step of the VSM process is to create an improvement plan. Tie each item, long-term and short-term, to an objective of your improvement strategy.  

During the implementation of the strategic plan, continuous improvement events will lead the way.  These events are the part that says how to achieve the desired results.  The frequency of doing VSM can go anywhere from three to six months to a year.  Shorter times are better to drive action.

Value stream mapping is an excellent tool to analyze the current state of a value stream, which is the sequence of steps from request to delivery and design of the future state.  VSM is a strategic tool, while process mapping is a tactical tool.  Are you ready to work on your new strategy?

CI Tools

What is strategy deployment (and why it is vital now)?

A strategy establishes the framework to make decisions, how to conduct business, deliver value to your customers, and achieve target revenues and profits. Strategic planning answers the question, where are we going, and how do we get there?

Hoshin planning or hoshin kanri means strategic policy deployment. It is a process to identify the strategy to follow, develop the objectives, communicate, and execute the plan. Hoshin is one of the various methodologies for strategic planning that emerge from Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives (MBO). Some of the characteristics of Hoshin are that plans at different timeframes, from short-term to long-term, use PDCA and SMART goals, and establish periodic reviews to assess performance against the plan. In general, Hoshin planning has seven steps.

  1. Assess the current state and establish the Vision
  2. Develop breakthrough objectives
  3. Develop annual objectives
  4. Deploy annual objectives
  5. Implement annual objectives
  6. Monthly and quarterly review
  7. Annual review

Strategy deployment address critical business needs by aligning the goals with its strategy and the company resources at all levels. This alignment makes it possible to respond quickly to changes in the business environment. The use of the PDCA cycle brings into the mix a structure to deal with those changes. It provides a framework to identify and solve the problem.

Hoshin develops the skills and capabilities of the team by engaging them to answer the question of how do we get there? Leaders are expected to guide their teams based on their knowledge and experience. Aligned goals ensure that everyone is working toward the same ends. The team of problem-solvers that you developed, row in the same direction as you do to accomplish those goals.

Lean is a strategy that has proven effective in responding effectively to unforeseen changes and situations. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to have a system to analyze the situation, create and implement a new business strategy. You can do this using Hoshin planning. If you decide to use Lean as your strategy, it will be the new framework to make decisions and conduct your business.

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What is visual management? How do you create visuals?

Visual management is a way to visually communicate accurate information, standards, and performance within the workplace to make it available at all times to those who needed.  The objective is to make out of normal situations visible to everybody, so that corrective actions can start immediately.   Visual controls communicate a standard and actual performance.

A good visual workplace speaks for itself; it is easy to understand the status of the system performance at a glance.  Effective visuals are simple, easy to see and read, everybody understand the same thing and act the same way.  Managers, supervisors and operators, know what to do with the information.  

Visual Design Process

  • The first step to create visual controls is 5S, the foundation of visual management.
  • The first level of visual control is put in place while working in the step 4, Standardization.
  • Visual control design is a team activity, have a group of them participating in the process.
  • Ask the following questions 
    • What do I need to know? What do I need to share? Where? When? Who? How? How many?
  • Provide specific, precise, and complete information (the answer to the above questions).
  • The answer to those questions needs to be obvious as people walk through the workplace.

Visuals format

  • Create a basic layout, each type of information, always goes in the same place.
  • It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the background, font type, color, and size.  
  • Use graphics or pictures whenever it is possible, but do not overcrowd the visual.
  • Adopt a symbol to acknowledge when the team meets the goals.

Presentation

  • Use less words, if possibly create symbols instead of a lengthy text, they take less time to read.
  • To ensure it is easy to understand, use simple words, clear pictures, and charts.
  • Use color coding when possible, be consistent with the meaning of the colors across the site.

Location and Use

  • Install visuals at the point of use, where the information is needed.
  • Ensure that everybody knows what the visual is, the objective, and rules.

In summary, for visual management to be real and effective, everybody has to see the same, know the same information, understand the same, and act in the same way.  If these conditions are not present, then the visual is not effective.  In a visually managed workplace, anyone will know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of an area within 5 minutes.

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What is Root Cause Analysis?

Root Cause Analysis

Many times, when a problem happens, actions are taken to fix it without knowing what the problem is. To avoid that, PDCA gives a structure for the problem-solving process.

Understanding the problem is critical for the success of PDCA, and knowing the root cause is an important piece. Without identifying the underlying cause, it is impossible to implement corrective actions that prevent a recurrence. If all we need to stop a problem from repeating itself is find the root cause, why we keep fighting with the same situations?

Root cause analysis (RCA) is one of those things that is easier said than done. While it is not complicated, finding the root cause requires patience, attention to detail, and the ability to look at things from different perspectives.

It is common to engage in finding a solution when the situation is almost out of control. At this point, patience is out of the picture you want to see fast results. RCA requires persistence to keep asking why that happens until finding the end cause. If you stop digging before finding the most basic cause, the process fails. You end up working with the physical cause, which is a symptom or a proximate cause.

A proximate or physical cause is the source of the symptoms that you see as the problem. Recommendations to fix this type of cause are corrective actions, but they do not prevent a recurrence.

To have different points of view of the situation, brainstorm ideas with the affected members of the team. Create a blame-free, safe environment where people can talk honestly. Encourage thinking out of the box, and asking why to find buried reasons.
Root causes are specific basic causes that management has control to fix and develop effective recommendations to avoid recurrence. For example, human error is not specific. Why the person errs? There is another uncover reason like, Is the work instruction clear? Is it complete? Is there any distraction that affects performance? An example of something you cannot control is the weather. Because you cannot control the weather, it is necessary to keep digging what reason is hiding behind weather conditions.

The goal of RCA is to identify one or two reasons, that, if corrected will reduce recurrence. Tools like fishbone or the 5 Why facilitate this process. The rule of thumb is that if there are three or more root causes, you can assume the root cause has not yet been found, and you need additional investigation. In summary, keep digging!

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Take Baby Steps for Continuous Improvement

How do we learn to walk? The first step is crawling. As the babies become stronger will start pulling themselves up with the support of someone or something. Once they are up will learn balance and how to keep themselves up without any help. The next stage is walking with the mom or dad’s help, learning how to move their legs to take steps. Their curiosity will drive them to use that learning to wander around the house, using the furniture as support. They build confidence in their skills and keep practicing. Those small steps show them how much independence they gain, and they don’t want to lose it. One step at a time, they finally learn to walk.

The business process improvement is very similar. The goal is clear you want to thrive during good times and survive the inevitable challenges and economic downturns. You know that you need to improve your processes to accomplish on-time delivery of quality goods or services at the lowest cost. You want to change but do not have a clear idea of how. Like the baby learning to walk, you need to take small steps, one at a time.

Continuous improvement (CI) or Kaizen is the daily practice of creating small changes using low-cost common-sense solutions. Before you start complaining about the Japanese words, let me explain its origins. The USA Department of War created in the early 40’s a training program named Training Within Industry (TWI). It was developed within the industry to help ramp up the production of war materials and equipment. TWI introduced the concepts of job instruction training and job methods. Job instruction training teaches the “one best way” to do the work, which we now call standard work. Job Methods taught employees how to break down jobs into smaller steps questioning each one as a way to generate improvement ideas. As a result, a high volume of small incremental improvements from individuals was delivered.

After World War II, the American occupation forces brought in experts to Japan to help to rebuild their industry. Edward Deming introduced TWI, and the Japanese love it so much that they give it a Japanese name, Kaizen. Kaizen comes from two words, Kai (change) and Zen (good). It is commonly translated as a change for good or continuous improvement (CI). The strength of CI comes from the participation of workers, of all levels, in the business improving effort. These efforts are driven by three major activities, standardization, 5S, and waste elimination.

By approaching change in small, incremental steps, CI reduces the fear of change. Like the babies learning to walk, the small steps increase your confidence to keep trying until you find success. If you need help on your journey, reach out, I can help!

This article was originally posted by Jina Rivera in Organization and Efficiency Solutions.

CI Tools

What is customer value and how do you define it?

The journey to transform your business into a continuous improvement enterprise should start with the definition of value. The CI business management model defines the value of a product or service from the customer’s point of view. How much your product or service is worth for the customer? What are the expectations?

How do you find the answer to those questions? Only the customers themselves can tell you. There are a couple of ways to get their input, talking with them, or using social media. The best time for a conversation is right after they received the product or service. Ask about their experience. What do they like? Do they have any suggestions? Listen to what they have to say and watch their demeanor. Social media accounts are another way to receive feedback from customers. Review the comments and ratings often. You can also create polls to survey their opinion.

The information from these three different sources will give you the value definition from the customers’ point of view. Value definition is a critical piece to start your continuous improvement quest. You will use it to classify each process as value-added or non-value-added. Value-added activities are those that transform input into output or change materials or information. In other words, the customers are willing to pay for it. Everything else is non-value-added or waste.

When you go to a restaurant, you expect to receive on a reasonable amount of time the plate you ask. You also expect that the staff follows any special instructions like cooking the meat the way you request it. You will pay for the food and the service without hesitation. If the restaurant messed up with your plate, that is a defect. Now they have to prepare a second plate, which is overproduction. Both things are waste or non-value-added activities. I bet that you, the customer, are not willing to pay for them.

Businesses need to complete various processes that are critical for operation but do not add value to the customers. Examples of necessary non-value added activities are hiring, payroll, and month-end financials.

The entire flow from the customer order to product or service received is drawn using a value-stream map (VSM). VSM is a special type of flow chart where you can visualize the flow of information and materials. This map is a tool that allows you to see waste and plan how to eliminate it. How to create a VSM will be the subject of a future post.

The priority of continuous improvement is to eliminate waste. Waste elimination will create faster and bigger results. Second, it is to challenge and reduce the necessary non-value-added activities. Minimize the quantity of non-value-added steps will further improve flow and reduce costs. Finally, you will work on optimizing value-added steps.