Written By: Lee Oxton
Focused Improvement is the process of applying systematic problem solving methods to manufacturing. The process relies on aligning the correct method to the correct scenario. When a known solution exists to a problem clearly demonstrated, the rigour and analysis to find this solution is not needed as experience can be used to try the solution when it is not too expensive or difficult to implement. If such a solution is expensive or difficult to implement, the rigour and analysis of the problem must be improved. The basis of solving problems uses the 5G’s:
Whenever problems are solved, all 5G’s are used but the 1st G – Gemba must always be studied to check our assumptions are correct. For simple problems it is possible to use Gembutsu, Genjitsu, Genri & Gensoku based on experience as explained above to create solutions which are not too expensive or difficult to implement. The study of Gembutsu and Genjitsu can be made systematic. This has 2 benefits, firstly it gives a common method to all the people across an organisation on how the facts and physical evidence are recorded and used. The second benefit is that systematic problem solving gives a common language to all levels in the organisation on the facts and physical data to create a common understanding of the problem. KCTS uses the method known as 5W+1H to create a repeatable, systematic problem statement by asking the following questions and summarising the answer.
• What product is related to the problem?
• When did the problem occur during the activities of the manufacturing enterprise?
• Where on the product and / or within the process was the problem created?
• Who has more of these problems compared to their peers?
• Which trend can be seen over time? Is the problem getting worse or better or repeating in alignment with other factors?
• How is the problem physically manifesting itself?
The remaining G’s of Genri & Gensoku can be studied if experience does not reveal the causes of the problem once the 5W+1H problem statement has been created. If the immediate causes are understood, root cause can be found. Root Cause is defined as when the problem affects human behaviour, it is not suitable to continue through the reasons for this first human behaviour unless this is the original reason we are investigating. It is also not suitable to stop the investigation until this human behaviour has been found. If a problem occurs due to physical problems within the workplace, why are these physical problems not being resolved? The use of 5 Why analysis allows us to test the detail of our 5W+1H. If we have not found the root cause by asking Why 5 times and validating the possible responses to demonstrate factually the reasons for the problem, the problem statement requires more study of the facts and data. If the root cause is found earlier than 5 Why’s then we may stop the analysis at that step.
Once the root cause is found, the benefits of Focused Improvement come from implementing a solution that eliminates that cause. Once eliminated, the problem cannot reoccur. There will be other problems occurring within the process and areas studied, but the same problem cannot reappear unless the conditions of the area change.
The application of Focused Improvement in companies across the world has given direct benefits to the places where it has been implemented, plus allows time and attention to be focused on the systems needed to stop the problem reoccurring. Systems and processes are needed to control the human behaviours used within all manufacturing enterprises but such processes require improvements. By focusing on facts and data, the opinions which can often divide organisations are removed and thus logic is used to drive decision making which ensures all standards used become the latest, best standard.