Back in 2013, Stern Companies had the opportunity to collaborate with Enterprise Minnesota on a new Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) offered to Minnesota manufacturing companies to increase operational efficiencies and promote growth within the company. SCI took advantage of this program and has been benefiting from the skills learned ever since.
In our manufacturing process here at SCI, we’ve implemented the A3 Problem Solving method that was developed by the Toyota Way and adopted by lean organizations from around the world. A3 is a problem solving approach, a communication tool for workers to report problems and improvement suggestions to management. This is a way for management to structure and “discipline” the improvement process. The basic steps that we’ve implemented here at SCI in taking an A3 problem solving approach are:
- Step One: Find and Clarify the Problem (Problem Statement)
- State the current situation and what the desired outcome (goal) is.
- List the gap between the current and desired outcome.
- List what the extent of the problem is and rationale for solving the problem.
- Step Two: State your Target / Goal
- Do what? / To what? / How much time allotted? / By when?
- Step Three: Cause Analysis (Root Causes)
- What are the greatest current contributors to the situation you want to change?
- Step Four: Counter Measures
- Short-Term (Temporary “Fix”)
- Long-Term (Permanent “Fix”)
- Step Five: Implementation Plan
- What / Who / When / Where / Status
- Step Six: Follow-Up and Verification
- Check method / Check frequency / Who will check?
- Step Seven: Future Steps and Recommendations
The A3 Process helps our employees engage in collaborative, in-depth problem-solving. It drives our people to address the root causes of problems which surface in day-to-day work routines. Solving problems is necessary for achieving our goals here at SCI and the continuous improvement philosophy we promote.