In my last post I introduced the Toyota Practical Problem Solving approach (PPS) and gave an overview how it is rooted in PDCA and often used in the form of an A3. Now let’s dig deeper and go into the details of the individual steps. The first is to clarify the problem. The second is to break down and stratify the problem—to try to understand the problem better by looking at it from different angles, preferably using data. In my next post I will talk about target setting.
Lean is a lot of problem solving. Toyota excels at such problem solving, and they have developed their practical problem solving (PPS) approach. For many it is surprising how much time Toyota spends on defining and understanding the problem, whereas (many in) the rest of the world immediately jump to a (possibly inferior) solution. Let me go through the process step by step.
Managing problems is an important part of manufacturing because it allows companies to identify and address issues that can impact product quality, production efficiency, and overall profitability. However, it is not to be confused with actual improvement. While taking care of the problem (hopefully) makes the problem go away, actual kaizen requires that the problem should not come back.
When improving a system, Western engineers love to take the technical approach and to optimize the machines and tools. However, at Toyota this is seen differently. At Toyota, they try to address a problem by first training the people, followed by improving the standards and the layout, before improving the equipment and finally twiddling with the design. Let’s have a closer look at how Toyota is approaching improvements.
Cardboard Engineering is a quick way to try out different configurations in reality. As the name says, this is done using cardboard. However, there are a few alternatives. Let me show you a portfolio of different ways to make cardboard models with (not only) cardboard, from ultra-cheap to very fancy. Please note that the fancier methods are usually not so well suited for layout optimization, but more for workstation optimization.
In my last post I talked about what you need for Cardboard Engineering. In this post I will show you how to do a Cardboard Engineering workshop. Spoiler: Keep in mind that the goal is not to just put something together but to try out different options (and I will repeat this a few times in this post). It is very easy to have fun with cardboard while learning very little about the problem you want to investigate!
Cardboard Engineering (CBE, sometimes also Cardboard Modeling) is in general the building of models from cardboard. These models are usually quick and inexpensive to build, but often not very durable. In lean manufacturing, these cardboard models are often workstations or entire assembly lines to test different concepts before building the whole thing in more expensive and time-consuming aluminum and steel. This allows faster and easier experimentation with different concepts to improve your production system.
Good problem solving can seriously help you with the performance in your plant. John Shook recently pointed out another nice example to me: the Japanese Men’s 4x100m relay team during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. They were the underdogs, with none of their team having ever run 100m in under 10 seconds. Yet they stunningly won the silver medal! They achieved this through good problem solving. Let me show you the details: