News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Concept Mapping Toyota’s 8-Step Lean Manufacturing Methodology

Lean Manufacturing is a core fundamental for businesses that focus on delivering a quality product to their customers, while minimizing production waste. Toyota has a variant of this called the 8-Step Process that is very popular because of its ease of implementation and success in the improvement of an existing process. The 8-Step methodology is a business philosophy that is a proven way to solve simple to complex issues that often vex companies.

The first of the 8 steps is to identify the problem by using quantifiable terms to describe the current situation. What is the problem, in what process is the problem occurring, who is involved with that process, at what point in that process is the problem occurring, , is the cause of the problem known, and what is the relative magnitude of the problem? It is important to have physical evidence of the issue, if possible. Many people will use a physical sample, photos and even drawings to describe the problem’s nature. This step of obtaining the evidence will often eliminate any false alarms that might cause an unnecessary effort.

The second step is to break down the problem. Is the problem universal, does it occur in only one plant, and does it occur on only one machine? If the problem is occurring in the field, do you have a process in place that allows you to track failures back to the process that produced the part or assembly. When a problem does occur, it is imperative that there be a path available to track from the incident to the inception.
Now that you have identified the problem, it is important to set a target. Once you have gone through the process, what is the ideal or planned outcome? This third step establishes the performance baseline and the end goal. These are two very important elements to this problem solving process.

The forth step is to find the source. What causes the problem? It is important to review the process being investigated and the current controls. Questions that can be asked are ‘What has changed?’ or ‘What anticipated event did not occur?’ If the answer is not clear, then a systemic issue exists and additional physical analysis is necessary to determine root cause. Discovery of the root cause must be accomplished to progress to any other steps.

Now we get to the problem resolution stage. In step 5 we implement corrective actions, the team defines and implements the best corrective action, and ongoing controls are implemented to make sure that the root cause has been eliminated. Once changes have been put into production, it is important to monitor the long-term effects that have been put in place. And of course, all changes implemented must be documented—the appropriate control plan, process flow documentation, and appropriate work instructions.

In step 6, it is necessary to verify that the selected corrective actions will resolve the problem and that the changes will not cause any undesirable side effects to occur.

Step 7 is the evaluation of the modified process and its results. This is a good time to look at the issue and the identified solution in its entirety. What can be learned from this important step that will have potentially a universal impact on how your business is conducted?

The final step is to standardize successful processes to build quality in to the product and to resolve any future shortcomings in the manufacturing process. Quality has such a demonstrable impact on customer buying patterns today that methodologies such as Toyota’s 8-step problem solving have been widely adopted many manufacturing organizations and the United States Air Force.

Click here to download a template for the 8-step problem solving solution.

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