In our first post on this topic, “Using Triz for Problem Solving – Introduction“, we provided a very basic introduction to TRIZ. In the spirit of TRIZ, it is not our intent to rewrite or redefine the TRIZ process when excellent information is already available. Our intent is to identify the few of the many excellent and exceptional resources that we have found.
What is TRIZ?
To learn more about TRIZ and it’s applications we suggest visiting the following web sites that present a tremendous amount of information on the development and application of TRIZ.
As you will have learned from reading the “What is TRIZ?” page from the link above, one of the tools of TRIZ is the Contradiction Matrix that consists of 40 elements. The TRIZ Contradiction Matrix is available as an Excel Spreadsheet through the following link:
We typically tend to avoid “labels” for the method we are using to solve a specific problem. Unlike a surgeon “requesting specific tools (scalpel)” while performing an operation, our strategy tends to be a blended “hybrid” approach to problem solving; TRIZ happens to be one of the more effective methods that we have learned to use over the past few years.
The acceptance of TRIZ may be attributed to the current struggles many companies experience simply attempting to complete an 8D or 5-Why. Of course, that would only be true of companies who are void of the Lean principles and methods – right? TRIZ also has a perceived complexity that does not lend itself to ready adaptation as a company-wide problem solving tool.
Unfortunately, for many companies, the discipline or the structure is simply not there to support effective problem solving efforts. Perhaps if more time was spent solving the real problems, they would have more time to solve problems not yet realized.
Problem solving is a problem in itself for many companies and at times can be one of the most daunting tasks to undertake during the course of an otherwise regular work day.
For some, problems seldom occur while for others this may, unfortunately, be a daily activity. Since problem solving is not usually part of the typical daily agenda of “routine” activities, our ability to find the time and solve them efficiently and effectively is compromised.
For many, just finding time seems to be one of the greatest challenges and perhaps a problem to be solved in itself. Sweeping problems under the rug may be efficient but it is certainly not effective. (So … broom is not the solution we’re proposing).
Using IDEA Mapping Techniques can help you solve problems effectively and efficiently. IDEA Maps, Process Maps, and Mind Maps are variations on a theme. We may use the terms interchangeably in the discussion that follows.
While there are several different approaches and “forms” that can be used to manage the overall problem solving process, the two most critical steps that will determine the effectiveness of the solution are:
Define a Clear and Concise Problem Description / Statement
While the first step seems relatively simple, the second step requires a little more effort. There are at least two (2) root causes for most problems that stem from two simple questions:
These questions imply that defective product was made for a reason (process) and it was shipped to the customer undetected (system). In other words, the customer is not protected from receipt of defective product.
The root cause analysis process forms the basis for all subsequent problem solving activities, including verification, interim and long term corrective actions. A lot of time can be wasted simply because the real root causes were never identified.
Many different tools can be deployed during the Root Cause Analysis process including Ishikawa Diagrams (Fishbone Diagrams), 5 Why (discussed in a previous post), Fault Tree Analysis, Q&A (Question Board), and Brain Storming to name just a few.
Mind Mapping or Process Mapping is a technique that provides an unconstrained approach to the thinking process for multiple input and contribution streams. Maps can also be used to identify interactions or relationships to other elements.
Mind Mapping (Process Mapping)
The center of the map contains the problem statement. We then surround the problem statement with potential inputs or contributors to the problem. These statements in turn become the “center” of additional levels of inputs and contributors. In some respects, the process map can be very similar to a Bloom Diagram and certainly supports the logic found with fishbone diagrams.
The The draw back to “Mapping” is that most are usually developed on Whiteboards and not easily or readily translated into a software solution.
Software Solutions and Templates
While there are many spreadsheet based solutions, few provide an effective interface to support the use of mapping techniques. Even most fishbone diagrams developed in Excel are quirky and awkward at best.
While we typically do not endorse specific software solutions, however, FREEMIND is one software that we consider to be among the best of available solutions and can be downloaded free of charge. The download and installation process only requires a few minutes.
The developers of FREEMIND provide a clean, intuitive solution for creating and maintaining process or mind maps. While other commercial packages are available, FreeMind is more than capable of handling most problem solving challenges and quite simply is time and money well saved.
The FreeMind homepage provides a better description of the software and it’s capabilities than we could provide here. Our goal was to introduce “Mapping” as an effective and efficient tool that can be used in the problem solving process.
After spending some time with the software, you will quickly discover that there are many other opportunities where this software can serve you. We have a mind map that we use to manage weekly and daily reports, another for key metrics, and yet another for our business structure. The ability to use hyperlinks makes it an easy process to access external reports and resources .
The FreeMind main page provides an excellent overview and provides examples of their software in action. This is definitely worth looking into and may just save some time for real problem solving.
We are presently using FreeMind version 0.9.0 RC 6.
Copyright 2000-2009 Joerg Mueller, Daniel Polansky, Christian Foltin, Dimitry Polivaev, and others.
Click here to see a sample process map to achieve delivery of 100% on time – in full: Mapping with FreeMind. We have also uploaded two documents (one of the original map and a word document showing a pictorial of the mind maps we created) into our Free Downloads box. See the ORANGE box on the sidebar to get your copy.
If you have a copy of FreeMind, simply change the extension on our Delivery file from “.txt” to “.mm” Of course, don’t type the quotes. This is just a sample for example purposes only. Feel free to edit or modify these files in any manner you choose.
IDEA Mapping, Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, New Jersey, Published simultaneously in Canada (ISBN-13: 978-0-471-78862-1, ISBN-10: 0-471-78862-7), 268 pages. The book includes a companion CD-ROM featuring a 21 day trial for Mindjet MindManager 6.
The 5 WHY technique, developed by Sakichi Toyoda, is one of the core problem solving tools used by Toyota Motor Corporation and has been adopted and embraced by numerous companies all over the globe. This technique is unconstrained, providing the team with a high degree of freedom in their thinking process.
As we suggested in our “How to Improve OEE” post, the 5 WHY system is simple in principle. This simplicity may also be the downfall of this technique unless you take the time to understand and apply the process correctly. Other problem solving tools, such as Cause and Effect diagrams, allow for the development of multiple solution threads, in turn creating the potential for multiple solutions.
Some root-cause analysis experts have correctly identified some of the short comings presented by the 5-WHY technique including:
The approach is not repeatable – One problem, different teams, different solutions.
The scope of the investigation is constrained by the experience of the team.
The process is self directing based on the evolution of the “WHY + Answer” series.
The TRUE Root Cause may never be identified – Symptoms may be confused for Root Causes.
The inference that a root cause can be determined by a 5 tier “Why + Answer” series.
The Problem Statement defines the Point of Entry. It is imperative to define where the real problem begins.
We would argue that any problem solving or root-cause analysis tool is subject to some short falls in one form or another. Perhaps even in problem solving there is no definitive solution. Different problems require different tools and perhaps even different approaches. In the automotive industry, each customer has a different variation on the problem solving approach to be used and prescribe various tools to be used in the problem solving process.
For this reason, most companies do not rely on one single technique to approach their problem solving challenges. We would also argue that most companies are typically well versed in their processes (equipment and machines), products, and applications. As a result, having the right people on the team will minimize the experience concerns. There is no reason not to include outside expertise in or outside of your current industry.
One concern that can be dismissed from the above list of short comings is the inference that the solution can be found by a 5 tier “Why + Answer” series. There is no rule as to how many times the “Why + Answer” series should be executed. Although five times is typical and recommended, some problems may require even deeper levels. We recommend that you keep going until you have identified a root cause for the problem that when acted upon will prevent its recurrence.
The technique that we propose in this post will at least provide a method to validate the logic used to arrive at the root cause. Most 5-WHY posts, web sites, articles, or extracts on the topic seem to focus on a top-down or deductive “Why + Answer” logic sequence. The challenge then is to have some way to check the “answer” to see if it actually fits.
A simple way to validate the top down logic is to read the analysis in reverse order, from the bottom up, substituting the question WHY with the words “Because” or “Therefore.” To demonstrate the technique we’ll use an example based on a problem sequence presented in Wikipedia:
I am late for work (the problem):
Why? – My car will not start. (The Real Problem)
Why? – The battery is dead.
Why? – The alternator is not working.
Why? – The alternator belt is broken.
Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and was never replaced.
Why? – The car was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (Root Cause)
You probably noticed that we used a 6 “Why + Answer” series instead of 5. We did this deliberately to demonstrate that 5 WHY is a guideline and not a rule. Keep asking WHY until you find a definitive root cause to the problem. We could keep going to determine why the car was not maintained and so on to eventually uncover some childhood fear of commitment but that is beyond the scope of our example.
The CROSS CHECK – Root Cause Analysis Validation
Root Cause: The car was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule.
Therefore, the alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and was never replaced.
Therefore, the alternator belt is broken.
Therefore, the alternator is not working.
Therefore, the battery is dead.
Therefore, the car will not start. (The Real Problem)
Therefore, I will be late for work.
Does the reverse logic make sense to you? It seems to fit. Does it sound like the owner of the car needed to be a mechanic or at least know one? When it comes to car trouble, we don’t seem too concerned about going to the outside experts (the mechanic) to get it fixed. Why do some companies fail to recognize that experts also exist outside of their business as well? In some cases, proprietary or intellectual knowledge would preclude calling in outside resources. Barring that, some outside expertise can certainly bring a different perspective to the problem at hand.
Caution! Stick to the Problem – Don’t Assign Blame
The original Wikipedia example identified the root cause as, “I have not been maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule.” It would be too easy for someone to say, “Aha, it’s entirely your fault. If you only took better care of your things you wouldn’t have been in this predicament.” For this reason, we presented the case based on the facts. It’s not WHO it’s WHAT. This approach also tempers emotions and keeps the team focused on the problem and the solution.
Where do we start? Problem Entry Points
You have likely noted that the problem statement is the key to establishing a starting point for the 5 WHY process. A problem may have different entry points depending on what stage you become involved:
Late For Work
The car will not start
The battery is dead
The alternator belt is broken
Product Recalls and Warranty Returns are typical examples of where you may find multi-level 5 WHYs. Ultimately the suppliers of most products, like the Belt Supplier in our example, will also complete a 5 WHY. This is typically the case for most Tier I automotive suppliers.
WHY MAPS / TREES.
The one drawback or downfall of the 5 Why process as presented above and also used by most companies is the suggestion that a single “WHY + Answer” series will evolve into a neat single root cause. Our experience suggests that this is far from reality. We typically present the single series as part of the final solution, however, we can assure you that multiple root cause / solution threads were developed before arriving at the final result.
We use the WHY MAP (WHY TREE) as a tool that allows us to pursue multiple thought threads simultaneously. Pursuing multiple threads also stimulates new ideas and potential causes. In some cases the root cause analysis threads lead to the same or common root cause. Then it is a matter of selecting the most likely root cause.
Problem solving TREES come under many different names including Why-Tree, Cause Tree, Root Cause Tree, Causal Factor Tree, Why Staircase Tree, and Cause Map to name a few of them. As you can see from the names, they all serve to create, stimulate, and propagate ideas.
Regardless of the tool you use, finding the true root cause and ultimately the solution to resolve it is the key to your problem solving success.
We trust this post will provide you with some insight to using the 5-WHY approach for problem solving and will serve as a useful tool to improve your OEE.