In this article, I will discuss the 5 Why’s of Lean Problem Solving. There are five main ways in which companies can implement lean principles and the subsequent five ways of implementing them. The first way in which companies implement lean is to use it at each stage of the manufacturing process. This is called Lean Inventory Control. When a company implements this system, they first evaluate their entire production environment and inventory activity, including raw materials and finished goods, and then determine what resources (labor, equipment, material, etc.) they need to create a “balanced” inventory so that they can better meet the needs of their customers.
The second way in which companies implement lean problem solving is to use it as an approach to reducing costs. The concepts of lean problem solving are so powerful that they can reduce or eliminate costs almost anywhere. For example, a company that needs to maintain certain levels of inventory may use a lean system to determine how much of each raw material they buy and when they buy it. Or a company that requires that all employees complete a particular number of work tasks can use a system to calculate the amount of time they will spend on work activities and assign individuals to appropriate amounts of time. Each of these examples highlights the concepts of lean problem solving and the ability of the systems to significantly reduce costs and improve efficiency.
The third way in which companies implement lean principles is to take a common waste elimination step and do it together. For instance, instead of doing the normal paperwork necessary for maintaining inventory, work orders, and purchase orders, work orders can be converted to real-time quotes. Purchasing and re-arranging inventory will be much more effective if work orders are converted into real-time quotes. Also, the order-taking process itself can become faster through the use of lean management tools, such as work order scheduling or electronic invoicing. Invoicing, too, will become quicker, reducing the need to re-issue bills and collecting late payments.
Another important aspect of waste reduction is identifying opportunities for improvement. Waste in one area can often be solved with the proper tools and processes. For instance, the reduction of excess inventory can be done by having the appropriate amount of inventory storage spaces in place. The same holds true for the elimination of excess transportation costs.
The 4th way in which companies implement lean principles is to first define the problem, then come up with a solution and finally test to see if it works. The Lean concept is based on testing. There are two ways to test a solution. One is through the direct results of the solution being implemented, and the other is through data collection, which will provide information on what is working and what is not. Once the problem has been defined, a solution can be implemented, followed by data collection.
When the problem associated with the current processes is identified, it becomes much easier to find solutions to problems. Data collected on waste in production can also provide clues as to why things are the way they are. If more information is collected, the clearer the picture will become of what is working and what is not. This will allow an organization to see where improvements can be made to the processes.
The 5th way in which lean is used in organizations is to identify areas in which an organization is weak. Then a plan can be put into place that will strengthen that weak point while strengthening all of the weak areas at the same time. This is also true when training is done. Training can be used to reinforce the message that the Lean concept is truly effective.
The 5 why’s of lean problem solving are very easy to understand and implement. The concept is based on the idea that processes only do as good as those that use them. If the process is strengthened, the system will run more efficiently and with less error. A well-designed system that uses the proper lean tools will help to make an organization successful.