Use 3 Methods of Corrective Action to Solve Problems, Yield Insight

With the right analysis tool, challenges can become solutions

Corrective Action

Three of the most widely-promoted techniques for problem solving in the manufacturing industry—5-Whys, 8D, and A3—are each applied in distinctly different ways. While solving any problem is the key task at hand, figuring out how to solve it can be almost as important as understanding the answers you get.

Each of the three approaches has plusses and minuses, says quality systems expert Duke Okes, and each has a specific purpose and an integration method for yielding best results. Okes shows you how to match each technique to the type of problem it can solve in his AudioSolutionz webinar, “Guidance for the Corrective Action Process.”

Corrective action is a part of the quality management process that aims to solve a manufacturing task, activity, production plan, or behavior—anything, in short, that is causing errors or has deviated from an intended plan.

“Corrective actions can be thought of as improvements to an organization to eliminate undesirable effects,” notes Smartsheet; in manufacturing specifically, the objective is to “remove and avoid deficiencies in products.”

The 5-Whys

Asking a three-year-old’s favorite question—“Why?”—can yield valuable lessons in process management, says iSixSigma. Posing the question, again and again up to five times, to get at the details of a process problem can peel away layers of symptoms to find the root cause of trouble.

Benefits: The 5-Whys method is extremely simple to use and can illuminate the relationship between different root causes of a problem. This tool is best used when problems involve human factors, iSixSigma notes.

Example: iSixSigma offers an example of the 5-Whys that begins by asking why unhappy customers are receiving inferior products and ends up uncovering the root cause that is slowing down processes and forcing workers to orally (and incorrectly) communicate manufacturing specs.

8 Disciplines of Problem Solving: 8D

Henry Ford developed the 8 Disciplines of Problem Solving (8D) in the 1980s, and the method has gained popularity because it is effective and easy to teach, says Quality-one.com. The 8D process includes a description of the symptoms, the team leader’s name, and the problem statement.

There are then five steps, each with an effectiveness score and implementation date. They include:

  1. Interim containment action
  2. Root cause of non-conformance
  3. Corrective action
  4. Prevention recurrence
  5. Team and individual recognition

A3: Customizable Problem-Solving Processes

A3 refers to a European paper size not unlike an American 11×17-inch sheet. The process actually has eight steps, explains Reliable Plant:

  • Identify the problem
  • Understand the current situation
  • Develop a goal statement
  • Perform a root cause analysis
  • Determine countermeasures
  • Create a countermeasures implementation plan
  • Check results and confirm the effect
  • Update standard work

A3 is favored by Toyota, adds Reliable Plant, and the company takes the view that problems are opportunities.

With so many problem-solving processes available, says Okes, understanding which one is right for the job can make all the difference.

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Jeff Schmerker
About Jeff Schmerker
Jeff has extensive professional experience writing on a variety of topics, from pharmaceutical research to environmental history. He has published more than a half-dozen books, and he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and restaurant reviewer. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife and son.