Monday, August 6, 2012

What Makes a Good A3 Project?

A3 is "kaizan" the way it was intended by Taiichi Ohno. That is, steady, gradual progress toward flow. Flow is the goal. That condition where an order comes in, moves through your organization and never gets tangled up at all due to the 8 wastes (defects, overproduction, waiting, over-processing, transport, inventory, motion, and under-utilized people) and goes right to shipping and you get paid.

So what makes great A3 projects? How about PROBLEMS (remember the 4th P in P4) like Overburden, Complaints or Employee Suggestions? Lets look at them one at a time.

1. Overburden-go to where the work is being done and look for overburden in people. Lifting, bending, twisting and waiting are all good examples of overburden. Look for excessive noise, poor lighting or areas that are dirty or unorganized. Look for people searching for things or people. Running out of parts or raw materials is perfect!
2. Customer complaints-want to eliminate the re-occurrence of a complaint? Go after it using A3. What are your sales people complaining about? Instead of registering a customer complaint and having your quality people research it, do it using A3. The benefit is the TEACHING that happens in the closing. Same with CAPA!! I argue that too much learning is done in a vacuum. Trend analysis with regard to complaints is a magnificent source of rapid kaizan.
3. Employee suggestions-keep in mind that Toyota measures employee morale by how many suggestions they get in a day. Instead of the dusty employee suggestion box with the lock on it, ask people to start an A3. People want to make things better? Acknowledge and reward them with praise at the closing. 

People often ask me if A3 is really necessary. Can't we "just go ahead and do it?" DO A3 if the process change affects others work. And DO A3 if the learning of the A3 team is something that should be taught to others.    

Remember that A3 is not about making to do lists, and it is not about huge projects. It is about dozens and dozens of small to medium size improvements toward flow!

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