To Solve Problems You Must Understand The Current Situation and Have Good Data

Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Problem Solving | 0 comments

The key to solving most problems is being able to collect good data and understand the current situation.  You must then analyze the data properly so that root causes can be identified and effective solutions implemented.
One effective way of doing this is to analyze your data beginning at a macro level and then working your way down to the micro level.  Start by looking at broad categories of variation using the 6Ms (Man, Machine, Material, Method, Measurement, and Mother Nature).
Several years ago, a customer was having a problem with one of our products and many complaints had been received from them.  The supplying plant thought the problem was due to shipping damage since the complaining customer was in China.  After improving the packaging over several months and adding additional costs, the problem had not gone away.  When I was asked to get involved, the first thing I did was to analyze the complaints.  The customer was very good in giving us all the information on the shipping label, i.e, date, machine, shift, operator ID, etc.  Doing some simple paretos by machine and shift told me that 90% of the complaints were the result of pm shift.  Looking at only the pm shift operators, I put together another pareto and to my surprise, more than 50% were attributed to two pm shift operators.
My next step was to observe these two operators and within minutes the supervisor and I observed the problem.  Instead of placing the product in the container gently, these operators were dropping it in from waist high creating the damage.  It wasn’t long before we had an effective solution in place by putting the container on a tilt-table so that operators could not drop the product vertically into it.
Good data, using simple analysis tools, and understanding the current situation, go a long way toward solving most problems.

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