Think lean, like Toyota: A3, PDCA & Problem-Solving

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Owing its name to the size of paper, A3 thinking is used to make a report in just one sheet of paper.

Founded by Toyota Motor’s lean manufacturing philosophy, which is known for trimming off excess waste and continuously improving, A3 Thinking is a highly acclaimed tool throughout businesses, quality institutes and academia worldwide.

A3 reports are concise and simple, and encompass the PDCA improvement cycle and Toyota’s problem-solving method.

Also known as the Deming Cycle after its founder, Edward Deming, PDCA stands for plan, do, check and act. It is one of the most important pinciples used by businesses today to control and manage the implementation of a new process.

  • Plan consists of setting objectives, assessing short-term vs. long-term solutions, as well as assigning tasks and “task-owners”
  • Do constitutes the exection of the plan 
  • Check means analyze the results
  • Act implies addressing the successful improvement areas and finding ways to implement them

When it comes to Toyota’s 8-step problem-solving process, steps can be broken down into the PDCA phases as well.

Plan:

  • 1. Clarify the problem
  • 2. Break down the problem
  • 3. Set a target
  • 4. Analyze the root cause

Do:

  • 5. Develop countermeasures
  • 6. Implement countermeasures

Check:

  • 7. Evaluate results and processes

Act:

  • 8. Standardize successful improvements

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