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Topic Title: Manufacturing Problem Solving
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Created On: 03/04/2009 04:51 AM
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03/04/2009 10:36 PM
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Anthony Bialocerkowski

Hi all,

I am pulling together a training package on problem solving, as part of our approach to standardised our problem solving process. Thus I am looking for a class room example / exercises that I could used in the training session. Any examples would be greatly appreciated.


03/05/2009 10:58 PM
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Jason Swanson

Our manager put one together that also finds a current problem and works through the issue in the class with follow up dates to see the progress. All he did was identify the five steps in PS

Problem Definition
Root Cause Analyses
Corrective Action
and Implementation

He showed the group what tools in each phase of PS to use...

Problem Definition = 5W's

Containment = Who will contain
What will they do
How long will it be in containment

Root Cause = 5 - Why's
Fishbone diagram
Is / Is Not
Measles Chart

Corrective action = Must permanently eliminate the problem
Needs to be a physical change to a part, process, or people (very important)
Does not include inspecting for a defect (most common corrective action is to add an inspection point)

Implementation = Who will implement the corrective action?
When will it be implemented?
How will the corrective action be verified that it solved the problem?

From this point the class should have an understanding of how to follow a process using the correct tools, however he added many other tools and showed how to use them in the class...

TPN analysis
Matrix analysis
Fishbone diagram (Ishikawa)
Measles chart
5 - Why's
Is / Is Not
Bench marking

This was taught to the quality group and from there was taught to all other members in the company. You can also find PS forms online from companies like Toyota that forces the people to fill out and document the process. Because of this when a problem comes back we can look up the documentation and see what the current state was and what changes were made so we can see what caused the problem to return.

Hope this helps, hardest part is getting the group to agree on the problem they want to address, we used a voting process but the groups always go for big problems and for a class setting a small problem would be better so they understand how to use the tools.
03/06/2009 08:41 AM
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Tim Holaday

Hi Anthony,

I read about a fun little problem to solve so I tried it. It was placing a mixture of salt and pepper before each team member. The problem is the fastest way to separate the pepper form the salt. There were alot of ideas generated but the best solution was to put the mixture in water and skim the pepper off the top.

03/09/2009 11:50 AM
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Lawrence Reece

We had a classroom exercise that involved building a paper airplane. (It helps that we're an aviation co.) We started out with a complicated design that everyone built. (Standard) Then they broke up into teams to find out what was wrong. Once they had I dentified the problem. (Using the A3, Ishikawa, 5 whys) they could improve their design. The exercise ended with a "Fly-off". The customer (me) specified straight and level flight for the length of the classroom (25'). Winning team got a small prize and bragging rights. I have the exercise that I can send electronically if you would like it.


UPDATE: Larry has provided the files for use in the lean community. Please see the post by Moderator_Jane at the end of the thread to download the files. Please do not leave messages requesting the files.

Edited: 01/16/2011 at 07:09 PM by Lean Moderator
03/09/2009 11:50 AM
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Dan Barch

"Standard" problem solving is tough as every problem is different. We find it best to go through PDCA / A3 format, with heavy emphasis on identifying what a problem (deviation from standard) is - as in what impact it is having. For example, a group will find an operator who has some excess motion waste, but solving that only means the operator waits for the next process - no job reduction, quality improvement, etc. The benefit must be to the end customer (note that motion kaizen are good, but only in conjunction with other kaizen to spell real benefit - motion waste is not a 'problem'). The other error commonly encountered is identification of something that could happen in the future, instead of something really happening now.

The tools are all very well defined; we like to use different examples (a fishbone on why the class does not return from lunch on time, or falls asleep after lunch) to suit the mood. Certainly, the finding of problems should not go wanting.

03/09/2009 11:50 AM
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Lonnie Wilson


Problem solving is a much broader subject than you appreciate. Take your first sentence and change problem solving to "money making" and you will get my point.

Problem solving is not some simple process, like filling a stapler, where the process can be standardized.

If you want to make progress, you will need to break it out into types of problem solving. For example there are some small problems that can realistically be solved by the floor worker but of course these can not require extensive data gathering or analysis. On the other hand, for many complex problems with data galore, statistical analyses and Kepner Tregoe logical analysis are required, that, of course is a different situation. So logically you may need to teach one type of problem solving to the line worker but yet another one to the process engineer based on both skills and resources. This is one approach to breaking into types.

Yet another is to classify it by the three types of problems which exist in a Lean Culture. There are problems because no standard exists, this is the most common by far. There are problems because the standard is not met and; there are problems because the standard is not ideal.

And you might expect, this type of classification is quite different but highlights what I find to be the most common issue, in problem solving....that is the desired condition is not clearly defined.

When we undertake a lean initiative and guide a company into defining some of the cultural characteristics which are required, we always add, "Problem Solving by All" as a required element. Consequently we usually define for them that they will usually need to implement the "5 Whys" along with Kepner Tregoe problem solving and maybe some Statistical problem solving such as are taught in 6 Sigma training.

They almost always look upon 5 Whys as some simple technique. It is not!!!! 5 Whys requires a great deal of both experience and expertise to do corrrectly. The people answering the questions need to fully understand cause and effect plus how that cause and effect applies to their facility.

However, the real kicker in problem solving is that the most common issue is the lack of standards or poorly defined standards.

Just one last comment, once the standards are clearly defined, which is the province of management, I find the performance of the group improves dramatically and many "problems" simply disappear.

Best of luck,

Lonnie Wilson
03/10/2009 09:51 AM
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Stephen Doyle

From experience, the hardest parts of problem solving is preventing either the quick fix (fixing a sympton not the root cause) or 'experts' who have a (usually incorrect) solution before you have identified the root cause of the problem. A systematic approach, tact and patience are important.
04/02/2009 10:59 AM
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Ray P
Raymond Peters

Greetings if your still looking for possibilities I have used "Coffee Time" from canamgam http://www.canamgam.ca/coffeetime_detail.html as an opener to my problem solving class. It offers multiple oportunities to talk/refer back to during the training presentation on team formation, stages of team growth, brainstorming methods.
I also have used a kit with wooden trucks and handouts describing a problem at a fictional company that the class uses at closing to practice brainstorming, the 5 whys, and using Ishikawa diagrams that works fairly well and could easily be expanded this kit was from http://www.wcmfg.com/ProblemSolvingSupplies.htm
I hope you find these items useful
Regards Ray
01/03/2011 10:02 AM
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Csaba Pataki

Hello Larry,

I'd appreciate if you can send me the paper airplane exercise.


I'm teaching problem solving and DMAIC (soft) using a "catapult exercise", this airplane exercise sounds pretty new for me. I have no presentation about the catapult exercise, but can breifly explain it by mail if you are interested.

01/03/2011 10:03 AM
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Fabio Furlan

Hello Anthony,
A consultant indicated me to buy the manual called "CQI-10" from the AIAG group.
I hope this helps! regards Fabio
01/06/2011 04:07 PM
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Victor Johnson

Hello Larry

Your question about class room examples for problem solving shifts the spotlight from LEAN per se to the Training Within Industry Scheme, known worldwide as TWI.

The Job Relations program is one of the three core TWI programs. The objective is to train group members in how to build positive employee relations, increase cooperation and motivation, and effectively resolve conflicts. JR emphasizes that people must be treated as individuals. The TWI Trainer presents examples of what you are seeking, with real problems from group members ultimately being handled. A proviso always is that all problems dealt with remain confidential to group members.

The TWI Scheme is described on the web page http://www.premierstrategics.com/twi.html

An organization administering TWI in the USA is the TWI Institute, http://www.twi-institute.com/job_relations.htm
01/07/2011 02:43 AM
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Steve Duffy

Hi all,

I usually find that you can achieve better results by working through real problems so you can combine go-look-see. I coach each step 1-8 and after each step the cohort goes out to complete each step with guidance. So I coach step 1 then the delegates go and complete step 1 on their problem etc.

Lets face it there is never a shortage of problems!

01/07/2011 02:56 AM
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Emmanuel Jallas

Interestingly this thread was originally about gathering material for problem solving teaching. And it appears to deviate from it's original path, going in "can you send me the paper airplane game" way.

We can gather evidence of this : we can count how many answers are about the original question, and how many are asking for the paper airplane game. Answer is :

Ha Ha Ha : You were thinking that I would gave you the answer???

oh no!

To solve a problem you have to gather data. For this purpose there's a simple paper and pen tool : Recording Checksheets ( you have also other kinds of checksheets - location checksheet - checklist checklist,...)

So just take a sheet of paper and a pen. Define what you want to measure - i.e. answers to original pb vs send me your paper plane. Then collect data with bars in front of each item. Done? You can make a bar graph to show your findings.

Hope it helps!

As the new moto for LEI is "frontiers and fundamentals" my suggestion will be that it could be useful to define what fundamentals are and have a heading of forum for each "fundamental".

Happy new year,

01/07/2011 05:40 AM
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Mark Pitman


Pls see attached training documents which I hope will be of use.



bpst.ppt bpst.ppt  (270 KB)
M1bpstfl.doc M1bpstfl.doc  (50 KB)
01/07/2011 08:37 AM
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Herbert Gensch

Greetings! A classroom exercise is worth much more than just classroom training as much as working on a real problem trumps a classroom exercise (word from experience).
I have found students grasp the training much quicker when it applies to a real problem in their area of focus. Sometimes all of the tools discussed cannot be used for the particular problem, but we can still discuss how it could apply and what is needed to be able to apply it!
We have applied the problem-solving training to our MDI (Management for Daily Improvement) process and is working well.
As mentioned in earlier posts, a simpler problem can be easier for training, but we select a problem to which the class has some ownership.
01/07/2011 12:20 PM
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Howard Sommerfeld


I have used a couple of paper "product" examples (such as boats and hats) to teach aspects of Lean concepts such as flow, batch size, kanban, work imballance, standard work instruction, discovering waste, making improvements(Kaizen). I have also used these types of examples in trainer training to illustrate related ideas such as job task analysis, job aids, delivery of instruction, and feedback.
I also would love to take aook at the paper airplane materials.

Thanks, Howard

PS - attached is my Instructor manual for the Problem Solving course I developed for an Electronics manufacturer. It was used for delivery of PS training by line team leaders to manufacturing operators.

PSTIGHS.pdf PSTIGHS.pdf  (707 KB)
01/07/2011 03:00 PM
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Michael Thelen


I would love to see your exercise. I'm always looking for new or additional exercises to use. Can you e-mail to michaeldthelen@midlands.net?

Also, I'll be doing a session on simulations at the Noria Reliable Plant 2011 conference where I will share many that I've utilized over the years. If you'd like to swap, I can share those with you (after the conference, though...you can understand that).
01/07/2011 03:00 PM
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Michael Thelen

I've found that often, just about any simulation can turn into a problem solving simulation. I've taken a 5S numbers game and turned it into P/S, I've integrated P/S into an hour-long LEGO simulation that covers basically all parts of Lean (Kanban, 5S, employee engagement, SMED, scheduling, work balance, physical layout, inventory...you name it), I've even integrated P/S into a standard work sim and an observation sim.

You may be surprised at how well you can drive P/S simply by taking a different sim and coaching through 5-Why, Cause mapping, C/E, Fishbone, affinity diagrams - there are countless tools.
01/07/2011 03:02 PM
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Howard Sommerfeld

Anthony, Check my post earlier todya - I have included the Instructo guide to a Problem Solving Course that I developed.
01/16/2011 07:02 PM
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Jane Bulnes-Fowles


Larry has graciously allowed us to post his paper airplane game. If you have requested it, but have not received it yet - please look at the attachments.

Please do not post any further messages merely asking him to send it to you, as you can download it right here.

For those who have used it - please feel free to leave feedback on the game - you experiences, some "solutions" you found, how you feel it can best be used, etc, so that the community can benefit from your experience.

LEI Forums Moderator

FORUMS : Manufacturing : Manufacturing Problem Solving

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