For any Manufacturing Company, the Problem Solving is an important Business Process. The Company needs to give it a high priority and treat it as such. There needs to be specific Structure to handle this important Business Process.
Very few Companies in Indian Manufacturing treat this as an important process. If they do not give this importance, there would be a big adverse effect on the ability of the Company to progress. They would have serious problems with the Customers. There would be suffering on a daily basis for all concerned. This is a major reason for the tensions and stress in every Company. But still Companies are not able to put their finger on this issue and address it squarely.
Let me try and list down the issues that a Company needs to do to address Problem Solving in a systematic manner.
01. Capture all the Problems in a Company:Most of the Companies have records for the Customer Complaints / Rejections and Supplier Quality. They record this in a systematic manner. But they need to do this for Internal Quality Problems too. Usually there will be a bunch of phenomena that keep repeating in the Internal Process. They should record these Phenomena and count each one of them as another problem to solve. It is best if all the Problems so captured get in to ONE Problem Solving Software.
02. Problem Solvers: Every Company should identify Problem Solvers from across the Functions in the Company. In many Indian Manufacturing Companies, the Quality Function plays a major role in Problem solving followed by the R&D Function and Production Function. But it is required for a Company to involve Engineers from Materials, Process Engineering, Plant Maintenance also to be involved in the Problem Solving. The Company should identify the Engineers and designate them as ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’.
03. Develop the Ninjas: There has to be specific Development Plan for the Problem-Solving Ninjas. I covered their Development in a separate article earlier on 10/2/2019. You need to Grade the Ninjas in to Leaders and Members of the Teams. The Leaders would lead a Problem-Solving effort whereas the Members can become members in the Problem-Solving Team.
04. Decide the Problem-Solving Capacity of the Organization: Decide how many problems can each Leader handle at a time. This would decide the Collective capacity of the Organization to solve Problems. A Company needs to boost this up as needed from time to time.
05. Allot the Problems: The Problems that are captured in the ‘Problem Solving Software’ of the Organization needs to be allotted to the Problem-Solving Ninjas by the Software on the basis of a Logic. This would ensure that ALL the Problems are parked with one group or the Other.
06. Problem Solving Methodology: Each Company needs to adapt a Problem-Solving methodology that it prefers. It can adapt a Standard methodology like 8D or formulate its’ own methodology with Best Practices.
07. War Room: Every Company needs to have a War Room for Problem Solving. This is the Room that will host two types of meetings. One is a Review by Management. Second type is the Team meetings of the Teams. Normally a Schedule is kept for each team and every team would meet as per the schedule.
08. Meet Daily: If you want the Problem solving to improve in your Company, then every Team has to meet EVERY DAY for at least 45 minutes. If the teams do not meet and then you expect the Problems to get solved, it is not a reasonable expectation. The Team should meet every day and then solve the Problems. They need to spend as much time as is needed on the Shop-floor for Problem-Solving. This is a Primary requirement.
09. Measures of Problem Solving: How do you measure the success of Problem Solving in your Company? There can be two types of Measures. Process Measures and Result Measures. Result Measures are very clear. That would include your Customer Rejections / Complaints, Supplier Quality, In-Process Quality etc. The Process Measures would include the following:
a. Daily Meeting schedule adherence.
b. On Time Activity. Number of Activities planned vs done on a daily basis.
c. On Time Problem Solving. When each 8D is supposed to be closed and when it was closed.
d. Quality of Problem Solving. The 8D Check List score calculated by the team and certified by the Coach.
e. Repetitive Problems: If the Quality of Problems is good, the problems will not come back.
10. Problem Solving Coach: It would be very much required to have a Problem-Solving Coach who would help the teams to improve the Measures of Problem Solving.
11. Certifying the Problem Solvers: It would be useful to Certify the Problem solvers on the basis of their Knowledge, Skill and Results. The Certification should also lead to Rewards for the Problem Solvers. This would take care of Motivation of the Problem Solvers.
12. Approving Solutions: Company should authorize a few Senior people who would Certify the Solutions being implemented. This would ensure that the Collective wisdom of the Company is at work in Problem-Solving.
13. Use Technology to train the Ninjas: The Experience of the Senior People in the Company should be translated in to ‘Standard Check Lists’ for all known and repetitive problems. Using these Check lists E-Learning programs can be developed to train the Ninjas. For every known Problem, the Program would teach the standard steps that need to be taken to move towards the Solution. This would reduce the time taken to solve the Problem. This is a good way of using the Collective Experience that is available in the Company.
14. Managing the Knowledge Base: The Problem Solving in a Company can create enormous amount of Knowledge on Products of the Company and the Process of the Company. This knowledge needs to be captured in a Knowledge Data base and this Data Base can be used for:
a. Learning from Mistakes in Design/Process
b. Going back to the Solution in case the Problem reappears.
15. Problem Solving Conferences: The Company can think of conducting Problem Solving Conferences where the Problem Solvers from across the Company would converge and present the Technical papers about various issues in the Company and Best Problem Solvers may be rewarded. Usually the Company would invite Technical experts to this Conference to help teams to learn something more.
This way, the Manufacturing Companies can look at addressing Problem Solving as a special Discipline that cuts across Functions and look at developing this Competency in the Organization.
How well are you addressing Problem Solving in your Company?